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After facing a tough a draw to the Columbus Crew, FC Dallas aimed to steer their playoff ship back on course. And steer they did in a well-fought win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. In a place they have historically struggled, it came down to the final minutes where the Huntsmen swiped all 3 points and regained the number spot in the Western Conference. While some may say it wasn’t pretty, the result is what matters. Let’s dive into how it unfolded.

Tactics

Oscar Pareja opted to go for a 4-2-3-1 on the road and the lone change to the starting 11 was a Cristian Colman that took the place of Dominique Badji. Matt Hedges also started after facing a concussion in the Columbus game. No Lamah in the 18 even though he was cleared to play.

FC Dallas Starting XI vs. Vancouver Whitecaps                                     Image: FC Dallas

Papi opted to sit back a bit more this game as he usually does on the road but the team was very vertical in their passing. There were many long balls that were played but this could be a result of the Whitecaps’ front 4 pressing the defensive players. Attacking down the flanks was also a notable characteristic from Papi in this game.

Events

19′play: Kei Kamara goes for a bicycle kick that hit Victor Ulloa’s hand. I think it was a good no-call by the ref as Victor was already turned away and trying to shield himself. It was ball-to-hand versus hand-to-ball.

24′play: Techera(VAN) makes a volley that pings off the crossbar

42′goal: Maxi Urruti plays the freekick into the box as Santiago Mosquera give the ball a nice touch with his head to slot it into the net. FCD 1-0 VAN.

HALFTIME: FC Dallas 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

66′goal: Alphonso Davies works some amazing dribbling and gets past Michael Barrios, Reggie Cannon, and Carlos Gruezo to cross it from the left for Kei Kamara to head it in. FCD 1-1 VAN.

77′sub: Tesho Akindele comes in for Cristian Colman. It might have been a precautionary measure as he did crap up right before which caused the technical staff to bring him in. A like for like change.

83′sub: Maynor Figueroa comes in for Santiago Mosquera. At this point, I think Papi figured that getting a draw is better than trying to risk it and go for all three. At the minimum, you get 1 point and hope for the win off of a fast break.

87′goal: Matt Hedges comes up big in the dying minutes of the game and gives the Huntsmen all 3 points off a corner. FCD 2-1 VAN.

89′sub: Pablo Aranguiz comes in for Maxi Urruti and makes his first appearance since the 3-4 loss to San Jose in San Jose.

FINAL: FC Dallas 2-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

Thoughts

First, before I forget, Alan Kelly had a great game. It’s not often that there are referees that call a good game and it is even rarer when they get recognized for having a good game. So, good job Alan Kelly. I really do think that he and his crew did a great job in the game so credit to them.

I found that the passing in this game was interesting. Using the eye test, there were a lot of long balls that were played from the backline.

Backline Passing
FC Dallas Defense Passing                                      Image: mlssoccer.com

Yeah, there were quite a few long balls. I think this was more of that plan that Papi had for this game considering that he had Colman up top (more on Colman later). Now whether the Vancouver front four pressing the backline helped or didn’t help the fact that there were more long balls than usual is something interesting to look at that is beyond the scope of this article. The team did great on set pieces which is rather rare for Papi’s team so that was cool. What’s cool to look at is the average player positioning.

Player Positioning
FC Dallas Average Player Positioning                Image: whoscored.com

Maxi, Santi, and Barrios are higher up than Colman which speaks to his role as to hold up the ball and play more as a forward than anything else. (Here’s a cool article by the Bundesliga talking about player positioning).

The backline did okay in my opinion. When you are facing Kamara, Techera, Reyna, and Davies, you’re going to be in for a long game. The positive is that they held their own and only gave up one goal which is actually superb against this Whitecaps team. With the Whitecaps being the 6th highest scoring home team in the Western Conference, averaging 1.93 goals at home (versus the 2.00 FCD home goal average). That’s not bad for the team to hold them down to 1. Especially to where Davies was a constant threat. My only critique is that I felt that each player could’ve had a cleaner defending game as it did appear chaotic in the box and it looked like they didn’t know what to do at times. The backline had 20 clearances which is a higher amount than normal, but hey, you got to do what you got to do.

Victor and Gruezo had a more busy night on the defense than usual and they did get overwhelmed at times. The positive is that this is a good chemistry builder for both of them to get used to the quick pace that Vancouver played with. I expect this is something that the team will face more often in the final stretch of the season and playoffs. Both were kept busy with 34 defensive actions and 79 total passes combined between the both of them.

I really liked having Colman, Barrios, and Mosquera up top with the combination of the long balls. Colman has a really good aerial game and was in charge of winning the ball in the air, holding up the ball, keeping the Whitecaps backline back and allow the attacking players to get forward. Santi and Barrios were tasked with burning past the defense which they did. Santi showed his flair which always makes him a threat. Santi has started to break out and I think that we are starting to truly see the potential that he has. I know it sounds crazy but I think that Santi still has a higher potential than what we have already seen and that excites me. You can see what he is trying to do and he is just missing that final execution. You could argue that he was competing with Davies on who was the better player. Maxi looked hungry this game for a goal with 5 shots of the night (most of anyone with Barrios coming in at 4). I will admit my bias as a Colman apologist but I felt that he had a good game. He looked more comfortable having the ball. He used his head and controlled it with his chest and went for some volleys which were nice. He executed his job as a forward versus a target man or striker which he was tasked with being before. I like the role that he played and he did well.

It was good that Pablo Aranguiz came in and I know that fans are hungry and want Aranguiz to play more (I myself am in that bunch as well) but it is important that we do take our time with him. He is 21 which is younger than when Diaz was when he came. It took 3 years for Diaz to break out. Plus Papi has a good record of grooming players (Cannon, Acosta, Diaz, Barrios, Mosquera, Hedges, Zimmerman, Ulloa, etc.) Plus when Aranguiz himself says he needs more time before he can reach his potential, you have to listen to that. You don’t want to harm his growth as a player. You can see in his interview with Carlos Alvarado.

Overall, a good, hard-fought, gritty game that rewarded FC Dallas

FC Dallas returns to actions this Saturday at 9:30 pm CT. Los Toros will take on the Portland Timbers with a chance to secure a playoff spot. Here are some scenarios on how that can happen.

-Win
-Draw Portland and a Galaxy win over Vancouver
-Draw or Loss against Portland with a Draw in the Galaxy vs. Vancouver game.

The game can be viewed on TXA-21 or on ESPN+. FC Dallas sits in 1st place in the Western Conference and 3rd in the Supporters Shield race (Atlanta is in 1st with 63 pts and New York Red Bulls 2nd with 59pts). FC Dallas is 6 points away from reaching their 3rd 60+pts season in 4 years with 5 games to go.

Featured Image: Carter Baum/FC Dallas

 

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