Home Stories FM18 | Damon Does Dallas #4: Hitting The Ground Running

FM18 | Damon Does Dallas #4: Hitting The Ground Running

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We’ve gone several months into the season, and we’re on a really, really hot streak right now, and with the summer transfer window not far from opening, I decided that it was a good time to catch up on how this season has been going for FC Dallas and head coach Daniel Sloane-Suarez.

Also, my skin has been updated and we’re going from using the old Tempo skin that you will have seen in the first three posts to using the new Ronnie Dog skin, made by our own Keysi Rensie. I really love this skin. I thought I liked the Tempo skin, but there are subtle changes to the colour and alignment of panels and it becomes a lot more aesthetically pleasing. And it perfectly practical and there’s no shortage of customizable panels designed to maximize the amount of useful information you want at any given time.

It’s a great skin, and the link to the article about it is provided here. But, I digress, we’re here to cover FC Dallas, so we should get back to work…

If you’re new to the series, click here to see part one. If you just need a refresher, click here for the last part.

I just want to pull up a quick news item that surprised me before I cover the meat of the article. My press man Bill shot me an article from the BBC. Apparently, Liverpool is eyeballing Carlos Gruezo, our best midfielder. I’m not going to lie, this would be one hell of a career move for the young Ecuadorian to go from MLS into the top of the Premier League.

Truthfully, I don’t want to sell him at all. Realistically, I know that he’s got an ambitious personality and he’s being eyed by one of the biggest clubs in the world, so I have to accept that if word gets out, he’s going to want to leave. If he had to leave, my asking price will be $8m. And, I’m going to throw in a healthy sell-on clause so I can collect a fraction of any future sale. That would make me feel a little bit better about replacing him.

This is our completed league schedule from the start of March to the end of May. As you can see, we’ve been on a really hot winning streak, suffering only one defeat against Sporting Kansas City. They’ve been convincing wins for the most part, at that!

I’ve got far too many games completed to go over each individual one, but I’m going to share a recap of a couple of the more exciting matches, starting with our season opener against the Los Angeles Galaxy during our first road game of the season.

In our first match of the season, we secured a 3-4 away victory. We started the match off quite strongly. Cristian Coleman gave us our first goal in the 13th minute of the match, Maxi Urruti followed second minutes later, and Coleman had another goal at the 20th minute. We were three goals up on one of the usual league favourites with half of the first half to go.

We may have caught them off-guard pushing our two strikers so aggressively forward, but dos Santos made up for it with the Galaxy by finishing the half off with two goals, the second of which was quite a brilliant move to get by our Seitz. Hell, he deserved that one! Anyway, Gyasi Zardez equalized the game at the 62nd minute, and things were looking pretty bad for us. We went from starting strong to anchoring down the defence and trying to not concede so much. Luckily for us, we saw a 76th minute Coleman goal for his first hat-trick of the season!

Three points to us towards the Supporters’ Shield in a quite intense season opener.

Our next interesting match was noteworthy for the absolutely ridiculous amount of goals scored in the first half.

Portland scored first at the 3rd minute, thanks to Darlington Nagbe, who would go on to have a first-half hat-trick during Portland’s 6-3 defeat at our home stadium. Coleman scored one goal at the 10th minute, and Tesho Akindele (on as a substitute after Coleman’s injury) and Maxi Urruti both had braces before the second half to give us 8 goals scored in the first half. Akindele would secure an 80th-minute goal for his first hat-trick of the season.

As far as goal-scoring opportunities go, this was a fantastic match, though it was blemished by both Cristian Coleman and Maxi Urruti being sidelined with injuries for the next couple of matches.

The next of four noteworthy matches was against the Chicago Fire, a rivalry match known as the Brimstone Cup.

I want to point out for the new MLS players that each team has at least one “rivalry cup” with another team, sometimes two (or three in Dallas’s case). These cups aren’t actual noteworthy pieces of silverware that you should hold your breath for. It’s more of a bragging rights thing between MLS teams, with the team with the best record against their rival getting the award at the end of the season.

