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Three Questions with Texas XI

FC Dallas has even more fitness and lineup questions than Seattle.

Last Updated
3 min read
Joe Nicholson | USA Today

If there's one clear takeaway from the early Western Conference standings it is that an injury crisis will put you near the bottom. Both FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders show that. Dallas is missing almost every attacker you've heard of while the Sounders went without a spine for over a month.

Saturday night the healing Sounders travel to Frisco to face the still-injured Toros. Dallas is 1-4-1, -4 on the season and not yet starting to heat up. Still, this is a road match in MLS (5:30 p.m. PDT, MLS Season Pass). Winning isn't easy, even when you're healthy.

Answering Three Questions for Texas XI is my first soccer boss at SB Nation (I would then go on to replace Steve, followed by Graham and then Jeremiah) and current FC Dallas radio analyst Steve Davis.

SaH: FC Dallas is going through a bit of an injury crisis in the attack these days. Whose absence is hurting the squad the most? Who has stepped up the best with their expanded opportunity?

TXI: The answer a lot of fans might give is Jesus Ferreira. And for sure, if the guy who scored 30 goals over the last two seasons would get healthy and find his top form, it would absolutely allay some fears about where this season is going. But in truth, the guy FCD probably misses more right now – and who “might” be back this week – is Asier Illarramendi. The team’s veteran Spanish midfielder is easily the best passer and ball progressor through midfield – and it’s not really even close. He's willing to take possession in tough pockets, which is pretty damned handy for press breaking. And although he’s not necessarily rangy in midfield, he’s elite at sniffing out danger when the team is out of possession. They have certainly missed Ferreira, in addition to Paxton Pomykal, Alan Velasco, Marco Farfan and Geovane Jesus, all of whom are probably starters. But Illarramendi’s particular high-level skill set is the toughest to duplicate.

SaH: Is Omar Gonzalez going to anchor the center defense? How are his performances at this stage of his career?

TXI: I’m pretty sure Gonzalez was brought in as a depth piece. And he’s been used that way; the 35-year-old former USMNT man has just two starts. Nkosi Tafari is the team’s defensive leader, and absolutely the top talent along the back line. He hasn’t been at his best, however, and FCD manager Nico Estévez replaced Tafari in the lineup for the team’s most recent match, a worthy 0-0 draw at St. Louis. (“Worthy” because the team was previously giving up two goals a game. And as you guys know, teams that concede at that rate are NOT making the playoffs. So a clean sheet was a bit of soothing balm.)  Tafari is The Man; Estévez just needs him to get back to the level that got him a winter national team call-up. Meanwhile, Gonzalez will get his turns in the rotation.

SaH: Paul Arriola v. Jordan Morris a few years ago would be a USMNT roster making contest. Who do you expect to get the better of things now and will it help either be back in the picture for the USA?

TXI: It's difficult to say if these two will directly oppose one another. They might! Then again, who knows? Because Estévez hasn’t settled on a trusted formation, and that comes with some personnel implications, team captain Arriola has been affected as much as anyone. The manager’s big picture plan was to go with a 3-4-2-1 this year. Arriola played as one of the “underneath” strikers in preseason. And he looked pretty good, too! But then he moved to wingback (along the right) and didn’t look as comfortable. Then he played as a right-sided midfielder in a 4-4-2, before another turn at wingback last week (in a 5-3-2). So who knows about this week? FCD could certainly use a little more from its captain. Then again, all the lineup, personnel and positional flux can’t be easy.  

There's no reverse this week. Head over to Texas XI, Big D Soccer, and 3rd Degree to learn more about FC Dallas.