New York City Football Club host FC Dallas this Saturday at Citi Field.
For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Steve Davis, a writer, broadcaster, and FC Dallas TV analyst.
Hi Steve, thanks for speaking with us. How long have you been covering FC Dallas?
I’ve covered MLS since Eric Wynalda hit that inaugural goal back in 1996. I was a beat reporter then for the Dallas Morning News. When I left newspapers in 2006, I wrote for ESPN.com, then SI.com and then as lead writer for the debut version of NBC’s ProSoccerTalk – still covering MLS all along. Somewhere in there I had a radio show (along with the great Marc Stein) and fell somehow into a bunch of broadcasting work. I was the FCD TV analyst from 2018-2022. With the local TV deals gone now, I’m back to the radio side now (and still doing some writing).
What has been your highlight in that time?
I know this isn’t the answer you’re exactly looking for, but this is the honest one: EVERY time I get in my car to drive to a match, I take a moment to understand how lucky I am. To make a career, to go cover six World Cups, a dozen or so MLS Cup finals, etc. etc. … The highlight that always sticks in my memory is just walking out to the car and taking that moment to understand how much good fortune (and hopefully hard work and ability!) I’ve had along the way.
What are your thoughts on the team’s start to the season?
Not bad! Not always glowing, but pretty good. Nico Estévez set up a pretty disciplined tactical system last year, a possession based 4-3-3 that prioritized “rest defense.” That is, even with the ball, the manager wanted players occupying spots where they could immediately defend (or at least delay) when possession was lost. It worked, which is why FCD finished with the 2nd best goals-conceded mark in MLS.
This year Estévez wants the team to be slightly more adventurous. He wants a few more runs from the “8s” (the advanced midfielders, usually Paxton Pomykal and Sebastian Lletget) into the penalty area. And safe in the knowledge that players understand all the roles of a 4-3-3, he sought some additional tactical flexibility this year. FCD deployed in a 4-4-2 the last two weeks, and they’ve shifted into 3 or 5 in the back at different points. They haven’t always looked as comfortable in these lesser-used arrangements – but I suppose that’s the price you pay for building in more tactical flex. And the results clearly aren’t bad; FCD sits 4th of 14 teams in the West right now.
What are your hopes for the 2023 season?
With a team like FC Dallas, one that builds so usefully around its academy, I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect consistent dominance (like we’re seeing right now from LAFC and Seattle in the West). But can a team full of homegrowns (Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, Edwin Cerrillo, etc.) and young DPs (Alan Velasco) at least challenge to push into that top order? That seems like a reasonable expectation. That’s what FCD did last year (finished 3rd in the West) and it seems like a worthy goal again; be hard to beat, win your share of points off the big boys and try to be in good form heading into the playoffs. From there … well, it’s MLS, so we know anything can happen!
What do you think will be the deciding factor in Saturday's game?
From Dallas’ side, a lot might depend on how U.S. international striker Ferreira recovers from 90 minutes Wednesday against Mexico. If he can start, maybe FCD goes to the 4-4-2 again. If not, it’s probably Jesus Jimenez at striker in a 4-3-3. On the defensive end, Estevez has been choosing between two of three center backs, either Nkosi Tafari, Jose Martinez or Sebastien Ibeagha (who you guys know from his time up there), contingent on the best matchup. Estévez and his staff need to keep getting that one right. And Dallas leans heavily on Pomykal’s midfield industry; he’ll be coming in from the U.S.-Mexico match, too, although he was limited to just a few minutes.
And since it’s a game in New York, where there tends to be a lot of shots and penalty area activity, Dutch ‘keeper Maarten Paes has to be on top of things. I think in his second MLS season, he’s getting deserved recognition now as being among the elite shot-stoppers of MLS.
And for any fans that might be in Dallas for a game in the near future are there any spots you'd suggest they check out?
I mean, I hate to be so ordinary here but … barbecue, baby! Head into the historic music and arts district Deep Ellum and check out Terry Black’s BBQ or Pecan Lodge. If you wanna stay closer to the stadium (in suburban Frisco) Rudy’s isn’t a bad option. It’s literally about one good goalkeeper’s punt outside Toyota Stadium.
The Boys in Blue welcome FC Dallas to Citi Field on Saturday, April 22 in a 7:30pm ET kick-off.
Tickets for the game are now available. Don't miss your chance to cheer on the City Boys!
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