PORTLAND, Ore. — “The competition is going to show us our strengths and weaknesses,” FC Dallas coach Shellas Hyndman said after the match. He was right. Against an AIK team that is still a month-and-a-half away from their season opener, Dallas looked like the side that needed more fine-tuning despite the fact the match ended 0-0.
It was the first of a three-match set in Portland, where Dallas is competing in the Timbers’ 2013 preseason tournament. The San Jose Earthquakes are also part in the four-team competition that will take place over the next week.
The Stockholm-based “visitors” nearly went behind early, allowing Dallas big man Blas Pérez an open chance from the middle of the penalty area in the 16th minute. Goalkeeper Ivan Turina came off his line to block what would prove Dallas’s best change of the match.
The next 74 minutes laid out what Dallas needs to solve before the team opens the season March 2 against Colorado. Despite a respectable scoreline, most of Sunday highlighted areas Hyndman has to address:
- The team is clearly struggling with a new system. Having typically being a five midfielder, one forward team in recent seasons, Dallas’s glut of No.9s is inspiring a shift to a two-striker system. It’s still a work in progress.
- Kenny Cooper and Blas Pérez got the call on Sunday. Eric Hassli didn’t dress. Cooper played a slightly more advanced role, often shading right. Perez leaned left and was more withdrawn, if only slightly. David Ferreira sat behind the duo in the middle of a 4-1-3-2 formation that at times became a diamond. For the most part, Jackson and Fabio Castillo played very wide. Trialist Michel served the first half in defensive midfield before giving way to Andrew Jacobson.
- The major problem this setup presented was in middle. The gap between Ferreira and his defensive midfielder was often too much. “I thought we gave up a little too much in the center of midfield,” Hyndman said after the match, “but I was expecting that.” It’s preseason, it’s a work in progress, and now he knows.
- We’ll double back on Dallas’s formation issues tomorrow.
- Dallas’s fullbacks also struggled, but since we’re talking about Zach Loyd and Jair Benítez, you have to think the duo will come around to their normal level of performance. Loyd looked shakey covering runs behind him from AIK left midfielder Nabil Bahoui while Benítez was forced into too many negative balls from the pressure for Daniel Gustavsson.
Positives for Dallas:
- George John and Matt Hedges were strong in defense. John showed some midseason feistiness in a first half confrontation with forward Viiktor Lundberg while Hedges’s all-around game continued to show the promise of the partnership.
- Both Chris Seitz and Peruvian international Raul Fernandez were strong in goal. Hyndman was specifically complimentary about Fernandez, one of the team’s offseason acquisitions.
- Jackson was active at right midfield, proving valuable both pushing onto left back Nils-Eric Johansson and coming in to help in the middle. His second half pass to Cooper’s feet at eight yards out should have been a goal (Cooper struggled to get it out of feet before the shot was blocked).
Efrain Juarez is bringing his game to Major League Soccer.
[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]
The 39-times capped Mexico veteran has inked a deal with the Vancouver Whitecaps, joining a strengthened unit which came within a point of winning the West last season.
Juarez, 29, was unveiled as a midfielder by the ‘Caps, though he’s primarily played right back in his club career. He’s played at Celtic, Real Zaragoza, Club America, Monterrey, and Pumas.
Last capped by El Tri in 2012, Juarez has played every position except goal, center attacking mid, and center forward in his career (picture a ‘U’ on the pitch).
“I’m so happy and excited for this new stage in my career,” Juarez said. “It’s an opportunity for me to keep growing in a new league and to be a part of an amazing club in Vancouver. From the moment they showed interest me, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps staff have made me feel very important. I promise to put all my effort into this club and do my best to help us achieve our goals.”
Marco Asensio’s eighth goal of the season and second of this Copa del Rey put an end to an unlikely Real Madrid winless run in a 1-0 victory at Leganes.
[ MLS: 2018 Mock SuperDraft ]
The 21-year-old darted in front of a defender to volley home from in-tight, giving Real Madrid a first leg lead in the tournament quarterfinals.
More importantly, perhaps, it gives struggling Real a boost in morale after draws with Celta Vigo and Numancia, and a loss to Villarreal.
Real is home to Deportivo de la Coruna in La Liga before hosting Leganes in the second leg.
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is probably happy that his for-sale club is away this weekend, even though his side’s up against Manchester City.
[ MORE: Top PL storylines — Week 24 ]
That’s because hopeful buyer Amanda Staveley has responded to claims that her hopeful takeover of the team won’t be happening any time soon.
Talks had stalled, said Tuesday reports, much to the chagrin of an #AshleyOut brigade that at times can make Arsenal’s #WengerOut brigade look like a yard full of happy puppies.
A “source” had said, “Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhaustive, frustrating and a complete waste of time,” but Staveley shot back on Thursday to reignite the fire. From the BBC, taken from The Times:
“Our bid remains on the table. This is an investment, but it has to be a long-term investment. Newcastle would be run as a business, but we want it to be a successful, thriving business that is an absolutely integral part of the city.”
She also said that popular manager Rafa Benitez is integral to her interest in the team, and that fact combined with her insistence that an offer remains on the table will have many Newcastle fans seething with current ownership (and there have been protests for years). It’s Ashley’s move now.
Major League Soccer’s latest batch of hopeful rookies learn the next steps of their professional careers beginning Friday with the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft.
There are several intriguing prospects, including accomplished Stanford center back Tomas Hilliard-Arce and dangerous Michigan winger Francis Atuahene.
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An MLS mock draft is always tricky given the wildly varying opinions on players from the college game. This year, it’s even trickier as clubs without picks and some with multiple first round picks may be looking to move up and down even more than the norm.
Here’s how we think the draft could play out:
- LAFC – Tomas Hilliard-Arce, CB, Stanford
- LA Galaxy – Jon Bakero, FW, Wake Forest
- DC United – Francis Atuahene, FW, Michigan
- Montreal – Joao Moutinho, LB, Akron
- Minnesota – Wyatt Omsberg, CB, Dartmouth
- Orlando City – Ema Twumasi, FW, Wake Forest
- Montreal – Chris Mueller, FW, Wisconsin
- New England – Mo Adams, MF, Syracuse
- New England – Chris Lema, MF, Georgetown
- Real Salt Lake – Justin Fiddes, LB, Washington
- FC Dallas – Marcelo Acuna, FW, Virginia Tech
- San Jose – Brandon Bye, RB, Western Michigan
- Sporting KC – Ed Opoku, FW, Virginia
- Atlanta – Alex Roldan, MF, Seattle
- Chicago – Mason Toye, FW, Indiana
- New York Red Bulls – Alan Winn, MF, North Carolina
- Vancouver – Tristan Blackmon, RB, Pacific
- Sporting KC – Jon Gallagher, FW, Notre Dame
- New York City FC – Daniel Musovski, FW, UNLV
- Houston – Mo Thiaw, FW, Louisville
- Columbus – Brian White, FW, Duke
- Seattle – Tim Kubel, MF, Louisville
- Toronto FC – Oliver Shannon, MF, Clemson
There are a few players to keep an eye on for the later rounds that I won’t project for the first round due almost exclusively to first person bias (Some I’ve seen play in college, others at other levels). Afonso Pinheiro from Albany produced like crazy until this season, and Bowling Green defender Alexis Souahy has a skill set that could really transmit to the MLS level.
Mac Steeves (Providence) is a prototypical big body scorer, while Evansville’s heady Ian McGrath has a flair for the absurd and can play almost every position up the center of the pitch. Charleston’s Thomas Vancaeyezeele was a D-2 monster and is probably worth a shot earlier than people suspect.