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Know Thy Enemy: The Long CCL Homestand Begins with FC Dallas

The Revs play three home games in the next 8 days before their return leg of the CCL in Mexico which might actually be the best schedule for any MLS team left in the quarterfinals.

SOCCER: FEB 26 MLS - New England Revolution at Portland Timbers

Before we get to the Q&A portion of the New England Revolution match against FC Dallas that kicks off a 138pm, we have to air some grievances regarding the MLS/CCL schedule.

Because I don’t think playing 5 games in 15 games makes any sense for a league that hasn’t won this version of the CONCACAF tournament ever. At least the Revs start with three straight home games which might be the best setup of the four MLS clubs left in the competition. But why all four of MLS’ CCL competitors are stuck with a league match next Saturday before their second leg matchups is almost borderline unfathomable.

MLS has done this before, moving league games around so that their CCL participants can focus on the continental games, so not doing so this year seems strange. Yes, it’s unfortunate the Revs didn’t get to play their first two CCL games and had closed door friendlies against USL teams instead. Yes, I know there’s a World Cup this winter and the schedule has to be finished earlier, but did RSL have to fly out to the East Coast in the middle of a CCL week like they will next Saturday? I don’t think so.

I mean, New York City FC and CF Montreal actually play EACH OTHER in between their CCL matches. Surely you can reschedule that game for later in the year at some point, that seemed like good planning ahead of time pairing up those two teams for next week. Sending NYC all the way out to Vancouver today is a little unnecessary though. The Seattle Sounders however are stuck with a national TV game at home against the LA Galaxy for their middle of the CCL game which seems like bad planning as well if the Sounders throw out a heavily rotated squad for the national audience expecting Seattle’s stars to play. Not the best look for MLS in both scheduling a potential subpar national TV game and handicapping one of your CCL teams at the same time.

I understand the specific challenges of making the schedule work the last couple of years with the pandemic, and specifically the condensing of World Cup qualifying (CONCACAF didn’t need to play triple headers in a week to wrap up things by March either) and right after this horrific stretch of 5 games in 15 days there is an international break for everyone to catch up on rest. But with preseason shortened for everyone and, in my opinion, MLS having it’s best group of teams that have a shot to win CCL in a long time...getting slammed with extra league games this early just plain sucks.

Teams should be rewarded for being successful and making the CCL quarterfinals. But forcing four of your best teams to play 5 games in 15 days feels like punishment.

At the end of the day, while MLS should be giving their teams as much of a competitive advantage in the CCL as they can with a favorable schedule, this is a player safety issue. Between the long travel of both MLS and CCL players need more time to recover than just a day or two between cross country flights and matches. Playing a game on a short week is not the end of the world, but doing so four times in a row is ridiculous and the schedule should been prepared to easily reschedule the MLS match for next Saturday, March 12th, for the teams still involved in the CCL. I think a lot of teams understand there’s going to be a lot of midweek/double game weeks this year and are prepared for the challenge of rotating their squad and balancing workloads.

But 5 games in 15 days is dangerously absurd.

As it stands, the Revs will carry on and likely play a close to full strength squad today because they’re still building much needed match sharpness. Matt Turner is still out so expecting Earl Edwards Jr to start again after a solid game in Portland makes a lot of sense.

As always, Drew Epperley of Big D Soccer was kind enough to talk to us about all the numerous happenings of FC Dallas’ offseason and if we can expect a rebound year from FCD. You can check out my answers to Drew’s questions over on their site.

TBM: FC Dallas had a ridiculously busy offseason with high profile transfers out selling Ricardo Pepi and Justin Che among other departures. We’re familiar with Paul Arriola and Marco Farfan but talk about the other additions for FCD this offseason and where everyone should fit on the field.

DE: Yeah, even ridiculously busy feels like you are putting it lightly too. Along with Arriola and Farfan, the club also added goalkeeper Maarten Paes, who started last weekend in the draw with Toronto. He didn’t have to do a ton but he’s going to have to continue to show that he is worth the six-month loan that he is on if he wants to stay here. Along with Paes is a veteran defender from Portugal, Nanu, who came off the bench and looked decent for the short spell that he had. For now, he’s likely a backup to incumbent Ema Twumasi on the right wing.

The club also drafted three guys in the first round of the SuperDraft this year, making trades to snag two of them. Isaiah Parker was their first selection, he’ll be a converted fullback when it is all said and done. He and Lucas Bartlett (another defender) didn’t see action in the first week whereas Tsiki Ntsabeleng did. The South African out of Oregon State showed well off the bench as a center midfielder.

Lastly is the big signing by the club, the record-breaker, Alan Velasco. He didn’t play in week one thanks to visa issues but he arrived in town earlier this week from Argentina and had a couple of good training sessions before the team left for New England. We would expect to see him debut off the bench if anything this weekend. He brings a ton of speed and skill on the ball but it will likely take him a while to adapt to the pace of MLS, not to mention all of

TBM: After a fairly disappointing 2021 campaign, what are the expectations for FCD this year? What’s the one area the team needs to improve the most to get back over the red line?

DE: I think if you ask most FCD fans, the expectations would be to just make the playoffs. That is the most ideal spot and likely the most reasonable thing for this club to achieve. A lot of things still have to go really well for them to do that too. For starters, they need guys like Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez and Paxton Pomykal to stay healthy for the long haul. If those three go down for any considerable time this season, they’ll be stuck below the playoff line for sure. Speaking of the defense though, they’ll desperately need to get better at set piece defending in 2022. That was a rough spot that teams routinely exposed in 2021.

TBM: After an early goal against Toronto in the opener seemed to lead to an afternoon of frustrating finishing and an eventual draw, what did go right for Dallas last week and what area on the field or who specifically needs a better game this week in New England?

DE: There was plenty to like about the way the team attacked the Toronto defense and midfield last week. There was a lot of good passing and movement between players. The end product was the frustrating part, you could certainly see where Arriola hadn’t truly formed a connection with guys like Jesus Ferreira, Jader Obrian or Pomykal. That kind of thing does take time and given how short the preseason was this year, they just didn’t have the game minutes to build those connections there.

On the flip side, the lone goal given up to Toronto was more of the same from 2021 in the defense. A lot of ball watching and flat-footedness led to Jonathan Osorio on the back post with an open shot on goal. That kind of thing has to improve, especially against an explosive team like the Revs.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc

Lineup (4-3-3)

Paes; Farfan, Martinez, Hedges, Twumasi; Cerrillo, Servania, Pomykal; Obrian, Ferriera, Arriola

Injuries:

OUT: Nicky Hernandez

Questionable: Franco Jara

Prediction: New England 2-1