Clint Dempsey. Blas Perez. Out.
Kyle Bekker, body slam connoisseur and professional retribution artist, out. You at least wanted to see if he’d try again, right?
There it is. You can tune out this moment. There is probably a rerun of Married With Children or perhaps a consolation match of the men’s NIT to occupy your Saturday night. I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t watch an American sport and the potential for fisticuffs not exist.
But what is better than a team wronged by the formality of the rules that comes back to vanquish its foe in their first reuniting since the crime was committed? What about the scenario for a troubled, but brilliant youth taking the field, despite a recent public spat with a father figure? Can he overcome his personal frustrations and become something greater?
There isn’t anything better than that. Maybe sriracha-infused mustard and homemade chorizo, but that’s it. I immediately regret turning this into a Katherine Heigl TV drama.
But you’re clearly sold on tonight’s clash in Frisco. This is no wet blanket of a match. In fact, it’s an answer to the question, “Is FC Dallas truly a contender?”
It’s the same conversation that began early in 2014. A long unbeaten run into May started the discussion, but it was ultimately put on pause through a midseason slump and reinvigorated in the Western Conference semifinals. It’s the equivalent of a damnatio memoriae in Frisco: don’t talk about away goals. It hurts, still.
But Oscar Pareja let go months ago. He had to. Despite his passion for FC Dallas it is always tempered with reason. The journalists would prefer a firebrand’s unleashing of ad hominems and platitudes at the mere utterance of ‘away goals,’ but that is far from what Papi has offered.
He is enticed by the prospect tonight of two teams having to shake their respective lineups. Oscar has always a wealth of youth at his disposal. He is never afraid to use it. That will be the line that runs tonight’s story in Frisco.
Blas is out, Watson is out (just as he returned), as it Hernandez. All are on international duty. This mainly impacts the back line. Watson’s return against Philly was welcomed universally, and thank goodness it finally happened. But his absence, and Hernandez’s, leave the back line in flux. Does Pareja call upon Walker Zimmerman at center-half, and shuffle Loyd wide on the left? Does Acosta simply slide to left back, leaving the back line 3/4 in tact?
It’s the main conundrum provided by the international break for FC Dallas. Tesho’s presence in the lineup is unarguable: he was called on to do this for more than twenty matches last year, and did enough to win Rookie of the Year. Does Texeira make a cameo tonight? He does love a brace or two against Seattle. But more concretely, Hollingshead seems like the obvious option to be inserted on the right flank. His form demands it.
Seattle’s unwelcome presence in Frisco is mitigated by the fact that Dempsey, Pappa, and Alonso are all out. According to our Sounders man on the street Mark Kastner, there is a legitimate threat that Tyrone Mears could be out as well, depleting a depleted back line. Brad Evans will be a legitimate option at CB for Seattle, despite being doubly embarrassed by Innocent Emeghara just a couple weeks ago.
But this leaves the attack slightly stunted for the Sounders. No Dempsey can mean no provisions for Martins. No Pappa means less of a set piece threat. If Pareja does decide to experiment with Zimmerman in the back line, it would be more opportune now than ever. He’ll have to be ever watchful of Lamar Neagle, who will be present in the Sounder starting XI tonight and has developed a habit for excellence and dropping 25-yard bombs against Dallas.
But, only the most convincing of results is going to really bolster the argument for FC Dallas’ league supremacy. This was supposed to be the first big test. But even if a 3-0 victory happens tonight and Pareja’s men claim 75% possession there will always be the caveat of Dempsey being gone.
But could Dallas beat LA on the road? Sure, they’re ten games unbeaten, but what about June and July, a month of historic slumps in Frisco?
See how this discussion constantly runs further down the rabbit hole?
Regardless, Pareja’s stock he puts in his youth is what makes tonight interesting. He, better than any coach in MLS, gets the most out of his players. So if Zimmerman, Hollingshead, and Acosta take the field in any form tonight it will be intriguing to see if they play up to Pareja’s expectations.
From a purely petty, spiteful perspective though, this is a night to right some wrongs a November ago, and it will be much sweeter if the youth pull it off.
Possible lineup: Seitz; Acosta, Loyd, Hedges, Harris; Michel, Ulloa, Diaz, Hollingshead, Castillo; Akindele