After scoring only three goals in their first five games (four of those at home), the blue and gold have the tough task of trying to get their offense clicking on the road in North Texas, where they have never won (A PK win, which they had in 2014 to advance to the Open Cup final count as draws) against an unbeaten FC Dallas team.
We caught up with Drew Epperley, managing editor of fellow SB Nation site Big D Soccer, to get some insight on what we might expect from the Union’s second road game of the season.
Matt Ralph, Brotherly Game: FC Dallas is unbeaten right now, but it’s still early. How are you feeling about the team and their performances both as a team and from an individual standpoint so far this season?
Drew Epperly, Big D Soccer: In some ways, it is hard to get overly excited about this unbeaten run when you look at the three draws at home. But getting a win on the road in New England certainly helped change some mindsets around here over the last week. I think the team still has a long ways to go before people will begin taking note of what they are doing. Offensively, things haven’t quite come alive for this group the way that some might have expected them to. Defensively, the team still has their shaky moments where they will give up a really bad goal (case and point, the goal that was given up against Colorado two weeks ago is a good example).
But again, it is still very early and hard to over analyze too much. I’m happy to see guys like Roland Lamah step up and be more productive this season (three goals and two assists so far leads the team). Jacori Hayes has been a nice spark in the midfield while Kellyn Acosta continues to get healthy. And then you look at someone like Jimmy Maurer in goal, a guy that has quietly been one of the better offseason pickups for this team, is helping lead a defense that is growing with each game.
TBG: A lot has been written over the years about the FC Dallas Academy, which has a ton of success in the DA and has produced a number of first-team players. It seems though that all of the success hasn’t led to a lot of first team minutes and that some of the more successful youth players haven’t gone on to sign homegrown deals. The Union are getting a lot of credit of late for giving minutes to their homegrowns despite their underwhelming record. Can teams have both? Wins on the field while also playing young Americans?
BDS: The amount of HGP signings by this club is always impressive to me but I do think we’re slowly getting to the point where it is just another signing for them when they do one. I mean, after all, they are approaching a ridiculous number of HGP signings in club history (we’re almost at 25 after the latest one). The whole minutes played by HGPs is a little misleading right now too when you factor in the injuries so far this season. Acosta has been out all year so far with a sports hernia, Jesse Gonzalez began the year with some knee issues, Right there are two HGPs that would have been regular starters. Outside of them, we’re seeing Reggie Cannon become an every day right back for this club.
Dallas is in a unique spot where their academy depth is so deep right now, they’re able to pluck guys out on HGP deals, like a Jesus Ferreira or Bryan Reynolds and let them continue to grow in training and national team calls. Reynolds is a great example of this because he is still only 16-years old and has been getting a lot of valuable minutes with the youth national teams and FCD’s academy teams in the Dallas Cup or GA Cups. He may not be getting first team minutes right now but he is still getting valuable playing time to help foster his development.
TBG: The Union have created a lot of chances but struggled mightily getting that final ball in the back of the net -- they have just three goals in five games -- and FC Dallas has conceded just three times. If the Union are to break out of their scoring slump, what does the path forward look like for them against Dallas?
The teams that have done well so far this season against this Dallas defense are the ones that put them under a lot of pressure. As good as Matt Hedges can be, he is still prone to some really bad mental mistakes in the back when he is put under pressure. Cannon is still a young guy that is learning with each game. Reto Zeigler and Anton Nedyalkov are still learning the league as well. The Union will have to put this group under pressure and force them into mental mistakes on the ball in their defensive third. If they don’t do that, Dallas will find a way to control this game in the midfield with possession and balls to the wings.
TBG: Are there any injuries or suspensions keeping anyone out of the lineup? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?
Right now the injury report is heavy on the HGP front as Brandon Servania, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira are all dealing with various knocks. Veteran fullback Maynor Figueroa has also picked up a knee injury through training while Acosta is likely another week or so away from seeing first team minutes.
Being back home, I would imagine FCD will roll back into their 4-2-3-1 look:
Jimmy Maurer, Anton Nedyalkov, Reto Zeigler, Matt Hedges, Reggie Cannon, Jacori Hayes, Carolos Gruezo, Roland Lamah, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios, and Maxi Urruti