The Seattle Sounders take on FC Dallas this weekend for the second time this season. This match is taking place in Frisco, Texas after Dallas traveled to Seattle in July for a 1-1 draw. To get a better sense of where Dallas is at as a team, we spoke to Drew from Big D Soccer.
Sounder at Heart: Has FC Dallas lived up to fan expectations this season? What's been troubling y'all? What's been going well?
Big D Soccer: I wouldn't go as far to say that expectations for an MLS Cup were there for FC Dallas going into this season, but after the success of 2022 – reaching a Western Conference semifinal – everyone that follows the team believed this group could still improve on what they did a year ago. So, with that, I think it is completely fair to say that this group has not lived up to those expectations or beliefs. The big issue FC Dallas faced in 2023 was injuries between late April and mid-June. The club at one point saw as many as eight or nine starters out of the lineup at the same time, while the team was also playing a lot of three-game weeks before the start of Leagues Cup. It was brutal, to say the least.
On the flip side, there have been some positives this year. The team is growing under head coach Nico Estevez despite the results. The club is also enjoying a record-setting year at the gates, with more sellouts than ever before at Toyota Stadium. Jesus Ferreira continues to be a shining star for the club as he was well into the league's Golden Boot race before the June Gold Cup window took him away from the club for a bit. I'd also throw in that guys like ex-Seattle University defender Nkosi Tafari and keeper Maarten Paes are continuing to become excellent players in their positions, too. And then there is Alan Velasco, who just got called into the Argentine national team last week. He was the first FC Dallas player to earn a national team call-up to a defending World Cup champion.
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SAH: Dallas is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league, despite having significant resources invested in the attacking areas of the pitch. What's keeping Dallas from scoring?
BDS: Yeah, scoring is hard to come by for this team. They do very well at creating good chances in front of the goal, but their finishing has been lacking severely this season. Part of that was due to the injury situation earlier this year. Velasco went down with an injury that kept him from finding solid scoring form until the Leagues Cup. Paul Arriola never rebounded from missing out on the US World Cup roster last December, and then he was out with an injury for two months. Sebastian Lletget had some personal issues he was dealing with early in the season and then also got injured. Both he and Arriola are just now finding their form in the season, which is really late to be doing so.
When Ferreira wasn't scoring, the team wasn't scoring. In fact, after Ferreira, some of the leading scorers on the team are defenders. While it is a positive to have defenders contributing in that way, it is never a good sign when they're showing up as the second or third leading scorer on the team for a long stretch of the season.
SAH: It seems like FC Dallas' academy is always garnering attention for shifting players to Europe quickly, sometimes with players rarely making an impact on the first team. Jesus Ferreira has attracted interest globally, but he's signed a long-term Designated Player contract. Are there any other local homegrown talents contributing in big ways for the first team?
BDS: In a weird way, the Homegrown factor has gone a little quiet in the last couple of seasons. Part of that may be due to the changes in first-team coaching staff that have happened since Oscar Pareja left a few years ago. FC Dallas is also taking a slightly slower approach to some of their younger talents in the academy system compared to a few years ago too. They're not rushing to give teenagers Homegrown deals like they once were. Saying that, though, FC Dallas still gobbles up minutes from Homegrown players, with HGPs earning a collective 4,000+ minutes so far this season.
Ferreira is still a big part of that, as is Paxton Pomykal. We're also starting to see Dante Sealy earn some valuable minutes, too, after being on loan in Holland for two seasons with PSV.
I do believe FCD will have a new wave of HGP talent in the coming years, though, and the talent pipeline is still pretty strong after a couple of down years. We'll see more players go the route of Ricardo Pepi or Tanner Tessman in that they'll sign with North Texas SC and then eventually sign with FC Dallas. Some will move quicker than others, and some will need a season or two to find their way onto the first team.
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