FRISCO - The game phase of preseason is off and running as FC Dallas played to a 1-1 draw Saturday morning in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Oscar Pareja used the match to play two completely different lineups in the two halves, opening with largely the starting group and then getting some of the reserves more minutes as the evaluation process continues.
“This was our first game and I thought it was very valuable for us,” Pareja said after the match. “We didn’t get the flow that we wanted and in these types of games, you get exposed into those scenarios. The other team has energy and made things difficult. You still have the load of the trainings [over the last two weeks] and the boys are starting to unfold [get back into game mode].”
First Half Observations
This was the first meaningful action of the preseason for nearly everyone on the field to start the game and, well, the first 10 minutes or so showed just that as Dallas started out rather slow and built towards a strong finish.
The back line was probably the most intriguing part to watch for the main group with Anton Nedyalkov and Reggie Cannon getting their first starts and Maynor Figueroa seeing some time in the middle alongside Matt Hedges. For the most part, the defensive face used the friendly to get comfortable with one another and to get everyone on the same page in a game-setting.
I thought their movement was very compact and strong for large stretches of the first half. The line shifted smoothly as either outside back would advance up the field and then would work his way back. It’s early, but the building blocks are set for a much more solid defensive shape in 2018.
That being said, the one goal FCD did allow was quite the mental lapse on many fronts. It is, after all, still early.
Cannon does a nice job keeping his man contained on the outside, but when the cross is played in, a few things happen. Hedges commits to his guy working back up the field, Figueroa then gets pulled to the far post and Jimmy Maurer, after a quiet first half in goal, appears to misread the ball right off the winger’s foot. Coming off the rush, Chattanooga sends numbers forward and Nedyalkov is left covering two guys while trying to allow his goalkeeper to make a play on the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was a nice opening run out for Maxi Urruti, Mauro Diaz and Michael Barrios. Paxton Pomykal provided a lot of energy on the wing opposite Barrios and like we saw from him last week in the scrimmage against Tulsa, he put forth a nice performance. He could fluidly work his way into the middle to cover for Diaz and also add a burst of speed into the box.
Dallas’ lone goal of the match started right from the foot of Diaz.
The No. 10 plays a perfect ball in from 30+ yards out while Maxi Urruti serves as a distraction tactic on the near side of the line. Victor Ulloa times a perfect run into the same area as Urruti and the duo took three defenders out of the play for Hedges to get a clean touch on the end of the service and direct it to the back of the net.
I think I was happier to see Diaz’s service than the goal itself given FCD’s struggles on set pieces last season. Pareja said after the match he was too.
Second Half Observations
Much like the start to the first half, the fresh faces needed some time to settle in to the start of their game. Overall there were some good individual performances over the last 45, but the complete change of field players could never really get much clicking as a unit.
Again, defensively was where Dallas had the most to prove here. Ryan Hollingshead flipped from his traditional left side to play a right back role, where he was able to make stops defensively as usual, but pushing into the attack just didn’t seem as comfortable as he does on the left. While maybe not the spot for Hollingshead long-term, he showed his willingness to play anywhere for the overall good of running out the youngsters in this one, especially Amer Sasivarevic on the left.
It was another strong outing in my book for Sasivarevic, making several more strong tackles like we saw a week ago and providing a nice overlap down the wing as FCD transitioned forward. I’m not sure how the club can fit him into their limited roster, but I think he’s making a case.
It was a strong half of growth for Jordan Cano and Kris Reaves in the middle. The two seemed to not be on the same page early on, namely when under pressure, but by the end of the day had both settled in and were making strong challenges both in the air and on the ground.
Playing a “V” midfield more in a 4-1-4-1 look, Chris Lema sat deep with Jacori Hayes and Brandon Servania up higher. All three looked sound defensively, but weren’t able to connect on many threatening passes going forward. Again, I don’t read a whole lot into it because it wasn’t a great half as a unit in that regard.
Tesho Akindele and Roland Lamah swapped wings throughout the half and each had a few threatening runs down the wings, but Chattanooga collapsed lots of bodies into the middle and made it difficult for Dallas to make anything happen offensively.
Similarly, Cristian Colman had just a handful of looks on the day. Akindele and Lamah combined to feed him at the back post in the 76th minute, but he couldn’t get a clean touch on the redirect. FCD’s best chance really came the striker creating the play himself in the dying minutes of a Servania heel flick.
A couple quick moves to get into space behind the line, but the slightest glance off a defender thwarted any real chance Akindele would’ve had to complete it.
All-in-all, was a good opportunity for Dallas to get the first real minutes of preseason under their belt. The coaching staff got to see a little bit from the starters and from some of the draft picks late and with a handful of games on the horizon in the coming week, it wasn’t a make-or-break game for anyone involved.
“I think the objectives today were just to get some rhythm and the evaluation of [individual players] will come later,” Pareja said of the match. “It’s one thing to have them in the training ground, but it’s another thing to have them on the pitch with some contenders and just start seeing some patters that show us what they are. For now, it’s just continuing the evaluation for us.”
As the week rolls on, that’s when the intensity of camp and these preseason friendlies will truly pick up steam.