It will be a battle of two first-year coaches, as Luchi Gonzalez has piloted his team to sixth place, despite a host of injuries to key players. FC Dallas will be without two of its best players, with Paxton Pomykal away on international duty in the U-20 World Cup and Matt Hedges will be suspended following a DOGSO red on Sunday against LAFC.
On the other hand, Michael Barrios will likely return from injury, meaning FC Dallas will pick up a key offensive cog. And the club is fresh off a strong performance against LAFC, despite being reduced to 10 men.
For more on what to expect from the Texans, we chatted with our SB Nation counterparts at Big D Soccer.
1. Paxton Pomykal has been a force for you all so far this year but he has struggled with injuries and is going to be away representing the US at the U-20 World Cup. Who has/will need to step up to fill that void and who should Whitecaps fans be watching who can really make an impact on the game?
Filling the void left behind from Paxton hasn’t been easy for Luchi Gonzalez so far this spring. He’s tried a couple different looks and formations to see if something else would spark the attack the same way that Paxton does. So far we’ve seen Pablo Aranguiz attempt to fill that role, as well as Santiago Mosquera or Michael Barrios. The rough part about that is that all three of those players have either seen an injury at times or they just didn’t pan out in that role.
2. Watching Sunday’s match against LAFC, Jesse Gonzalez was in fantastic form, even as it seemed some FC Dallas fans soured on him for a while. What kind of season has Gonzalez been having and is he still regarded as the hot prospect he once was?
Jesse has really improved his game from his passing (something that is big in Luchi’s system) to how he communicated with his back line, to how he just plays between the pipes. So far this season, he has come on stronger than ever and is really becoming one of the best shot blockers in MLS. He still has some work to do with commanding his penalty box and actually being a leader on this team but we have to remind ourselves that he is still only 23 years old.
3. Currently, FC Dallas sits in sixth place, just tucked inside the cutoff for a playoff spot. Its early in the season but what is the team going to have to do to ensure they’re on the inside looking out of the playoff race?
Lately, the health of this team has been an issue, as well as some suspensions (we’ll still be dealing with that this weekend when Matt Hedges is out for a red card suspension) and international call-ups. If this group can endure these next few weeks without dropping too many points, I do think it will set them up for a good summer run that will keep them in the playoff hunt. A lot of us who have been covering this team for years continue to say that they’d rather see this team struggle through the expected growing pains of a first-year coach right now in the spring, than what we’ve seen out of them in recent years where they drop of a ton of easy points in August, September, and October.