It’s time for the Texas Derby. El Capitan is once again on the line as the Houston Dynamo are travel to Frisco to take on rivals FC Dallas for the first time this season. To help us get some insight on this weekend’s opponent we spoke to Drew Epperley of Big D Soccer.
Dynamo Theory (DT): Like the Dynamo, FC Dallas is in a bit of a new era. What can you tell us about the moves the club made this offseason and the general feeling around the club early in the season?
Big D Soccer (BDS): This was probably one of the better and bigger offseasons for FC Dallas in recent memory. Nico Estevez has come in from the United States National team and has brought a familiar system that Gregg Berhalter uses there. The club made headlines with roster moves like selling Ricardo Pepi to FC Augsburg for $20 million followed up by making a record intra-MLS trade for Paul Arriola and then a club-record transfer for Alan Velasco. FC Dallas also made Homegrown forward Jesus Ferreira a Designated player in the offseason as well, helping him follow more in his father’s footsteps.
All to say, the moves were big this offseason. The general feeling is optimistic in some cases, but I would imagine most are still more cautiously optimistic. I don’t get a sense that there are many fans out there that truly believe this is an MLS Cup contender just yet, but I do think most would agree that this is a team that, if they stay healthy, will compete for a good playoff spot this season.
DT: Dallas has played very well defensively this season, allowing a goal or less in every game. What have been some keys for this success and what could be some potential areas, if any, that could be exploited?
BDS: The main thing is health. So far veterans Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez have played in nearly every game this season and their leadership in the back has helped guide the team to back-to-back road shutouts for the first time in probably a decade. Another newcomer, loanee Maarten Paes has become a brick wall in goal for the club too, sparking fans to want to see his six-month loan from Holland extended through the end of the season at a minimum. That trio, along with Marco Farfan on the left wing and either Nanu or Ema Twumasi on the right wing have been very solid as a group this season.
As far as exposing them, we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks that a high-pressure system does cause them issues. They’re good at withstanding the pressure for periods of a game but if there is a team out there that can press high, force a lot of turnovers in the Dallas defensive third, then I think we’ll see some cracks form in this group that we haven’t had so far this season.
DT: Jesus Ferreira is becoming the star that many people predicted for the young striker. What has improved in his game this season that has him continuing to grow as a player?
BDS: There has been a lot said about Ferreria this season, both for club and country. I think there are a couple of factors leading to his five goals so far. First of all, he appears more motivated than we’ve seen in previous years. Chalk it up to becoming more of a veteran with the team (after all this is his sixth season as a professional at the young age of 21), or getting that fat-new DP contract in the winter. He is also growing more comfortable in his new role as the club’s number 9 too. You’re starting to see more and more where he is in the penalty box and is finding space for himself that wasn’t there a couple of years ago. Or he is getting on to a teammate for not finding him open in the penalty box. His finishing in the box has improved but I would also toss out that his shooting from outside of the box is underrated as well.
DT: Dynamo 2 and North Texas will play right after the senior teams on Saturday. We know the FCD Academy has a history of producing some very good professionals, who are some players on this NTX team to keep an eye on this weekend and in the future?
BDS: North Texas has started off the new season in MLS NEXT Pro with some good results both at home and away. We’re still getting used to the weird straight to penalties thing with no draws but overall, I think we’re all pleased with how things are going. I would toss out keeper Antonio Carrerra as a name for Saturday, but he was just called up by the US U20s for a camp and will likely miss this weekend’s game. Instead, I’ll toss out another Ferreira to the mix, Jesus’s younger brother Santiago. He’s not a fully signed NTSC player but is still technically an academy player. So far this season, he’s shown well for NTSC in all of their games completing about 80% of his passes in a holding midfielder type role.
We want to thank Drew for giving us some information about FC Dallas. Best of luck this weekend!