The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs San Jose, Feb ’24

A win at home is a good start to the season. A win at home in a new, unproven formation is even better. But there’s both good and bad to talk about but a win is a win.

FC Dallas now holds an 8-1-6 overall record in season openers since 2010.

“It’s the first game, and evidently, there is a lot for us to work on. But we have the whole season to work and to keep improving. We’ve shown that when we’re calm and have possession, we’ve created great opportunities, some of which have resulted in a goal.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Lineups and Tactics

FCD Coach Nico Estevez rolled out his new 3-4-3. (3-4-2-1…. 3-6-1… whatever.) There were a boatload of pieces unavailable for selection.

61st minute, FC Dallas brought in Ema Twumasi for Herbert Endeley.

Then in the 84th, Eugene Ansah replaced Bernard Kamungo and Sebastian Lletget came on for Liam Fraser.

San Jose rolled out in their 4-3-3.

San Jose XI vs FC Dallas in the Home Opener. February 24, 2024. (Courtesy MLS)
San Jose XI vs FC Dallas in the Home Opener. February 24, 2024. (Courtesy MLS)

In the 66th, Coach Luchi Gonzalez went for a double sub with Victor Costa de Brito and Preston Judd replacing Paul Marie and Jeremy Ebobisse.

73rd minute, Alfredo Morales and Amahl Pellegrino replaced Jack Skahan and Benjamin Kikanovic.

Finally, Michael Baldisimo replaced Carlos Gruezo after FCD took the lead in the 96th minute.


0-1 San Jose Earthquakes. 6th minute.

Dante Sealy isn’t deep enough and isn’t marking Christian Espinoza. Sam Junqua has to come out wide to compensate but San Jose gets in behind. Asier Illarramendi, worrying about Junqua being out of position, loses his mark, Benji Kikanović. The cross from Espinoza finds Kikanović for the goal. If Junqua isn’t dragged out of position he would have been there to help with Kikanović.

1-1 FC Dallas. 25th minute.

FCD’s corner is punched clear but falls to Asier Illarramendi, who one-touches it onto his left foot and then pokes it past the keeper with a low drive from the top of the box. That’s some class skill for the goal.

“It was a ball I found following a corner kick rebound, I knew I had to finish the opportunity and thankfully it hit the back of the net. I am very happy to score my first goal in MLS but I am happier because we were able to get our second goal and get the three points.” 

Asier Illarramendi

2-1 FC Dallas. 96th minute.

Dallas is getting forward late and Sebastian Lletget‘s shot rebounds to an open Dante Sealy in the box. Great first touch by Sealy to set up his quick shot, if he takes too much time there he’s toast. Good job by Sealy getting the shot off for the goal.

“It’s a crazy feeling. You can’t describe it, but being there with my guys and with the fans, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Dante Sealy

Lo Bueno

There were a couple of good candidates, but my Man of the Match was Logan Farrington. I talked on the podcast about how ahead of progression Farrington is compared to every other striker the club has drafted. I hope you could see that on display last night. First game of his rookie campaign on opening night, what a terrific performance. 50 touches, 6 shots, 75% passing.

Asier Illarramendi was also excellent, baring the one mistrack on the goal. The dude plays at a whole different level than the rest of the side. 90 touches (14 ahead of #2), 3 key passes, 89% passing, 4/5 on long balls, and 6 crosses.

I dread to think how much trouble this team’s defense will be in if Nkosi Tafari gets hurt. He was massive, covering all the ground, even saving the ball off the line. Fantastic performance.

The primary purpose for the tactical change to a 3-4-3 formation – creating more scoring chances – was a success. 22 shots on goal is five more than any game last season. The 22 to 9 shot on goal ratio is lower than we’d like but that will improve when Jesus Ferreira returns. And hopefully, go up again when Petar Musa is playing.

