FRISCO, Texas — With 18 points on the season, expansion side FC Cincinnati has gone through turmoil in its first Major League Soccer campaign. The club fired coach Alan Koch May 7 and hired a new general manager, Gerard Nijamp, May 30.
The poor season, partnered with recently hired coach Ron Jans’ comments on how the team will be rotated this week, can make it easy for FC Dallas to overlook its opponent in the firstmeeting between the two sides (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+).
FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez is not taking this route. After a big 5-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo Aug. 25, Gonzalez wants to build on that momentum and take a victory over FCC, with a bye week and the last five matches of the season looming.
“This game is at home and is one of our last three home games,” Gonzalez said. “This is huge for us. This is our most important game of the season. This is absolutely, the most important game of the season if we want to accomplish our goals. This is a great opportunity to show urgency and desire and passion and create a reference, an example for us to use for the next stretch, to show our standard. We want to keep showing our potential and we’re going to be hungry until we do that. This is an opportunity to show that.”
Dallas currently sits in seventh place in Major League Soccer’s crowded Western Conference, three points ahead of the eighth-place Portland Timbers, who have two games in hand. Only three points separate FCD from second-place Real Salt Lake, and two points from home-field advantage in the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. Each match for Western Conference teams has playoff implications, and any dropped points can come back to haunt come decision day Oct. 6.
“We can’t overlook them,” Paxton Pomykal said. “They have a lot of talented players and they have nothing to lose. That’s when a team is most dangerous, when they have nothing to lose. We definitely need to zone in and not take this game lightly. This is a serious game and we for sure need three points.
An increase in goal-scoring production has come with a switch in the lineup, pushing forward Jesus Ferreira into the midfield to provide his attacking prowess deeper centrally. Gonzalez spoke about using a clear 6-8-10 profile in the Houston match, allowing Bryan Acosta to be the defensive midfielder, Brandon Servania the connector and Ferreira in the attack. Ferreira scored on a solo run and had one more goal before it was wiped away by VAR.
“I feel like getting minutes in the middle helps,” Ferreira said. “In the training, getting some more options in the middle. It helps me know how to play more in the middle. I’m not really a true midfielder, so those training and minutes help me a lot.”
While a key contributor in the 2019 MLS season, Pomykal was not involved in much of the Houston match, coming into the game in the 69th minute, when the score was 4-0. However, the midfielder was able to obtain a new perspective watching from the sideline and see the positives in the match, including the performance from Ferreira. Pomykal says his teammate found good areas and pockets against the Dynamo and did well driving against the back line.
“When you look at the game from different perspectives, it does look different,” Pomykal said. “When you’re on the field, you get a completely different perspective than if you’re on the bench or than the stands, even. Being on the bench, I got to sit back, analyze Houston a little bit more and exploit their weaknesses when I came into the game.”
Regardless of its opponent’s record, FCD knows the Cincinnati match is essential if it wants to host playoff games at Toyota Stadium, where the team has only lost once this season.
“We’re in a spot right now that we’re not secured in playoffs,” Ferreira said. “All the teams behind us and in front of us are really close, so we are close and we need to get points no matter what. We can’t come thinking Cincinnati is not doing good right now, we can take advantage. We have to stay focused and prepare like every other game and go out there and take care of business.”