FC Dallas had a genuine mixed bag of a game with Dallas’ competitive-rivals Sporting Kansas City. The 2-2 draw saw starters rested – one of whom will now sit out next week’s game with Seattle, a reminder of how delicate the defense can be – and a lot of what-ifs about playing a team that started badly at a stadium that’s been kind to the Hoops of late.
The team’s first goals on the road were matched by conceding twice for the first time, as the unbeaten run extends to eight in all competitions.
A Daniel Salloi penalty gave the hosts an early lead after Jose Martinez brought down the Hungarian striker.
Alan Velasco and Jesus Ferreira turned the score around before halftime, but a second yellow card for Brandon Servania just seven minutes after subbing on left Dallas trying desperately to hold on for a first away win of 2022.
Johnny Russell equaled Salloi’s tally of six regular-season goals versus FCD as the Scot grabbed a point for SKC.
Pom & Circumstance
Let’s start off with the good. We’re all incredibly fond of the idea of the classic-10 style of Paxton Pomykal making things happen in the final third. The reality is that Pomykal is still recovering from what was a significant surgery where a bone in his hip was shaved down to restore a full range of motion.
The recovery for an athlete takes two years. We saw Paxton regain his fitness in 2021, put together his longest run of consecutive appearances, and crucially not see another season ended early.
2022 is a big year for him. Pomykal has spoken of his frustration at not taking over games as he’s used to. There are also questions like, “can he regain his burst of pace?”
The midfield is also a high-functioning area for Nico Estevez’ team as Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo have come on leaps and bounds, with Pomykal playing more of a box-to-box 8 role than his historic 10-spot.
Still, he’s not doing too badly as a two-way 8 according to the stats from FBref.com from this game:
|Pomykal Versus Sporting||Qty||FCD Rank||Game Rank|
|Passes into Final 1/3||4||T-1st||T-4th|
|Passes into Box||1||T-1st||T-2nd|
|Players Dribbled Past||3||1st||T-1st|
|Middle 3rd Pressures||13||1st||3rd|
|Middle 3rd Tackles||4||1st||1st|
|Tackles + Interceptions||7||1st||2nd|
Don’t Hedge Your Bets
Firstly, congratulations to Matt and Bea Hedges on the birth of Archie.
As with any time the captain is forced to miss a game, there’s a stark reminder that there isn’t a great deal of depth at center back.
For the past decade we’ve grown accustomed to the idea that whatever role a second center back can play, Matt Hedges will effortlessly work around that. A strong passer, top-tier defender, solid aerial presence, able to adjust to playing either side, with a good head and decent pace. There’s more than a few reasons he’s the GOAT of the modern era.
This season we’ve seen Hedges as the out-and-out defender with Jose Martinez freed up to move the ball around in the build. Against Sporting, Nkosi Tafari and Martinez split defensive duties with Martinez maintaining his place in the build – granted some of Tafari’s early passes may have forced the latter.
One of Hedges’ big strengths is the ability to support the fullbacks without compromising the middle of the field. Occupying half-spaces, an advanced read of the game, and just not overcommitting, isn’t really something you can back up with any stats, but it’s something that is missing from the backline without the captain.
If Dallas really is building for an MLS Cup run in the next couple of years, center back is going to be a position of need.
Tafari is the best pure athlete on the defensive team since Walker Zimmerman. Tafari took some time to pick up Luchi-ball and put a great run in the starting XI together before having to work with a new system and coach. He’s an incredibly sharp mind that will adapt and at barely 25 is a long way from his peak.
Lucas Bartlett is another player with all the tools, but the mental side of the game has significant flaws. FC Dallas believes that some high-level coaching can fix that. Luchi Gonzalez often spoke of the need to work with players under the age of 24 due to the stages of brain development. Unfortunately, Bartlett is only four months younger than Tafari albeit without the two years of pro soccer experience.
Joshue Quinonez is the other recognized center back on the roster. The 20-year-old loanee has looked bright in spells but appears to be trending more as a full back or center back in a back three under Nico Estevez.
Giving It Away
I wanted to highlight four fouls. All ended with Nima Saghafi pulling out a card. None of them really challenged the ball and if they were it was late or just a frustrated reaction to missing out.
As a team, you can afford one or two of these moments a game. Nico Estevez does a good job of keeping players calm in their reactions towards the officials and other players, but these moments are just as important. This kind of stuff gives license for the referee to get a little card-happy, and now one of your regular starters is serving a suspension.
Next up is the Seattle Sounders. Seattle does have a small hurdle to get over in Wednesday’s second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final after leaving Mexico with a 2-2 scoreline in the first leg.
On one hand, you have a potentially tired Sounders team, maybe with the hangover of a win or loss in the biggest game in franchise history.
On the other hand, that’s a team that has never failed to make the playoffs and is well versed in recovering from a slow start once CCL is in the rearview mirror.
It’s the usual 7:30 pm CT kick-off on TXA21, ESPN+, and FCDallas.com/stream.