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Opportunities arise for shorthanded FC Dallas against San Jose Earthquakes

Jacori Hayes and Thomas Roberts are getting their chance to impress the FC Dallas coaches with numerous midfield absences

Jun 1, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas players celebrate after the match against the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

FRISCO, TX — After snapping its six-match winless streak, FC Dallas will be looking to carry that momentum into San Jose against Matias Almeyda’s man-marking system.

The two teams met on April 27, resulting in a scoreless draw in Frisco. The Earthquakes sit three points behind Dallas and caused issues with the unique style, looking like the protagonist toward the end of the match, which forced Dallas to be more defensive. 

This time around, Dallas will be on the road and will be without many key players, including midfielders Carlos Gruezo, Paxton Pomykal, and Bryan Acosta, the usual first-choice players in the middle. Additionally, three more midfield pieces will be missing in Pablo Aranguiz, Brandon Servania, and Edwin Cerrillo. 

All of a sudden, the depth talked about in the preseason is gone. Coach Luchi Gonzalez is not focusing on those missing, but on who will be playing, such as Jacori Hayes and Thomas Roberts, who each have had solid outings in the place of the absences. 

“It’s all about perspective,” Gonzalez said.  “A glass half-full or half-empty? We have to look at it half-full or more full. We have great opportunities for guys to step up. That for me personally, that’s what I’ve lived in my process with the club and that doesn’t change. I enjoy that experience. Our staff, our club, we enjoy seeing other players earn or be ready to perform in opportunities. That’s something that we’re going to embrace. You’re seeing it with some of the guys who are stepping it up. The points haven’t come easy, but we know they’re gaining valuable experience and over time, they’re going to be more ready to earn more points as their future or their careers continue.”

Hayes has been getting into the trenches and forcing turnovers, as evidenced by his 81.8 percent of duels won, the highest percentage in MLS in May. After a strong start to his 2018 season, Hayes had a poor outing in a 3-1 loss to New York City FC last April. He fell out of favor and out of the regular starting XI for then coach Oscar Pareja. But he’s bounced back at the beginning of 2019, stepping up and taking advantage of the chance given to him by Gonzalez.

“I felt like as the games were going, I was getting more and more rhythm,” Hayes said. “It was just a testament that I was working hard in training, waiting for the opportunity to come. Hopefully, I can keep taking advantage of those opportunities in the weeks to come. We have guys out with Copa America, U-20 and stuff like that. Hopefully, I can keep taking advantage.”

For Reggie Cannon, it’s a chance to turn around after not making the starting lineup for the second time this season, the first not due to injury. He said Gonzalez told him to take a mental break and even though Cannon did not want to, he obliged. Cannon still played a role in the team’s 2-1 victory over Seattle Saturday, subbing in on the left wing to close out the match. It has made the 20-year-old hungry to get back in the starting lineup and perform for his side.

However, Cannon knows this match will be difficult, due to Almedya’s unique style. Overall, he hopes that the team has learned from its first encounter and will continue to impose their style, even on the road.

It’s obviously going to be a tough situation playing against them because man-marking either works or doesn’t,” Cannon said. “It fails badly or it succeeds greatly. It’s all a matter of if everyone is willing to do the job. It’s obviously been working for them, but we played a great game against them here. It’s just kinda tough to break that man-marking system when you’re playing out the back because you’re always trying to find the extra man. That’s one of the hardest things to do, especially against a team that is just flying against you because everyone has a responsibility and if everyone on their team keeps that responsibility, ultimately it’ll be great pressure.”

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