“The team’s response was very good and very positive, and we are capable of not only tying up the match but also creating goal-scoring opportunities. I think we had 22 shots, nine on goal. The team was able to score that second goal, and we know that with it being the first game of the season, the score can quickly change, especially when it’s tied up.”

Coach Nico Estevez

The clock counting past 45 and 90 was a terrific addition. Everyone around me in the stands loved it, both those that knew it was coming and those who were surprised by it expressed joy at the change.

Camino del Medio

Yes, Dante Sealy got the game-winner, and in some ways that’s all that matters. But he was a contributor to the early goal. And in broad terms, he was late all day. Late getting back into defense and late getting forward into attack. His 80% work rate isn’t going to cut it.

“Obviously it was a rough start going down one goal. But we stuck with it, kept going, and kept pushing. Resiliency was a big part of our preseason and I feel like that was the case today as well.”

Dante Sealy

Sealy did become the 3rd player in club history age 20 or less with a 90+ game-winner. Eddie Johnson (x2) and Ramon Nunez are the other two.

“It just shows a lot of maturity that [Sealy] has, he wasn’t too involved in a lot of action today and neither was I.”

Paul Arriola

Paul Arriola was much better in the 2nd half than the 1st. At halftime, I was thinking to myself, so much for the Pauli Nipps rebound in 2024. But he came out angry in the 2nd half and made a difference. If that’s what it takes, then by all means, play angry.

Muy Feo

Neither starting wingback played the position correctly. Herbert Endeley was better at getting back than Dante Sealy. But neither player was active enough getting forward. If you are going to play wingback you have to run the line all day. Yes, it sucks. It’s demanding as hell and it’s no fun.

There was only one truly glaring replacement referee error. It came when Nkosi Tafari was waved back on after going off the field after his face injury. He was waved back on way behind his team’s defensive line and thus made the attacking Quakes clearly onside by a mile… but the referees missed it and blew the play dead… to pretty much universal derision and laughter around the section in which I was sitting.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. That game made me worry about Ibeagha even more. There were a couple of times where he looked dangerously slow and the quakes players just blew right by him. Really makes me want another young fast CB on the squad.

  2. Very good opening game. However, during the first half i was very frustrated with endeley. He was the weak link for me. I hope he wont be starting over twumasi who was way better.

  3. Follow up on my original comment. In your opinion, will twumasi get more starts over endeley on that right back right wing back position?

  4. So I got to disagree with your comment on Sealy – he wasn’t out of position on the goal or for the most part during the match. I went back and rewatched the positioning of the wingbacks when San Jose was in possession. It was clearly part of the press design for the strong side wingback to move up into the midfield when San Jose was in possession. The weak side wingback then fell back into a traditional fullback position to produce a four back system in defense. For the most part this press design worked because San Jose turned the ball over 16 times in their own half. It just didn’t work on this occasion.

    1. They were playing a flex back 4 that was designed to slide when one of the wingbacks released offensively but he still should recover. But Sealy left Espinoza on an island on that specific play and didn’t check back.
      Yes, Junqua was late to cover, Illarra lost his runner compensating, and Endeley didnt stay at the back post. But Sealy was for sure part of the issue.

  5. I haven’t seen anyone mention this anywhere, yet. But, in person at least, I thought the new kits looked really good.

  6. I think Bernie played very well in his first ever game at the “10” role. 85% passing, 1 chance created, 2/3 successful dribbles, 1 cross, 2 long balls, 2/2 tackles won, 1 clearance, 1 headed clearance, 3 defensive actions, 1 recovery, 9/10 duels won and 5 fouls drawn. Surely a better game than Paul’s who is supposedly better fit for this position.

    1. I’ll repeat my comment here, in case you don’t see the other one.
      As a 10, dont care so much about the D, although 9/10 duels is nice. 2/3 dibbles is ok.
      What bothered me was how lost he was in a formation/tactical sense. He was disconnected from the shape and out of position.
      But he’s still a good player, so he did good things are times.

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