FRISCO - Slowly, but surely, the pieces are starting to come together for FC Dallas.
The club played their second official match of the preseason on Wednesday night - a 1-1 draw against Santa Tecla FC, who will also begin CONCACAF Champions League play in just two weeks’ time.
It was a real test for some of the bigger names in the FCD lineup who played nearly the whole match as opposed to the 45 minutes most saw in Tennessee.
New-Look Back Line
Wednesday was the debut of what figures to be FC Dallas’ starting back line with newcomer Reto Ziegler seeing his first action since joining the club, sliding alongside Matt Hedges, Anton Nedyalkov and Reggie Cannon.
The four started the match a little slow and built as it went along, but largely contained Santa Tecla’s attack.
“I think we needed some time to find each other on the field. After that, I think they had one chance and they scored one goal so it was not to bad defensively,” Ziegler said. “These games are here for that, its a test. Unfortunately we didn’t win the game but i think we did some good stuff.”
The one goal FCD did allow was a bit of a lapse for the defense. Nedyalkov did well to contain the ball in the corner initially, but as Kellyn Acosta came in to help, the duo found themselves on the wrong side of a fortunate bounce and the visitors capitalized on the resulting chance.
“As the game went on I thought we got better,” head coach Oscar Pareja said of his back line. “In the first half we moved the ball well with not much vertically. We found people in the middle but we couldn’t hurt them but there is those baby steps that you get in the preseason. You’re just trying to build, trying to put the things together and just looking for the objectives that we traced at the beginning of the preseason.”
Mauro Working Magic
For the second straight game, Dallas’ lone goal started from the foot of playmaker Mauro Diaz on a set piece.
After struggling late in 2017 off his torn Achilles’ injury, the No. 10 is showing signs of his old self early on in 2018. It’s something Pareja and the rest of the team are taking note of.
“I think Mauro is getting better,” he said. “He’s hard, working like all the other players and what I’ve seen at the beginning of this season is already better than the Mauro that finished the season [last year], so that is really good news. We are just trying to find the player we had in 2016, and that’s what we are aiming for. I know he is doing the same and we are hoping that comes.”
For the final 15 minutes of the match, Dallas shifted from their traditional 4-2-3-1 look into a 3-5-2 formation with Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead out wide operating as wing backs. Ziegler, Hedges and Nedyalkov anchored a three-man back line with Diaz pulling the strings in front of Acosta and Jacori Hayes in the midfield. Maxi Urruti and Cristian Colman served as dual strikers atop the new formation.
“I did like it, that provided some flexibility with some of the players we have on the roster and it is a different way to put our team and map them out on the field,” Pareja said of his experimentation. “We can have two strikers or maybe three strikers and have somebody on the wings like Ryan and Reggie…That is going to provide us a different look and not be so tied to one model so I got excited today to see that we can perform like that.”
Something to keep in mind as yet another formation being played with during the first three weeks of camp.
The FC Dallas reserves will square off against OKC Energy FC on Thursday morning at 10AM as another set of players get to see time.