In the midst of a rather rocky stretch of play in MLS, Orlando City will get another opportunity to right the ship this weekend before the all important U.S. Open Cup semifinal match next Tuesday. The chance to get back to winning ways comes against FC Dallas, in the Lions’ yearly match-up with the Western Conference team.
In order to get better acquainted with a team Orlando doesn’t see a whole lot of, I spoke to Drew Epperley, the managing editor of SBNation’s Big D Soccer. Drew was kind enough to answer my questions about Dallas’ 2019 season, and gave some great insight into the Lions’ next opponent. I also answered Drew’s questions and you can read those over at their place.
FC Dallas has a fairly balanced record of 9-6-8, and is in sixth place in a very competitive Western Conference. What has been FCD’s biggest strength this season?
Drew Epperley: It may have taken a while to get there this season but I think new head coach Luchi Gonzalez has done well at establishing their core identity as a young, development-type team. He doesn’t have any issues using young players, even will even play them over some more seasoned veterans.
Along with that, the team’s defensive structure seems to be fine-tuned at this point in the season. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez is quietly having his best season yet as a professional, one that could be in the running for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year if he keeps up his current pace. Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler are showing well as a center back duo that could rival most in MLS.
On the other side of the coin, where is an area that Dallas has struggled so far, and what does the team need to fix in order to stay above the line and make the playoffs?
DE: The biggest thing right now has to be their finishing in front of goal. Last weekend was a good example of how the club gets chances or creates good movement on the ball in the attack but fails to do anything positive with it. Dallas has done well at finding multiple scorers to lead the way this season but none of them have stepped up into being that go-to type scorer for them. So when any of them go cold for a stretch, the entire team seems to be impacted right now by that.
Along with that, being that this is such a young team, their ability to close out games has come into question as well. Luchi Gonzalez’s heavy use of players under 22 years old is great but there are times that their naive play gets the best of them in finishing a game out.
Bryan Acosta was the club’s big off-season signing, with a deal being done back in January. How has he done since arriving in Dallas?
DE: Acosta has shown pretty well so far this season for FC Dallas. I think some folks have to temper their expectations a bit as even though he is a Designated Player, he wasn’t brought in to be an attacking leader for this club. He’s more suited and built to play the #8 role that he usually plays under Gonzalez. In games where he’s been able to play to his strengths of being a link between the defense and the attack, Dallas has done well. But there are times that he drifts away or doesn’t insert himself enough in the buildup play that make you wonder what is going on.
Overall though, he’s been a solid addition to this team both on and off the field.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DE: FC Dallas has been pretty lucky lately in the injury department, outside of maybe one or two guys missing a game for some rest. It will be intriguing to see how players like Hedges and Paxton Pomykal deal with the All-Star Game this week in Orlando, but the club isn’t expecting them to miss any playing time because of that game. The big absence this weekend thought may be felt on the back line as Reggie Cannon will be suspended due to a yellow card accumulation. More than likely we’ll see either newcomer Bressan or Homegrown fullback Bryan Reynolds slot into his spot on the roster.
GK: Jesse Gonzalez, LB: Ryan Hollingshead, CB: Reto Ziegler, CB: Matt Hedges, RB: Bressan; CM: Brandon Servania, CM: Bryan Acosta, CM: Paxton Pomykal; LW: Santiago Mosquera, FW: Jesus Ferreira, RW: Michael Barrios.
(Note: No score prediction given.)
Thanks again to Drew for his updates on FC Dallas.