There is always something special about the first game of the season and this game was no exception as FC Dallas began the 2019 season under a new coach and as a result, a different team.
There were some things that we also different at Toyota Stadium. There was a nice FC painted near the FC Dallas bench in remembrance of Fernando Clavijo. Similarly, Fernando’s sons, Nico and Jonathan Clavijo were the honorary scarfers for today’s match. FC Dallas also featured a new banner in remembrance of Fernando. In the 21st minutes, fans stood and clapped for Fernando Clavijo.
The starting lineup went as many would expect with maybe the exception of Paxton Pomykal on the bench. Another probable surprise was no Zdenek Ondrasek on the bench and Jesus Ferreira making the substitute striker.
The first half went FC Dallas’ way with much of the possession belonging to FC Dallas at 66.1%. As a result of this, we got a very good look at the attacking shape of FC Dallas and not too much the defensive shape and tactics. There were lots of short passes with 86.8% pass completion. Another cool stat is FC Dallas made 349 passes compared to New England’s 173. FC Dallas opened the scoring with a Michael Barrios goal off a great pass by Dom Badji where Barrios made a run almost down New England’s half to slot the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal.
The second half didn’t start off entirely as FC Dallas would have hoped. The Revolution scored a goal in the 57th minute in what kind of was a scramble play. A ball was headed backward and Carles Gil slotted the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal. It was a weird opening ten to fifteen minutes where the team wasn’t playing with the same intensity that we saw in the first half but after FC Dallas went down, that fire was lit again. Unfortunately, despite the chances that FC Dallas created, FC Dallas was unable to pull one back and the game ended 1-1. It really was a weird goal as Coach Gonzalez explained, “I think we stopped playing for half a second. It was just some moment where we were counting maybe on an offsides call and I don’t believe it was offsides, so we have to just have to keep playing.”
FC Dallas looked good for much of the game and as Coach Gonzalez said, “10 minutes of some casualness in the second half that punished us for that tying goal but if you remove those 10 minutes out of the game, I have to be proud and I have to be happy with our progress and a lot of other things.”
This game showed that FC Dallas is a completely different team from 2018. FC Dallas had 67.6% which is amazing compared to Pareja who was more content with letting the opposition have the ball as FCD sat back and defended and attacked on the counter. Additionally, FC Dallas made 650 passes to the Revolution’s 311. FC Dallas did well in imposing their game plan against the Revs by passing the ball around the back and looking for gaps. The team tried to occupy space though there was a tendency to attack down the right side. 56% of the shots came from the middle and 22% of shots taken from the right and left. What was interesting to me was where the game was played. 38% was in FCD’s third, 44% in the middle and 18% in the Revolution’s third.
I really enjoyed seeing the amount of passing that this team did. 558 short passes, 87 long balls, and 5 crosses with an 84.9% pass success rate. Later in the second half, New England was clogging the middle and FC Dallas adopted a long passing type of game. “We connected a lot of passes. 638 passes, that’s a good number for us. We want to be there about 700, close to 700 but we want to do it higher up the field so that’s the next step for us. We are going to try to work on it in training. The idea is there we just got to keep polishing it” Coach Gonzalez remarked when asked about the passing that the team did. My favorite part of FC Dallas’ passing game was the role that the 3 midfielders played (particularly Acosta and Gruezo). When FC Dallas was moving the ball around the backline, either Gruezo or Acosta would be a “pivot player” in the passing chain. For example, if FC Dallas was going to play the ball down the right, the 3 players in the chain were Hedges-Acosta/Gruezo-Reggie (from right to left), going down the left, Hollingshead- Acosta/Gruezo- Ziegler, and through the middle, Ziegler- Acosta/Gruezo-Hedges. This allowed the fullbacks to move up higher in the field and invited the Revolution to move up the field (pressing the backline) opening space for our Jacori/Acosta and attackers to work with.
I think that Badji had an okay game but it’s the role that he played that I would like to highlight. Even though he only got 1 shot on goal his, positional play was extremely valuable to the team. He occupied that Revolution’s center backs which helped open space for Jacori and Acosta to work in. Additionally, this also gave Santi and Barrios space to play a ball back into the middle of the box. His assist to the Barrios goal was a result of his positioning. Badji moved closer to the midfield pulling defenders with him which opened space for Barrios to run in off Badji’s header.
My hat goes off the midfield three as well. One could have just watched the whole game focusing on these three as it was very fluid and dynamic. The combination of Gruezo, Jacori, and Acosta was like an orchestra on their own. It was a moving triangle where Gruezo really was the pivot player that helped orchestra the movement of the ball. Acosta and Jacori were everywhere on the field as they helped distribute the ball. Both helped to shut down the Revs attack. I appreciated how Acosta could cross the ball into the box from the middle in the last 20 minutes of the game providing another attacking threat to the game not just from the wings.
Overall, I don’t think that it was a bad game.
“This is a team that to me showed that they are winners, they were disappointed with the draw, and it is a valuable point and it can be very important as the season goes on but we’re here at home and we want to always play to win for our fans and for this jersey and for this family. So that shows you their mentality, this is a winning mentality group and they are not going to be happy with draws at home.”
One final thing that I would like to mention. Given that this is a new team under a first-time head coach who is coaching adults and with what appears to be an emphasis on the youth, getting a draw in your first game is not bad at all. Again, FC Dallas was the better team except for those 10 to 15 minutes where the team lacked intensity.
Coach Gonzalez made it clear that he and the team are going to reflect on this game and that a draw is something that they are not content with. That’s a good mentality that he and the team have. I think that it is important to remember that there are going to be plenty of learning moments that Luchi Gonzalez will do and that we should not to be too critical with the result but focus more on the product and what is being developed in front of us.