If you didn’t clear your schedule to watch two teams play their first game in 157 days in the sweltering 90-degree heat of north Texas, you just don’t love Major League Soccer like I do.
If you don’t go from watching the #MLSisBack Final Tuesday night to watching Dallas - Nashville Wednesday night, do you even MLS?— Extratime ⚽🗣🎙 (@Extratime) August 13, 2020
In case you took a night off after 51 games in 35 days, here’s the down-and-dirty summary: FC Dallas and Nashville sleepwalked through the first half, David Accam came off the bench to bang an 86th-minute winner off Matt Hedges’ leg and the new boys got their first three points in MLS despite lacking in the aesthetics department. The Music City supporters will remember that win forever, even if the rest of the game was one to mostly purge from memory.
Oh, there was also something else. Those historic three points came without Gary Smith on the sideline.
#BREAKING: #EveryoneN assistant coach Steve Guppy will coach Nashville tonight vs. #DTID. Head coach Gary Smith did not travel this morning with team due to COVID-19 test concern. Smith’s test earlier this week was false positive. Second negative not in time before departure— Drake Hills (@LiveLifeDrake) August 12, 2020
Don’t fret if you missed Wednesday night’s return to play opener. Nashville head right back to Frisco on Sunday night for another MLS is Back makeup match (8:30 pm ET; ESPN+ in the US; MLS Live on DAZN in Canada). Block out your calendar accordingly.
Here are a couple of things to mull in the meantime.
Rust, they’ve got it!
These teams haven’t played for points in five months, and it showed. Until Accam’s deflection special, this game looked preordained for a scoreless draw. In the first half, everything … just … felt … slow. Decisions. Runs. Passes. Pace of play.
Think about how quick and ruthless Orlando City were this past month when they were able to pick these kinds of passes, or how LAFC, TFC or last year's NYCFC just rip teams apart by playing into the pockets.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) August 13, 2020
Dallas need those final third patterns.
Things picked up a little in the second half, but it’s clear both these teams need some more opportunities outside of training to hone what they’re doing.
For Dallas, whose roster is fleshed out and now includes DP forward Franco Jara, that’s mostly about reps, sharpness and eliminating hesitation when space presents itself. For Nashville, it means finding some/any chemistry in the final third and figuring out how they’ll create goalscoring opportunities from open play, their biggest weakness through three games.
Reinforcements incoming for Nashville
You probably already saw this.
Sources: The New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC have agreed to a trade that will send midfielder Alex Muyl to Nashville. International slot for 2020 and 2021 part of the package NY receiving in return. Move won’t be official until MLS secondary transfer window opens Wednesday.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) August 11, 2020
Alex Muyl would be a useful part for a team that’s struggled to create much of anything outside set pieces. Muyl won’t be a game-breaking winger in the traditional sense, but he’s direct, honest and well trained at creating turnovers in advantageous positions. His presence could also allow Hany Mukhtar to move inside into the No. 10 spot where he figures to be long term. It’s hard to be too dynamic with three defensive-minded midfielders!
At halftime of Wednesday’s match, Nashville general manager Mike Jacobs came out and said what should be obvious for an expansion team in their first secondary transfer window: “Signings are coming in the next 48 to 72 hours.” That’s “signings,” plural.
It seems likely Muyl is one, but who might the others be? The most glaring need is clearly in the final third. Daniel Rios, Abu Danladi and Dom Badji all bring something to the table, but none of the three is a proven, consistent goalscorer at this level. Might Jacobs have landed a Designated Player or TAM No. 9? We’ll have to wait and see.
Watch them while you can…
The biggest bummer of MLS is Back, for me anyway, was missing out on at least 270 minutes of Reggie Cannon and Paxton Pomykal. The pair are among the best players ever produced by the MLS academy system, and our time with them week-to-week might be ending shortly, depending on whether FC Dallas get offers that fit their valuations.
Is the imminent arrival of Colombian central midfielder Andres Ricuarte, who’s already bid farewell to Independiente Medellin and discussed the move to Dallas publicly, writing on the wall for a Pomykal sale? Hard not to think so. Go check out the #GraciasRicaurte hashtag on Twitter for more from Medellin.
Im told the total fee for attacking midfielder Andrés Ricaurte is approximately 1.7 million for 100% of his player rights and his salary could be between 450K-500k for 3 years contract.#DTID pays 50% of that immediately.— Niko Moreno (@ELROLONW) August 12, 2020
Very creative player, with good vision and leadership pic.twitter.com/aJrPMGNDfc
For now, Pomykal continues to come off the bench for Luchi Gonzalez and changed the game for the better once he came on, even if it wasn’t enough to get Dallas any points. Selfishly, I’d like to see him get as much run as possible if the end (for now) is indeed nigh. Sunday is another day.
Speaking of Sunday…
Reggie, I stand with you
Black lives matter. There’s nothing controversial about that from where I or millions of other Americans stand. And yet, as FC Dallas and Nashville came together to kneel during the national anthem in a peaceful protest to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality, boos were audible from the stands at Toyota Stadium.
Shameful and disgraceful are two words that come to mind when I think about that behavior. I’m furious, and I wasn’t even there to witness it. Here’s what Cannon, one of the most thoughtful young men in the league, had to say about a moment he’ll surely never forget for all the wrong reasons.
"I think it was disgusting. I think it was absolutely disgusting," Cannon said. "You got fans booing you for people taking a stand for what they believe in. Millions of other people support this cause and we discussed with every other team and the league what we’re going to do and we’ve got fans booing us in our own stadium. How disgraceful is that? Honestly, for lack of a better word, it pissed me off. ... You can’t even have support form your own fans in your own stadium. It’s baffling to me."
"I’m sorry to have this tone, but you have two call it for what it is,” Cannon continued. “I even knew when we decided to kneel, I knew it was going to happen. That should tell you something. I knew we were going to have some negative pushback from having a unified response over what’s going on. That’s the problem. That’s a problem. It hurts me because I love our fans I love this club and I want to see the support that the league has given us, that everyone has given us from our fans. I love the people that came out tonight but as soon as I heard that boo I tried to play on and I knew what to expect. We’ll take it one day at a time and again we’re unified in this response and everyone stands together, black, white, freaking orange, everyone stands together in this."
No matter where you stand on this, I recommend taking nine minutes to watch this video from the Black Players For Change coalition.