Complicated Thoughts about FC Dallas' Season Ending Loss
FC Dallas could not get the job in Seattle missing their two best players. Still, did we see the best of this team?
On Friday night in a raucous Seattle atmosphere, FC Dallas exited from the playoffs with barely a whimper.
The score at the end of the match was 1-0, an indication that Dallas kept things somewhat close, but the reality was that Dallas’ first shot on goal came near the 80th minute.
Seattle Sounders dominated the lowly squad from Frisco. After 45 minutes, Dallas hadn’t even registered a shot. Period. While the second half showed some improvement, it was clear that Dallas was out of their element. Head coach Nico Estevez didn’t have an answer. Neither did the players.
And yet, can FCD fans be too disappointed? No. Here’s why -
FC Dallas Missed Jesus and Velasco
Going into this match, Jesus Ferreira traveled but did not start, dealing with a nagging groin injury.
Alan Velasco is out for an extended period of time with an ACL injury.
The two best players on this squad were missing, so naturally, FC Dallas struggled to create something special. Yes, Bernard Kamungo had sparkled recently. Yes, Jader Obrian was in form. Unfortunately, it’s a tall task to ask either of those guys to step up and propel the franchise into a deep run on their own.
FC Dallas simply did not have the firepower on their bench and ended up turning to Tsiki Ntsabeleng late, a guy who has fallen down the depth chart in the midfield.
Oh, and let’s not forget Jesus Jimenez, a trade that at this point ranks among the worst in FC Dallas history. Does the guy even want to play professional soccer anymore? Does he belong at this level?
Nico’s hands were tied, no fault of his own.
Nico Could Not Adapt
I think we give lots of credit for FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez to carve something interesting out of a disastrous season. The amount of injuries that piled up for FC Dallas over the course of the campaign was next to insurmountable, but Nico and the crew found a way to sneak into the playoffs late. With everyone healthy, we can imagine stronger form and stronger positioning.
But if there was a challenge, Nico did not have the tools, either on the coaching side or in the roster side, to find a way to come back from a deficit. That reality was on display against Seattle, as Nico was content to roll out the side from the first half which had settled for zero shots by that point. It was the equivalent of just telling your team to work harder, something we witnessed a lot during the end of Luchi’s run as the Dallas head coach.
At some point, players need more than to work harder. They need a strategy to exploit an opponent. That was lacking in Seattle, so the home side was able to see out the match despite a few hesitant moments late.
Are we sad?
FC Dallas fans are right to be frustrated. We’ve seen this song and dance before. Seattle has become a more potent rival than Houston as of late. The roster that Dallas has is decent enough to be in the playoff mix but needs work. That was evident in Seattle. Jesus Jimenez was not quality enough to be on the field.
So, yeah, fans are rightfully sad for the way this ended, even if there were enough circumstances to make it all understandable.
Do we have reason to be hopeful?
Of course, there are reasons to be hopeful. Bernard Kamungo has the potential to get stronger going into next season. Alan Velasco will get healthy. Paxton Pomykal began to return to form. Illaramendi looked like a quality signing. The defense was quite solid, and Geovane Jesus should be ready to go at the start of the year. A signing like Liam Fraser deepens the quality in the roster.
Dallas will need to find some additional offensive help going into 2024 if they want to become more dangerous.
We can turn the page on 2023 and admit it’s complicated. FC Dallas under-achieved and in some ways over-achieved. And that’s where we land.