A visit from Dallas means that I spoke to Drew Epperley, managing editor of SBNation’s Big D Soccer, and he blessed us with some excellent info on Dallas ahead of this weekend’s game. You can find my answers to his questions over at their place.
Jesus Ferreira has been on a white-hot run of scoring form to start the season. What’s been working so well for him?
Drew Epperley: I think there are a couple of factors for Jesus that are working for him at the moment. For starters, the system Nico Estevez runs actually fits his play very well even though he isn’t a traditional striker by some folk standards. Jesus has an ability in and around the penalty box to create something out of nothing, and his finishing ability has really improved this season as well. Secondly, he’s no longer having to be the guy that facilitates the attack as we saw in the last couple of seasons under Luchi Gonzalez. He has guys like Paxton Pomykal, Paul Arriola, Alan Velasco, and even his fullbacks like Nanu, Ema Twumasi, and Marco Farfan helping set up his chances in front of the net. Lastly, I think it is his personality that is truly driving all of this improvement. He wants to be a legend like his dad was at this club and he is working even harder now that he has a Designated Player contract to his name too.
Alan Velasco and Paul Arriola were the two big incoming transfers for Dallas. How have they performed so far?
DE: Both have been great to be honest and we’re just now scratching the surface of what they’ll truly be for this team. I mentioned that their service to Ferreira has been big, but they’re both also finding ways to contribute on their own too. Velasco has been every bit of the hype that he came into Dallas with from Argentina. He can score on set pieces, he can create on his own and he looks like an absolute terror for defenses every time he touches the ball. Arriola is showing that he can contribute to goals and contribute goals of his own. Right now, he is on a four-game goal-scoring streak. While both were expensive purchases for FC Dallas, both have been worth it so far in 2022.
Dallas has stumbled in the last couple weeks, with three losses in the last four games. Do you think the congested schedule of those four matches coming within 13 days has played a big part in that, or is there something else going on?
DE: Depth is still going to be a major part of any team this season and I’d wager to say that as good as Dallas’ first-choice lineup has been this season, their second group isn’t as strong just yet. Some guys, like Franco Jara or Jader Obrian, are really better role players off the bench in my book, while the defense was getting hit by the injury bug a bit over these last couple of weeks. Since the club has no more U.S. Open Cup games left on its schedule, the congestion won’t be all that bad from here on out this season, which should help.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
DE: Right now, the team is pretty healthy despite a couple of players having to enter the health and safety protocols these last couple of weeks. Everyone should be out of that going into this weekend’s game and the four players called into international duty will leave after this game, which should give Esteves his first-choice lineup again for the first time since the beginning of the month.
Estevez has been using a 4-3-3 formation this season that should look like this:
Maarten Paes; Ema Twumasi, Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez, Marco Farfan; Facundo Quignon, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania; Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco.
I think a good result for FC Dallas in this one is getting back to its strengths on defense and finding another result away from home. A 1-1 draw seems doable here.
Big thanks to Drew for the information on Dallas. Vamos Orlando!