What We Learned From First 11 vs. 11 Scrimmage
FC Dallas/Jessica Tobias

What We Learned From FC Dallas' First 11 vs. 11 Scrimmage

FRISCO, Texas - On what began as a warm, sunny Saturday morning, Luchi Gonzalez’s FC Dallas squad broke into two teams, competing in the first full-field scrimmage of the preseason. The match gave the coaching staff another chance to analyze the players, especially the newcomers, in a true 11 vs. 11 setting.

“I thought we got a lot of general things accomplished,” Gonzalez said. “My goal is to analyze some of these newer faces and make sure we can make some smart decisions for us and them.”

The match, contested over two 30-minute halves, saw Michael Barrios, Santiago Mosquera and the rest of Team Orange claim a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Ryan Hollingshead and Matt Hedges’ Team Grey.

So, what did we learn? And which players stood out?

A Few Miss Out Through Injury

Absent from the contest were Fafá Picault, Paxton Pomykal and Zdenek Ondrasek, who are all dealing with knocks.   

“Everything we have right now is normal,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll be smart about our players. If I have to play against Vancouver in a week with a bunch of draft players, so be it. That will be an opportunity.”

During the match itself, Bryan Acosta and Barrios were both withdrawn as a precaution. Gonzalez said both felt some soreness, with Barrios favoring his knee early in the second half.

Further Developments in Pressing and Switching the Field

As expected, much of the scrimmage focused on pressing in the right moments. For Team Orange’s lone goal of the match, it was the high press that paid off.

“The goal from the orange team was a high pressing moment,” Gonzalez said. “That is a good moment to show that there is a reward for that effort.”

Mosquera got the goal, taking advantage of a heavy touch by goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer to tap-in from close range. The Colombian was a constant threat from the wing throughout the contest, looking sharp at certain moments in the final third.

Another key element of play that the midfield units clearly focused on was verticality. Acosta spent the early minutes of the match pinging some wonderful diagonals around the pitch.

“I told [Acosta] to just close his eyes and kick it,” Gonzalez joked. “Switching play is very important in our principles … We’ve hit [more] longer balls already this first week than the last month last season, but that is not to say we need to now start jamming long balls. It is a tool we want to polish earlier in the season so that we recognize when to play long and when to play short.”

Analyzing the Rookies: Manuel Ferriol Stands Out

For those selected in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, Saturday was their first major chance to showcase what they could bring to the table. While Nkosi Burgess and Anders Engebretsen sat out the first 30 minutes, each got significant playing time.

It was the Spaniard midfielder, Manuel Ferriol, that caught the eye, though. After he began a little loose, giving possession away a bit too easily at times, he quickly found his feet and displayed his technical qualities.

“I think [Ferriol] shows high technical and tactical proficiency,” Gonzalez said. “His talent is quick-thinking and good technique.”

While Ferriol spent a lot of time playing as an attacking midfielder in college, his potential future with the club would be at defensive midfield, if Saturday has anything to show for it. He was efficient on the ball and did a lot of the dirty work that often goes unnoticed.

For the other rookies, they had their moments. Cal Jennings displayed some clean touches in crowded spaces with his hold-up play up top. The striker would have wanted to polish off his day with a goal but blazed his big chance over the crossbar from just inside the 18 during the second half.

For Burgess, his second half spell showcased glimpses of the talent FC Dallas dreamed of when they selected him with the 14th pick in the draft. He is an athletic figure at the back, one that has the raw speed to chase down attackers and the strength to bully them off the ball, if need be. While he will need to work a bit on his positioning, the potential is there.

“Tactically, he needs to improve in some of our ways,” Gonzalez said. “But he certainly has ingredients to potentially play in this league one day.”  

The same goes for Engebretsen. While the Norwegian struggled to get involved early on in the second half, he quickly grew in confidence and scored a screamer in the 7 vs. 7 match that immediately followed the full-field scrimmage.

Finally, Derek Waldeck displayed his versatility, playing the first half in the midfield for Team Orange and later switching to left back for the second half. He worked tirelessly, misplacing a few passes at times, but is seen as a valuable asset by Gonzalez.

“[He’s] just a very solid player,” Gonzalez said. “Lefties are valuable.”

Thiago Santos Arriving Soon

While the Brazilian is yet to take part in any of the preseason activities, Gonzalez confirmed that Thiago Santos will arrive sometime this weekend.

“That will be a great opportunity for us to include him in some things next week,” Gonzalez said.

The team will enjoy a day off tomorrow and return to the training grounds on Monday, as the players prepare for the upcoming, back-to-back friendlies against Oklahoma Energy FC and NTX Rayados on Wednesday.

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