FC Dallas returned from the international break to an almost-full Toyota Stadium, but the impressive atmosphere could only help FC Dallas salvage a point that wasn’t enough to pull the Hoops off the foot of the Western Conference.
“The two halves were different. We were slow, not connected. I thought we were hiding from the ball in the first half. When we don’t have numbers around the ball then we don’t have as many options. And then when we lose it, because you’re going to lose it eventually, we don’t have a good transition because of the numbers.”Luchi Gonzalez
With Matt Hedges still injured and Bressan just back from Brazil, Luchi Gonzalez gave Nkosi Tafari his debut alongside Jose Martinez. Johnny Nelson won a start at left back with Ryan Holingshead sliding over to the right.
Facundo Quignon also got a debut, alongside Bryan Acosta in the center of midfield. Quignon as a lone six with Acosta operating at his usual eight spot. Paxton Pomykal made his first start since August 2020, and only his second since September 2019. Pomykal slotted in on the right side of the midfield four with Jader Obrian up the left.
Andres Ricaurte played a higher role than usual, at the ten spot behind Ricardo Pepi.
The game started slowly as both sides tried to work out a Dallas lineup with eight positional changes from before the international break, and only three players from the last time the two teams met in May.
Aside from a couple of speculative chances, the Loons threatened Jimmy Maurer’s goal in the 23rd minute through Adrien Hunou. The Frenchman – replacing Robin Lod while he’s at the Euros – took down an inch-perfect cross field pass from Romaine Metanire only for Jimmy Maurer to stand up the attempt on goal.
The new face in the FCD midfield soon became acquainted with an old one as Facundo Quignon was dispossessed by Jacori Hayes in the Minnesota half, before making a long run down the right side of midfield and crossing the ball to Hunou. The Loons forward shot low from inside the ‘D’, forcing a save from Jimmy Maurer. Maurer will feel disappointed watching the replay as his one-handed parry simply pushed the ball into the path of Franco Fragapane for a simple tap-in.
Fragapane almost returned the favor to Hunou barely a minute later attempting to play a ball over the top out of the midfield. The Dallas back line had looked shaky, but it almost came to a head with Nkosi Tafai and Jose Martinez running into each other with the ball rolling clear for Hunou to go one-on-one with Maurer. Tafari did well to catch and pressure Hunou into a shot straight at Maurer.
Dallas had struggled to get the ball forward with only its second touch in the opposing area coming in stoppage time. Jose Martinez found Johnny Nelson high up the left, who flicked the ball deftly into the path of Paxton Pomykal. The Homegrown passed across the edge of the area with Ryan Hollingshead delivering the team’s first decent shot, even if it was blocked.
Luchi Gonzalez stated his intentions at the half bringing in the returning Jesus Ferreira and Franco Jara for Andres Ricaurte and Paxton Pomykal. Both departing players had struggled in the first half, along with Jader Obrian, as the team failed to put balls into dangerous areas.
Tyler Miller’s attempt to play out of the back gave Dallas a strong chance barely a minute into the second half as Ryan Hollingshead intercepted the pass in the middle third of the field. Ricardo Pepi had been shifted to right wing with Franco Jara playing up top, receiving the ball from Hollingshead before driving low across goal to force a corner off an unorthodox save from Miller.
Bryan Acosta had carried his form across the international break on the defensive side of the ball in the first half, and had a go at some attacking soccer with an audacious attempt from 40 yards that hit to top of the net.
Dallas were finally competitive in the midfield and bringing the ball into the attacking third, with an equalizer coming from some close two-touch football down the right side. Ryan Hollingshead exchanged passes with Jesus Ferreira, the former chipping the ball into the path of Ricardo Pepi. El Tren finishing left-footed inside Miller’s far post.
With 20 minutes to find a winner, Gonzalez went to two of the youngsters at his disposal with Tanner Tessmann replacing Facundo Quignon. Kalil ElMedkhar subbed in for Jader Obrian who seemed to have been carrying a knock through the second half.
ElMedkhar looked lively from the off, making a run with the ball across the edge of the area and setting up Franco Jara for a shot that narrowly cleared the bar. Minnesota were by no means out of the game, forcing a string of excellent stops from Maurer. Emmanuel Reynoso will want the chance back that immediately followed Jara’s. Minnesota broke downfield with Reynoso given the ball inside the six-yard-box with Maurer scrambling only to poke it wide.
Ricardo Pepi caught the attention of the Video Assistant Referee close to the end of the game with a challenge on Reynoso that earned the FC youngster a yellow card. The referee was called over to the pitch side monitor for a possible red card related to an elbow.
“I thought I was screwed a little bit because I did hit him. I did elbow him, I don’t know if it was high or low, it was in the run of play. It was a very important decision for me, and for me to learn I need to I need to be able to learn from those plays.”Ricardo Pepi
A poor free kick routine almost saw Dallas leave empty handed in injury time. Bryan Acosta teased a ball across the box, clearing the ball as far as Jesus Ferreira beyond the far post. Ferreira took a heavy touch and had to play back to Johnny Nelson. The left back had a heavy first touch of his own, allowing Juan Agudelo to win the ball and play in Ethan Finley. The Minnesota front three advanced with only Edwin Cerrillo between the ball and Maurer in the Dallas net, but once again Reynoso conspired to throw away an attacking opportunity by shooting wide from the edge of the box.
Two entirely different halves of soccer gave FC Dallas some concern and encouragement going into the midweek game at LAFC. Once again without Matt Hedges, the back line looked a mess at times as Martinez and Hollingshead appeared to overcompensate for the debuting Tafari and abandoned their own defensive spots. Dallas also struggled to pick up runners, affording Minnesota far too many good scoring chances.
Of the positives, we witnessed adjustments and substitutes having an immediate impact. FCD not only clawed back ground in the midfield battle but converted that into balls in attacking positions. Facundo Quignon grew into the game, as did Nkosi Tafari. Kalil ElMedkhar may be the bench option winger that can truly impact a game that the team has struggled to find since Tesho Akindele’s departure.
Luchi Gonzalez highlighted the need to make a statement in road games, and with LAFC only two points ahead of FC Dallas, a positive result on the road could be the kick start the team needs heading into the second quarter of the season.