On Sunday September 22nd the Vancouver Whitecaps will host FC Dallas, match start is 4pm. This will be another tough test for the Caps as their push for the playoffs continues. FC Dallas currently sit second in the west with 50 points, a single point behind west-leading Sporting Kansas City. With that in mind we take a dive into the mind of Drew Epperly from Big D Soccer.
86 Forever: FC Dallas has been enjoying another very successful season in the MLS, does this squad finally have what it takes to win the MLS Cup? If yes, what has changed that makes you think they will will surpass where they’ve been stopped before. If not, what is holding them back?
BDS: This team is still a bit of a puzzle to most FC Dallas fans. On one hand they have the ability to hang with anyone in MLS with wins over teams like Atlanta or Sporting Kansas City, but then they go out and lose two straight games to someone like San Jose. The talent is there for sure with how the attack can be with guys like Michael Barrios, Roland Lamah and Maxi Urruti running the show. The defense is certainly in contention to be good enough to compete for a title if they aren’t picking up red cards like we’ve seen them do at times this season.
86 Forever: FC Dallas is widely considered to have one of the best academy systems in the MLS, what is it they get right? What can other teams in the MLS learn from from the Dallas system to improve their own academies?
BDS: They do a great job of bringing young players into training with the first team as much as they can. We see a lot of players get chances to be with the first team and learn from them on a week-to-week basis. During the summer they also hold a summer camp for academy players to be even closer to their first team counter parts. The system from top to bottom is well defined too, which helps establish what they are wanting to do by building players up and signing them at the rate that they are. I would say that other teams need to find ways to trust their youngsters more. Every player is different but they each need attention nonetheless. Bring them in more and allow them to develop and then find ways to get them minutes. I feel like it could be as simple as that.
86 Forever: What is Oscar Pareja’s formula for success with this club? Does he adapt the team to each opponent, or does FC Dallas have a strong on-field identity they tend to stick to no matter who they line up against?
BDS: Pareja has made this season a single game approach type system and so far it has really worked well for how this team is built. They do a good job of taking things a game at a time and not finding ways to look too far down the path on the schedule because when they have, we’ve seen them stumble. Pareja’s approach to doing things this way have allowed players to relax a little bit more in my mind and gives them one key focus each time out.
Bonus question: Why are you guys so ridiculously good looking?
We’re just that damn good, what else can I say?
"Why are they so ridiculously good looking?" https://t.co/E9LahzZ01T— Big D Soccer (@BigDSoccer) September 19, 2018
Line-up projection: Jesse Gonzalez, Marquinhos Pedroso, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, Reggie Cannon, Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo, Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti, Michael Barrios, Dominque Badji
BDS: Outside of last weekend’s loss to Seattle, the Whitecaps had been doing fairly well for themselves in the ladder part of the summer. Were those results because of who they played (San Jose twice, Minnesota, etc) or was the team actually beginning to hit another gear as they turned towards a playoff push? Who was stepping up the most during that run?
86 Forever: The optimist in me wants to think it was the team coming together and playing excellent soccer, the realist in me thinks it had a lot to do with our competition. We are a very opportunistic club. When teams are disorganized it is easy for the forwards to look. In our Seattle match last week, I hate to say this, but I believe we saw the Caps true colours. A team that is strong in the middle of the park, but that is ultimately wasteful in the final 18 when the defense is staunch. During their strong stretch of matches the reason the Caps were successful is because they front four Alphonso Davies, Kei Kamara, Yordy Reyna and Christian Techera were in sync, on target and finding lots space to operate in.
BDS: A lot has changed between these two sides since they last met in May, catch FC Dallas fans up on who Vancouver brought in this summer and how the team has improved since then. What has Carl Robinson done to help keep this club right in the hunt for a playoff spot?
86 Forever: In the summer transfer window the Whitecaps brought in Marvin Emnes. He seems to be primarily a winger and sometimes a striker. He was brought in as a last minute free-transfer, and was most recently playing in the Turkish Super League. He hasn’t seen any time on the pitch for the Caps this season (and hasn’t appeared in a professional match since December 2017) so no one is really sure what were getting. Given that Bernie Ibini transferred away from the team, there was a need for depth on the wing and I think Robbo needed a cheap option to fill lowest spot on the depth chart. As for what Robbo has done to keep this team in the playoff hunt, I’d have to say it’s been his commitment to consistency that’s kept us hovering where we are. We’re probably playing the exact same type of football we were during our last encounter with FC Dallas with some minor tweaks to personnell.
BDS: The Whitecap defense has given up their fair share of goals this season, what has been the biggest factor to that? Are fans worried that this group could be their Achilles heel?
86 Forever: The Defense is a definite concern for the Caps. They can be disorganized and are downright porous at times, and I think that the problem starts at the goal line. Stefan Marinovic seems meek, especially compared to David Ousted (who was an absolute general out there). That leaves the defensive co-ordination to Kendall Waston and Doneil Henry and they can’t always see all the threats on the pitch at all times. This defense can, and certainly has, cost this team points this season.
Lineup projection: Stefan Marinovic, Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Doniel Henry, Brett Levis, Christian Techera, Aly Ghazal, Russel Teibert, Alphonso Davies, Yordy Reyna, Kei Kamara