FRISCO, Texas — When D.C. United come to town for Thursday’s Fourth of July match, FC Dallas won’t be phased by the star-studded talent the opponent possesses. Even though D.C. will have its big names in the Starting XI this week, the task for FC Dallas is simple but as important as ever — take all three points.
Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney lead the charge for D.C. United, the team that’s currently second in the Eastern Conference. D.C. United is coming off a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC, and it’s a team hungry for redemption for lost points — just like FC Dallas.
FCD lost out on four points in the past two matches against Vancouver and Portland, games that FC Dallas thrived in during key moments. First, it was the first 75 minutes of the Vancouver match. Next, it was the second half against Portland in a rowdy, road environment. FC Dallas dominated right out of the gates in one fixture, and it made necessary adjustments in the midfield in the second half Sunday night.
The team is learning from its mistakes, and it was especially evident against the Timbers. Portland’s midfield was overloading the midfield with an extra player when it would lose possession, and it was giving FCD some fits in the first half. After talking about it and figuring out how to combat the tactic during halftime, the midfield adjusted accordingly, and FC Dallas looked more like itself.
“We were a little reactive in our press,” FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “They did make some fluid movements that were difficult to adjust to. They had some special individuals that moved freely into positions that can hurt you. But, we controlled it well. Their goal came from a transition, we had the throw-in, it was our ball. In a quick transition counter, they score that goal. And that was late in the half. We talked about some things at half, and they responded fantastic with their energy to push the game. We press better, we attacked more, we were more frequent around their box to get service.”
The result didn’t go FCD’s way in the end of the match, but it was another learning experience for a relatively young team and a first-year head coach. With so many turnarounds in the past few weeks with MLS and Open Cup matches, FC Dallas has had little time to dwell on results that haven’t gone its way in 2019. The mentality this summer has been the same for the team — learn and move on to the next one.
“We have to maintain focus because every game matters, regardless if it’s three days between matches or if we have the whole week to prepare,” FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal said. “The three points at the end of the day count the same in the table, so maintaining our bodies, being smart, being good pros, getting good sleep, eating well and recovering is kind of the biggest takeaway we have to keep doing in between these games when we have four or five games in two or three weeks.”
Just four days separate Sunday’s match and FCD’s next one, and facing the second-best team in the east doesn’t make things any easier. However, FC Dallas is beginning to gain more and more reinforcement from injury and international duty. Bryan Acosta made his first appearance Sunday night since his departure for the Gold Cup. He helped the midfield adjust in the second half against Portland, and he was be an important asset for the team Thursday night as well.
FC Dallas winger Santiago Mosquera is continuing his return to the lineup after missing a portion of the season due to injury, and he adds speed and quickness to the left side of the pitch — opposite of Michael Barrios.
The lessons FC Dallas has been able to learn from are going to be as important as ever moving forward as the team enters the second half of the season. Points at any point of the year are crucial, and two years ago, FC Dallas found that out the hard way after getting knocked out of contention for a playoff spot on the last day of 2017.
Matches like this Thursday’s have a great significance, especially if it means making the playoffs or not. FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead learned that first-hand two years ago, and he knows getting all three points this week will not only be important for the team’s confidence, but it’s overall playoff hopes as well.
“Football is very emotional,” Hollingshead. “A lot of times, when you’re playing really well, everybody is on a high, everybody is feeling pretty good. And when, you’re playing poorly, you’re on a bad stretch, everybody is really low, nobody is talking. I think what the veterans have been doing this season, especially, has been evening out those highs and those lows, and making it more of like, ‘Hey, when we’re high, that’s awesome. But, we also need to keep pushing. We also have more room to grow. When we’re low, that means nothing.’ We need to bounce back and we need to respond well.”