Change and fluctuation characterize the FCD offseason. There is a new manager, new captain, new(ish) name to the stadium, new hoop-less jerseys, and new set of attackers to help build Pareja an empire.
For Montreal, well, much hasn’t changed, at least not relative to Dallas. The starting lineup taking the field Saturday for the Impact will be nearly identical to those of yesteryear. But this is a rematch of two unfortunate franchises that shared the common bond of topping the league in 2013 at one point only to see things crumble apart.
For one, the Impact saw thing crumble last year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they couldn’t keep a shutout. This should sound similar to the pains of the midseason lull in Dallas of 2013. Despite a wonderful attack that made Justin Mapp relevant again and Marco Di Vaio a target, marked man amongst MLS’ defenders, their goals weren’t enough to make up for their faults in front of goal. Despite reigning over the East for a good stretch of 2013, they still let the 3rd most goals in the conference go by.
This doesn’t mean the Impact won’t be worthy adversaries. But their injuries and suspensions do mean that and will hamper their chances of pulling out of Frisco with a result. Normally, the 2013 (and now 2014) Impact would feature a 4-2-3-1 with Di Vaio at the target and the midfield anchored by Patrice Bernier. Both of these will miss for suspension (no scratching, Marco) and injury, respectively. These are huge gaps to be filled for the Canadians. Justin Mapp and Felipe Martins will be a handful for the Dallas defense, but they will lack the point on top of the spear without their star Italian striker.
But Dallas will not simply walk to victory in Frisco, buoyed by Pareja’s attack-focused tactics or new, sleek, jerseys with twenty shades of red. The biggest issues in Frisco lay in the back with injuries all sidelining John, Zimmerman, Loyd, and Fernandez.
Chris Seitz is a more than worthy replacement in Fernandez’s stead, and could land himself the gig for quite some time if things go well. That remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the Dallas back line will probably see Moises Hernandez make his first MLS start at center back alongside Matt Hedges, Kelyn Acosta, and Michel. Mo will at least have good experience (or more experience in this case) surrounding him, but he is at first glance not the towering, hulking figure that George John can be. Overall, the Dallas defense and its ability to stay compact and together will guarantee some success against Montreal. Hopefully possessing out of the back won’t be the issue it was in San Antonio just last week.
Throughout the midfield there is still a question of who will hold at center defensive mid. Jacobson, Thomas, and Moffit all fit the bill. Thomas is the most certain to anchor the midfield. Pareja didn’t drag him from the Rockies to Frisco just for depth and cover. But whether or not Moffit or Jacobson get the gig beside the Honduran is still in question. Otherwise, they’ll provide coverage for Mauro Diaz attacking ahead, and hopefully additional coverage for Fabian Castillo on the right flank and JeVaughn Watson, who impressed quite a bit in preseason, on the opposite flank. Perez’s job as the target was never in question, but it will be more necessary than ever for him to begin his goal production like he did in 2012 on opening day.
Underlying issues for Dallas still remain obvious. There is a new coach who must manage the players brought in the transfer window just before his appointment, as well as the old guard, plus a slew of new signings. Not to mention Pareja will also have to put these pieces together into a coherent system that he favors and works for the team. Transitioning from the defensive, uncreative tactics of the Hyndman era to a more open, vulnerable, possession-based 4-3-3 is a tough transition for any professional side.
Like many seasons of FCD past, this may be a work in progress. It probably will be, given the circumstances working against the club. But FCD is youthful, and will hopefully develop into something more to Oscar’s favor by midseason. All we as spectators can hope for are goals and the health of the current squad to be maintained.
Questions for Saturday’s game:
Who starts alongside Thomas at CDM?
Will we see Danny Garcia garner some minutes out on the flank?
Will Mauro Diaz create as much as is expected of him?
Does Dallas capitulate late in the match, as was such a habit of 2013?
(image courtesy of fcdallas.com)