Anyway, this match ended 0-3 in Dallas’s favour. Wingback Kellyn Acosta was fouled inside the penalty box during a set play, and Maxi Urruti stepped up at the 26th minute to deliver a very nicely executed penalty kick into the bottom left corner.

Aside from that PK, we also had two goals in the second half from Cristian Coleman, both delivered following excellent assists from Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges, respectively.

The final match we played in the run between updates was another rivalry match, this time against Houston Dynamo, the other Texas-based MLS team. We took this one 4-0 with a hat-trick from Maxi Urruti, and we had a bit of a novelty in a Maynor Figueroa goal to end the match. He’s only been a rotation option or a backup option for me, and when he’s played, he’s never given me much in the way of a good performance. He drifted a little deeper into the attacking front and received an excellent Acosta cross and was able to make use of the opportunity.

It’s hard to pick a single favourite player for the last stretch of matches, since I’ve had three good ones, and I’m going to give equal amounts of attention to Cristian Coleman, Tesho Akindele, and Maximiliano Urruti.

Coleman has started in 10 matches, and he came off the bench one time. During those 10 matches, he scored 12 goals, made one assist, and he was the player of the match on three occasions. His average rating over the season so far is 7.99.

Akindele is also 10(1) for appearances, but he has 12 goals, 9 assists, and was the player of the match on 4 occasions. His average rating is 8.52. He’s been a great player for me so far, and if I had to narrow it down to one particular player as the “best” of the lot, I’d make a heavy argument for Tesho. He can score goals well enough on his own, but he’s also selflessly capable of intelligently manoeuvring the ball into space for a teammate to try and score as well. I almost want him to not be too successful, or I’ll have to ship him off to QPR again like during my second season with this team on FM15!

Urruti hasn’t started as many matches as his performances deserve. I want to mention him because when he plays he does well, but he’s been sidelined with varying injuries on no less than 4 occasions in the last many months, and he misses a bit of game time. He’s still 7(2) for appearances, and in those appearances, he’s scored 10 goals and made 7 assists, and he’s got an average rating of 8.08.

Our team is on fire. I’m not going to lie, it’s arguably exploitative, but it’s still effective and gets results, which is why I use this tactic. I’m using a modified 5-2-3 WB from my Central Coast Mariners days back when I was writing for Tempo on FM17, hence our frequent and regularly high-scoring games. But hey, it works! The back three and the wingbacks holding back near the defense give me a really solid defensive base, and while I do sacrifice in the midfield, I’ve got three competent forwards in these three men who are able to move very freely around the attacking third of the pitch and use their own creativity and abilities to give me results!

Right now, FC Dallas sits at the top of the league with 31 points after 12 games. We have at least 3 games in hand. With international fixtures and other competitions, the number of played games per team is all over the place. Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake have played 15 games, for instance, whereas Montreal Impact has only played 11 so far. To hold a 3 point lead with so many games in hand is an achievement, in my book, and I’m optimistic that our current set-up is going to only widen our lead in the league once the number of matches played gets equalized across the teams again.

This is our schedule for the next two months. In our next match, we’re going to host Real Salt Lake at home in Frisco, Texas. In another derby match against Houston, we’re going to enter the US Cup Fourth Round at last, and, we’re going to spend most of the month of July playing our Canadian brothers, with matches against all three Canadian teams on the schedule.

The MLS is deliberately designed to encourage some degree of parity between MLS teams, and we’ve got a system that works and maximizes the abilities of our players, so when you’re able to find that step up needed to outsmart the competition, it’s quite easy to be successful in this league. I am not going to allow complacency against any of our opponents, but I’m not expecting it to be a particularly stressful run either.

In the next update, we’ll be some time into the future, and we’ll go over the results and my plans for the end of the season before getting it wrapped up for good.

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