FRISCO, Texas — Prior to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in June and July, FC Dallas midfielder Brandon Servania had played a total of two minutes during the 2019 season, as a late substitute in the team’s 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union on April 6.
Servania struggled to crack the starting eleven, instead playing with FC Dallas’ USL League One outfit, North Texas SC. After the sale of Carlos Gruezo, Servania joined the senior team’s midfield rotation, earning more minutes as the year went on.
“I think mentally I flipped the switch,” Servania told Pro Soccer USA. “Honestly, it was a big confidence boost struggling a little bit at the beginning of the season for minutes and playing with North Texas a lot just to get fitness. When I went to the World Cup, I got some good minutes against some great competition, and I think that definitely helped with my confidence coming back.”
With injuries nagging midfielder Paxton Pomykal, Servania has cemented himself in the midfield. He’s played in 18 of Dallas’ past 19 matches, only missing a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids Sept. 29 due to a concussion suffered the week prior. He’s been the ideal partner for defensive midfielder Bryan Acosta, playing an advanced — but not too advanced — role, adding stability centrally.
“Balanced,” head coach Luchi Gonzalez said about the midfield partnership. “Acosta sits a little deeper, Servania sits a little higher in our build, but defensively, they are there side-by-side. Breaking things up, covering for each other, covering for others, so I think it’s a good balance.”
The tactical shift of the Servania-Acosta partnership differs from the role the team plays with Pomykal in the middle. While Pomykal’s work rate allows him to track back on defense, he tends to drift higher up the pitch. Midfielder Jesús Ferreira, who has been playing as a No. 10 for much of the season, occupies part of that space as an attacking option in the middle. Gonzalez spoke about using a “clear six-eight-10 profile” when starting with Acosta, Servania and Ferreira in the team’s 5-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
“When I’m playing, it’s more of a double-six,” Servania said. “I venture forward on the attack a little bit. When Paxton is playing, he’s obviously more of a 10 than an eight. When Paxton and Jesus are together it’s more of two 10s and a six and then for me, I’m a little bit closer to Acosta.”
Servania wants to learn from Acosta, the Honduras international who has gained an abundance of experience playing in La Liga 2 and World Cup qualifying matches. The duo continues to be the midfielder partnership of choice, as Servania plays more of a box-to-box role.
“He has a lot of experience and just trying to learn from him each and every day,” Servania said. “Trying to push him to get better and he’s obviously pushing me to get better and that’s obviously how we’re going to make to the next stage for us and this club.”
However, even when coming off the bench, Servania can be the versatile pick for any occasion. Down a goal? Servania can provide cover for a Ferreira and allow him to be more focused on the attack. He can also add offense too, as he did with his two late goals against Minnesota United in the team’s 5-3 victory. Need to close out a match? Bring Servania on to sit deep while still providing some support moving forward.
Servania’s emergence forces Gonzalez to make some difficult decisions with a healthy Pomykal returning to the lineup. As the team heads into training this week with a date at the Seattle Sounders Saturday (2:30 PM EST, FS2) Servania is focused on the task at hand: winning and moving on,to the next round of the MLS Cup playoffs. He knows he has a key role to play in order for the team to pull an upset against the favored Sounders.
“We’re happy to be in playoffs, but we’re not satisfied yet,” Servania said. “Obviously, our goal is to win MLS Cup. We can’t be content with where we are right now and we have to keep pushing and looking forward to the game. We know Seattle is a really good team, especially at home, so a lot to be motivated for and that’s helping us compete hard in the trainings.”