Orlando will finish up the back half of a two-game road trip on Sunday, when the team goes to Texas to face off against FC Dallas. In the process, the Lions will try to stretch their unbeaten streak another game further after picking up a win over Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
To prepare for this one I spoke to Drew Epperley, managing editor of SBNation’s Big D Soccer, and he was kind enough to bring us up to speed on how Dallas’ season has been going so far. I also answered some of his questions, which you can find over at their place.
Dallas has only lost twice since the resumption of MLS regular season play. What’s been key in the team’s steady run of results?
Drew Epperley: I think, in a way, it is the rotation of lineups that Luchi Gonzalez has been able to use during this time. Since everyone is dealing with the same sort of travel and heavy legs, the depth of this squad is really coming into use and we’re seeing good results from it.
Also, the newcomers that were brought in have made immediate impacts. Franco Jara is proving to be the main goal scorer that this squad has lacked the last couple of years. Andres Ricaurte is also proving to be exactly the guy that was missing in the attack as well with Paxton Pomykal on the mend for the rest of the season. Between those two guys showing well early on, and the defense continuing to be really consistent in not giving up a ton of goals, the points are starting to show for them.
Ricardo Pepi, just 17, has been brought into the first team more this year, and has already appeared more in 2020 than he did in all of last season. How has he performed?
DE: Pepi is taking his chances like any young star should. Not only has he been getting minutes and starts, but he is scoring goals too. Pepi’s game continues to grow with his minutes, which is what he needed on this stage. While the COVID-19 situation has been rough for some teams and players this year, Pepi is probably benefitting a lot from it since the team has five subs and he is able to get at least some decent minutes off the bench in games that he doesn’t start.
How does this Dallas team like to play? What tactics should Orlando fans expect to see from the home side?
DE: At the core, Dallas still wants to have possession and build from out of the back. Luchi Gonzalez always likes to talk about touches, passes, and duels. If his team is leading in those three areas at the end of a game, typically they’re also winning that game.
But at the same time, we’ve seen recently that he’ll adapt his game plan based on who he is playing. Take their win in Kansas City recently. They brought a good amount of pressure up top against KC, something they didn’t always do in 2019. That resulted in goals. Same could be true for their win over Colorado last week where Santiago Mosquera scored a hat trick. It was largely due to pressure up top, with some reliance on building play out of the back.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DE: Our main injury right now is still Pomykal, who is out until 2021 as he recovers from a hip injury. On Wednesday we did see Reto Ziegler miss the Atlanta game due to an injury but we’d expect him back as well.
As for the lineup, I would imagine he’ll go back to a 4-3-3 with: Jimmy Maurer; Ryan Hollingshead, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, Bryan Reynolds; Thiago Santos, Bryan Acosta, Andres Ricaurte; Fafa Picault, Franco Jara, Michael Barrios.
No score prediction provided.
Thanks again to Drew for the great insight into FC Dallas.