FRISCO, Texas — Following the 4-0 victory over OKC Energy FC, FC Dallas will play four games in 12 days as the team competes in both the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and MLS fixtures.
Even though FCD’s rigorous upcoming schedule will start with an Open Cup fixture against a USL side, the team’s mentality moving forward will stay consistent. With multiple MLS veterans on the squad, the team knows not to take any opponent lightly, especially when the opposition is looking to pull off a big upset.
“I can speak for everyone in the locker room,” Dominique Badji said. “Our mentality stays the same. Yes, we have a lot of games coming up, but we’re going to practice hard as it was any other game. And in the game, you don’t really think about that — the adrenaline kind of takes over.”
New Mexico United is first on FCD’s tab this week — a team coming off a road upset in the Fourth Round of the Open Cup against the Colorado Rapids.
New Mexico scored a stoppage-time equalizer in the 94th minute to send the game into extra time. After a stalemate in the additional thirty minutes, New Mexico defeated Colorado in penalty kicks, moving on to the Round of 16 in the tournament.
One of the reasons why New Mexico United was able to pull off the upset was because of how much control it had on the match. United had possession of the ball for 67-percent of the match with 781 passes completed. It’s a team that likes to keep the ball and make the opponent play to its style. United had a passing completion of 87-percent last week as well, and it speaks volumes about a side that makes taking care of the ball a priority.
“We’ll play a much different style than Colorado played against New Mexico,” Ryan Hollingshead said. “We’re watching video on New Mexico and learning what they do, but Colorado sat back a lot and let New Mexico play and that won’t happen with us. We’ll try to impose our game upon them, make them come and play, make them try to attack us. We’re not going to give them space to play behind us or play between our lines.”
Rotations have been a big factor to worry about for teams that have come up against New Mexico within the past few weeks. Following the Open Cup upset over Colorado, United fell to the Las Vegas Lights, 5-1, in a match that was just three days after the last. The two back-to-back matches were also on the road as New Mexico had to travel from Colorado to Las Vegas during that period as well.
Now, with a bit more rest, United will once again have to travel albeit with more players rested and healthy. FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez said he knows how much New Mexico has been rotating different players recently, and he knows the 11 players that it puts out onto the pitch against FCD might be different than what’s been on the tape the team has been watching.
“Certainly, in the lineup that we expect, that lineup has shown good concepts with the ball in trying to build play, create attacks, put pressure on the ball when they lose it,” Gonzalez said. “They’ve got some interesting movements with their backs, two’s and three’s. This is a team that prepares very well, tactically.”
New Mexico is a team that likes to penetrate the opposing defense with direct balls between lines. As a team that is patient in possession, United picks its moment to attack when it finds a lapse in either concentration or switches in the opposition’s formation.
The FC Dallas back line limited the amount of chances OKC was able to create, and the latter wasn’t able to muster-up many shots on goal. FCD will look to do the same against a side which scored two goals on just eight shots on target. Hollingshead credits the defense’s resiliency on guys being able to rotate in the lineup without any drop-off in talent.
Against OKC, Bryan Reynolds got his first FCD start, replacing Reggie Cannon, who is currently on international duty with the US Men’s National Team, at the right back position. Even with a young player in the starting 11, FCD was still able to dominate possession and Reynolds himself had a great performance.
“We’ve just had so many people in-and-out, and so we’ve had different guys plugging into different spots in the back line,” Hollingshead said. “We’ve done well, everybody has stepped in and done their job. I think we’ve got the right pieces, we’ve got a ton of depth, so we’re ready to go.”