FC Dallas preseason training update -- day ten.
Having played in Europe (OGC Nice of French Ligue 1) before signing with FC Dallas, new keeper Raul Fernandez, aka “Superman” probably didn’t come back to this side of the Atlantic with the intention of sitting on the bench. However, after a frustrating day on the practice field it looks like that could be where he ends up by opening day. His main competition, Chris Seitz, has a week's head start after arriving in stellar shape and, despite some struggles of his own, seems to be the early leader for the starting job. If the team struggles once the season starts, don’t be surprised if this thing turns into a full blown goalkeeper controversy. It may be worth noting that player rating website Transfermarkt.com lists Seitz’s current value as close to $300,000 while Fernandez is valued at over 1.1 million dollars.
Speedy winger Fabian Castillo was making mince meat of Fernandez in Tuesday morning’s practice. While working on a drill in the penalty area against defender Jair Benitez and Fernandez in goal, Castillo carved up the Peruvian “Superman” with speedy penetrations and well-placed strikes under the gentle caress of a light rain. Castillo, working across the mouth of the goal with Benitez shadowing, surprised Fernandez with a right-footed one-timer that glanced off the inside of the post to Fernandez’s left and in for a goal, drawing cheers from teammates and coaches.
After Castillo beat him again a few minutes later, this time to his right, Fernandez looked noticeably frustrated with himself, and even seemed relieved when Chris Seitz missed a couple in a row from the feet of Andrew Jacobsen at the other end.
Castillo’s best goal against Fernandez had Brazilian trialist Michel Garbini guarding about twelve yards out from goal. Castillo juked left, then right, then back left gain, leaving Garbini a half-step behind. That was more than enough room for Castillo to get his left foot outside the ball and cut a low liner back against the grain, between keeper and defender, and inside the far post. Fernandez looked stunned for a moment as he paused on one knee.
Fernandez did have his moments. After another Castillo cutback, he sent a grounder towards the far post that Fernandez dove low and stretched to his full length to punch wide. Castillo, angry with himself, barked out a frustrated, “Bah!”. He shouldn't be too hard on himself, though. He’s probably having the best preseason of any player so far.
Maybe it’s nothing, but... after seeing Fernandez struggling and possibly starting to get frustrated, newly minted team captain David Ferreira tapped a tepid roller towards goal that Fernandez had little trouble scooping up with a cautious dive to his left. Was that just a lazy play from Ferreira, the former league MVP and noted offensive wizard? Or was that a snippet of Ferreira’s leadership style in action -- giving the new guy an easy one he can handle, to help build his confidence? Ferreira has never been a loud player, but he’s definitely a smart player -- maybe the smartest in the league. Now that he’s taking over team captain duties, it’s subtle actions like that that might make him an effective captain, but in a totally different way than his predecessor at the helm, Daniel Hernandez.*
Blas Perez, in his second day back, had a nice moment in front of goal when a partially blocked cross came bouncing in from the corner. Perez, seeing that Seitz was favoring the near post, stuck out a toe and flipped the ball across Seitz’s face, but Seitz stuck out a hand and deflected the shot into the post, and Loyd cleared.
Newly arrived Frenchman Luccin, also in his second day practicing with the team, had a nice shot that drew praise. After receiving a pass, Luccin turned and drove a low right-footer headed for just inside the near post, but Fernandez got maybe a couple of fingers on the ball, deflecting its trajectory just enough for the save off the post.
Jackson Goncalves had the goal of the day. Traversing across the face of goal, about level with the penalty spot, and with Stephen Keel guarding from a half-step behind, Jackson got Seitz and Keel both leaning the wrong way as he crossed the penalty spot. Suddenly, he used his right foot to ricochet the ball off his left foot and into the goal, behind and underneath the panicked, suddenly desperate attempts by Keel and Seitz to block.
*(Though technically Ugo Ihemelu was named captain last year during preseason, Hernandez, even when not wearing the captain's armband, was the de facto team leader since he first suited up for FC Dallas in late 2009.)