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Charlotte FC Leagues Cup match - FC Dallas preview

By Brian Maurer

FC Dallas against LAFC (Photo courtesy of FC Dallas)


Leagues Cup


This is the inaugural year of this event. It will include all 29 MLS and all 18 Liga MX clubs, making this a unique continental tournament between Mexico’s, the United States', and Canada’s top club teams.


The tournament starts with a group stage round. There are 15 groups, three teams per group. LAFC and Pachuca earned byes to the knockout round for being the 2022 MLS and Liga MX champions. Each group's winners and second-place finishers will join LAFC and Pachuca in a 32-team knockout round.


The champion of this tournament will qualify for the round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions Cup (previously Concacaf Champions League). The second and third-place finishers will qualify for round one of the Concacaf Champions Cup (CCC).


Will teams care about this tournament?


The simple answer is yes. The reward of qualifying for CCC will entice most of these clubs to try and make a run at it especially if they make it into the deeper rounds. The top teams could use this tournament as an opportunity to lock up CCC qualification before the pressure near the end of the season ramps up.


For mid-tier clubs, this tournament could be viewed as a way to salvage a season that has strayed below expectations. For teams near the bottom of the table in their respective leagues, this could be viewed as an opportunity to give their fans new energy as the season draws to a close.


Many teams could also use this month to rest up players and get healthy for the season's final push. This is what makes this unique tournament format interesting. There will likely be several different approaches taken by teams as they are all dealing with various circumstances at this point in the season.


Injury update


OUT: Jesús Jiménez, Tarik Scott (season-ending injury), Amet Korca


QUESTIONABLE: Paul Arriola, Geovane Jesus, José Martínez, Paxton Pomykal, Ema Twumasi, Alan Velasco


*Injury update as of 7/14/23 from MLSsoccer.com


Player’s to watch


Because of all the variables discussed above it will be more difficult to predict how FC Dallas and Charlotte FC approach this upcoming match-up and tournament. There is reason for both teams to take this tournament seriously. Since this could be the case, my players to watch and starting lineup predictions for FC Dallas will be under the assumption that they will attempt to put out their best lineup on Friday.


Bernard Kamungo - Kamungo is a player to watch if Jesús Ferreira is left off the starting XI on Friday. There is a chance of that happening as Ferreira just played in the MLS All-Star game last night. Kamungo was one of FC Dallas’ scoring solutions this past month while Ferreira, their leading goalscorer, played in the Gold Cup.


Ferreira (10g/2a) is the key attacking piece of this team as he has contributed to 48% of their goals this season. Kamungo has two goals in his three starts in July during his absence. If Ferreira does not start, Charlotte FC cannot lighten up as young players, like Kamungo, will be looking to make an impact.


Nkosi Tafari - Tafari has been one of FC Dallas’ most regularly used center-backs this season. Creating chances has been a real problem area for Charlotte FC, if they are to find any success in this game they are going to need to find a way to get past Tafari. The former first-round SuperDraft pick is also capable in the attacking third with two goals and two assists on the year.


Alan Velasco - Velasco has been inconsistent since joining FC Dallas at the beginning of last season. This year his production (322 minutes per goal contribution) has dropped by more than half of what it was in 2022 (149 minutes per goal contribution).


Velasco is likely going to be one of the focal points in FC Dallas’ attack on Friday. Charlotte FC will need to be sharp while defending the wings to try and reduce his impact. Velasco will be looking to find his scoring form during the League’s Cup and the Crown will need to prevent that from happening.


FC Dallas’ starting XI


FC Dallas’ starting lineup will be a bit difficult to predict as there is no way of knowing how they want to approach this tournament. They have also been without Ferreira, whether he will be set to play after a two-day turnaround will be the other big question mark in how they set up tomorrow. Below is how FC Dallas set up against Seattle last weekend.

FC Dallas' starting lineup versus the Seattle Sounders last Saturday (Graphic found at MLSsoccer.com)


During that matchup, a lot of their progressive work went down the right-hand side, as demonstrated in the passing network below, leading to Kamungo’s goal.

FC Dallas' passing network versus the Seattle Sounders last Saturday (Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com)

FC Dallas' zones of control (Graphic found at theanalyst.com). Blue areas represent 55% or more possession for FC Dallas while red areas represent 55%+ possession for their opposition.


FC Dallas has not demanded control of the pitch throughout the season as shown in their zones of control (above). However, Charlotte has struggled to be efficient with the ball when they do establish control. Charlotte should be looking at this match-up as an opportunity to take control of possession and do something with it. But, based on how things have gone recently for them when attempting to do that, the likelihood is not high that this will garner any success.


Tournament Goals


FC Dallas is currently sitting in a play-in spot for the MLS playoffs. They are sitting below where many expected them to be at this point in the season. This makes the Leagues Cup a great opportunity for them to try and build some momentum going into the final stretch of the season as they try and makeup ground. FC Dallas is currently the betting favorite to win the group (+110). They also have two home games for their match-ups. With the group stage set up positively for FC Dallas, it makes a lot of sense for them to push for a deep run and try and grab a CCC qualification spot.

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