FRISCO - FC Dallas got the first win in the Luchi Gonzalez era in celebratory fashion over the LA Galaxy on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Stadium. While the season is still young, more and more is becoming clear about the club under Gonzalez going forward. Here's what we can takeaway from Week 2.
Although Paxton Pomykal would've been in the mix for a starting role regardless, it was a role solidified with the absence of Jacori Hayes, injured in the season opener with a hamstring pull. After Saturday's performance from the 19-year-old, it could now be his role to lose.
With a dominating performance in the midfield and a factor all over the pitch, nothing showcased Pomykal's tenacity like the way he set up Bryan Acosta for the day's second goal.
The work rate to re-gain possession in a dangerous area (a key focus of Gonzalez's high-pressing style), and then deliver a perfect ball to the top of the 18 made sure his assist was outshined only by Acosta's world-class finish.
It was one of a team-best four chances created the Homegrown made in his first start, providing the attacking spark Dallas might've been lacking against New England. Just minutes earlier, it was a well-placed corner kick that created chaos in the box and led to Matt Hedges taking a boot in the arm to draw the PK Reto Ziegler converted for the game winner. Coupled with three tackles, four fouls won and zero fouls conceded, it's no wonder Pomykal was the easy choice for Bud Light Man of the Match (though he can't drink one for another 21 months).
Another Homegrown made his MLS debut just three weeks after signing a contract thanks to his own situational advantage taken.
Edwin Cerrillo had an impressive preseason, no doubt, but two weeks ago likely sat behind fellow Homegrown Brandon Servania in the pecking order behind Carlos Gruezo in the true No. 6 role. It was the last preseason game in Arizona where Servania suffered an MCL sprain that held him out of nearly the whole week of training leading up to the home opener. He played in North Texas SC's preseason match following the New England match, but is was Cerrillo who trained well all week and made the opening day roster with his opportunity presented.
A combination of all things considered is likely why Gonzalez turned to the 18-year-old over the second-year pro in Servania, also looking for his MLS debut. It'll undoubtedly be a battle between the two all season long, but Cerrillo has the ever so slight edge after a solid opening 11 minutes.
The first step in the #PlayYourKids movement is the opportunity presenting it and the trust from the staff. The way it keeps going is when they take full advantage when opportunity knocks.
After facing a New England team who effectively wanted nothing to do with the ball and the attacking side of the field a week ago, the Dallas defense was in-line for quite the opposite approach against the Galaxy. They caught a break when LA boarded their flight Friday without Romain Alessandrini or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the visitors still had plenty of chances to find the net - especially late in the opening half.
Chances like these two, along with an open Chris Pontius header in the box that went just over the bar, were early wake-up calls for a defense that hadn't been faced with much opposition a week earlier. If Ibrahimovic or Alessandrini were in the match, the scoreline could've been lopsided at the break with prime opportunities like these.
To the defensive unit's credit, they overcame a few blunders early and earned their first clean sheet of the year. It was obvious things were a little rusty under a first real attacking test. The second half was all-around a better 45 for FCD, but especially at the back allowing just two chances at goal from LA. Gonzalez will be looking to more of that half from his group going forward.
SEEING IT OUT
A year ago, leading 2-0 late in the match, it was almost commonplace to see a veteran Maynor Figueroa come off the bench as Dallas would shift to a five-man back line, putting numbers behind the ball to see out a result.
Under Gonzalez, we will see no such thing.
The way the new man in charge wants to close out a match is by playing the dying minutes just like the ones coming before it - albeit without out as much emphasis going forward. But the emphasis is still there.
The two tactical subs on Saturday were made like-for-like with a little more focus on the defensive side of the ball. Edwin Cerrillo was brought into the midfield with a little more ball-winning focus, while shifting Pomykal out to the wing in place of Mosquera - again placing a little more defending focus on the wing. Pablo Aranguiz was then brought on for Michael Barrios, adding more focus around maintaining possession with the silky playmaker.
Instead of packing it in, the desire to control the game by controlling the ball leaves you with something like this:
That's nearly 60 consecutive passes killing off nearly three minutes of time without time wasting or gamesmanship coming into play at all. At this stage, the Galaxy actively want the ball and still can't get it. Instead, they're left to foul to end the string of beauty that could've hit triple digits otherwise.
It's tough to complete the comeback if you don't have the ball.