FC Dallas is back on Texas soil after a grueling but productive ten-day trip to Argentina as they prepare for next Thursday's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg vs Arabe Unido (TICKETS).
It was perhaps the most unique preseason trip in league history as FC Dallas played matches on seven out of the ten days away from Texas with only weather preventing FCD from playing pretty much every day. Now exactly how many matches they played? Well that's up to debate as some days there was one 90-minute match, others it was two 70-minute matches and others it was a 120-minute match. The fact of the matter is that everyone played a bunch of minutes and there's plenty we can glean from that information as we look to determine the starting lineup for FCD in just a week's time.
Here are five major takeaways from the Argentina trip:
This is a deep team
FCD scored ten goals in Argentina with eight different players(nine if you count the always-welcome own goal) finding the back of the net. Plenty of the usual suspects like Maxi Urruti, Michael Barrios, Atiba Harris and Tesho Akindele struck while newcomers Jesus Ferreira, Walker Hume and Adonijah Reid put their stamp on preseason as well.
We knew with double-digit additions to a squad that earned 60 points last season there would be plenty of options on the field, but seeing FCD being able to basically put out two completely different lineups that could probably hold their own in MLS is a pretty impressive sight.
The kids can play
I wrote about it yesterday, perhaps the story of the trip was how the Homegrown teenagers signed within the last six months have integrated themselves into the first team almost seamlessly. The system in Dallas in which Oscar Pareja looks to bring youngsters into first team training long before they are signed as Homegrowns creates this exact culture within the team. It shouldn't be a surprise that players like Jesus Ferreira, Paxton Pomykal and Reggie Cannon are not over-awed by the occasion as they've prepared for this for years.
Ferreira scored a jaw-dropping goal against the River Plate reserves while Cannon and Pomykal each earned well over 300 minutes of action last week both scoring assists in a beautiful goal by Tesho Akindele.
Are they going to be in the opening day lineup? Perhaps not, but these guys are going to be pushing the starters throughout the season for minutes and it's going to be really fun to watch.
The formation options are wide open
When FC Dallas signed Javier Morales, I think many of us assumed he was a pretty big slam dunk to start on opening day in a 4-2-3-1, but the evidence from preseason so far shows that a 4-4-2(which really becomes a 4-2-4 when you count the wingers) featuring Maxi Urruti paired with either Tesho Akindele or Cristian Colman could be the option against Arabe Unido.
We simply haven't seen Morales playing too many minutes with the starters yet in the 4-2-3-1 so that could still be a little bit of ways off, but at the same time you never expect Oscar Pareja to show his hand in Argentina friendlies that are more about fitness than the result.
Interestingly enough, FCD has still been tinkering with a three-at-the-back system featuring a combination of Atiba Harris, Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman with Chala and Lamah as wing backs. Very, very interesting.
The fighting spirit is there from game one
Like I mentioned earlier, it's tough to really determine what is a win and a loss when the games do not follow the typical 90-minute format, but the fighting spirit is certainly there even in preseason games. Playing against Argentine first divisions, many times playing a considerable amount of starters, FCD held their own with the only losses coming on the first day - pretty much straight off a plane - and then the reserves falling to Lanus on Tuesday.
FCD came from behind in multiple matches to earn results and should take plenty of confidence from the matches. While preseason is more about fitness than results, goals matter and FCD very much held their own playing in unfamiliar environments and sketchy weather.