FC Dallas returns to action this weekend against the Chicago Fire after a weekend off due to World Cup Qualifying matches. North Texas Soccer Club will head out on their first road trip to face Tacoma Defiance (formerly Seattle Sounders FC 2).
Soccer is fully underway in the Metroplex for both teams and the process of rebuilding in the “New Era” has started to take shape.
FC Dallas has brought in a plethora of new players to recover from a disappointing 2021 season. Given the influx of players, head coach Nico Estévez has been already gotten his first 2 wins with his new club while working to develop his preferred playing style.
The international break provided Nico some extra time before his next match to work with his team on tactics and style of play.
“Last week was a good opportunity for us to keep improving our pressing and building from the goalkeeper,” Estévez told 3rd Degree. “That is something that we could do better and I think that is something that we stressed last week. We want to start this week in a better position.”
The added time has also allowed FC Dallas to prepare for their next opponent who remains unbeaten and is coming off a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. For a team that has struggled in recent years, Nico is taking any chances and is going into the week with plenty of respect for his opponent.
“I think they are very solid defensively and they have conceded only one goal,” Nico said of Chicago. “I think offensively they had more problems the first game but they have found a way to score in the last two games. For us, we are playing away, and it is a challenge for us to get our first win away. I think it is important for a team like us to have a good performance away like how we did against New England. I think it is key for us to keep improving our confidence and we can become a better team as soon as we can get points on the road.”
If FC Dallas wants to come away with three points in this game, it will come with the assistance of defensive midfielder Edwin Cerrillo who has found a renewed energy coming into the season. Estévez is quick to see the growth that his young midfielder has made since the start of the year.
“You could see from the beginning of the preseason he was really focused,” Estévez said of Cerrillo. “Coming from a not-so-good season from the team, you could see that nerves were in his eyes but he had this fire of ‘I want to do better and I have a good opportunity’.The profile of the type of player he is and the role that we are looking for in a number six. Throughout the preseason he was gaining confidence. For now, it’s a question about ‘I did some things good, there are other areas that I have to keep improving’. He has to push himself and we have to keep pushing him to be better and better. ”
After two consecutive wins, FC Dallas will aim to get their first road win of the year and the first since August 29, 2021, against Austin FC where Dallas won 5-3.
North Texas SC
After scoring first and conceding the lead, North Texas SC got their first win in MLS Next Pro and will want to do the same for their first road trip of the season.
The club, while young, showed character and unity to come together to regain the lead and secure the win after facing momentum shifts against Minnesota.
“There was a momentum shift in the game where they created chances and there was a moment where they created chances that didn’t break us down too much as a team,” Coach Kah said of his team. “It was a little lack of focus which is okay because it was our first game together and it gives us time to analyze things to improve. This is what you want with a group that we have, which is a very young group who are all learning what it means to become a professional player. We are happy with the performance as a team because they showed great mentality and they showed great mindset and you could see it in the last two goals which was a team and individual effort by Tarik Scott.”
Much like FC Dallas, North Texas SC has undergone a significant roster overhaul in the offseason. Having a brand new team and coach come together in the short amount of time that is preseason is no easy task for anyone.
Pa-Modou Kah’s colleague, Nico Estévez, is no stranger to the challenges that North Texas is facing and provided insight into some of the nuances that come with a new team and shared his thoughts on North Texas’ first game.
“The first game is always a difficult game,” Estévez said. “You have a lot of stress and anxiety and after a long preseason, you have to prepare everything and you’re a little nervous. It’s very inconsistent because the team is not one hundred percent fit yet. You get the fitness from the first few games of the season. There is also new players and new connections that you have to make. I thought it was a great example of a first game. Throughout the next game, it’s about the players, showing video, and keep improving how you want to play. I think that the effort and mentality from the players and their will to win the game and to do well was great.”
For the road game, Coach Kah wants to keep things simple and is pushing his team to improve upon their first game’s performance.
“Our expectation is, can we be better than the things that we did in the game in Minnesota,” Kah said. “Can we eliminate some of the things that we did? Otherwise, we are just focused on us and what we do as a team to go on the road and get a victory. That’s why we play the game.”