Matt Hedges moved into second place in all-time MLS appearances for FC Dallas with 213 under his belt. John Nelson made his professional debut in front of family and friends. FC Dallas played in their first loss of 2019.
Ryan Hollingshead moved to right back for the injured Reggie Cannon. As a result, Marquinhos Pedroso got his first start after coming back from a core surgery. This is the last game for Jesse Gonzalez, Carlos Gruezo, and Bryan Acosta before they head off for international games with their respective countries (United States, Ecuador, and Honduras respectively).
FC Dallas opened the game as they normally do: favor possession and trying to build up out of the back and let the midfield three circulate the ball up to the attack. FC Dallas would concede in the 10th minute off a Columbus header where Sauro would beat out Reto Ziegler. After the goal, FC Dallas appeared to be overwhelmed by the amount of pressing from the Crew. This limited the chances that FCD would have for the rest of the half. FC Dallas appeared to get narrower as they got closer to the attacking third but had lots of width in the back. Again, we saw Santiago Mosquera do some more roaming into the middle along with Barrios. Some favor was shown towards attacking down the left side. Pedroso still didn’t look quite 100% yet but he is getting close. I felt that he did well defensively and got forward when the time was right. I found it interesting how much Ziegler was getting forward in the defense as he would pass Gruezo to make a defensive play in some moments.
There were truly two halves to this game. FC Dallas came out much better in the second half playing like the team that we saw against the Galaxy. The passing and attack where much more threatening and with the addition of John Nelson for Marquinhos Pedroso, FC Dallas became more threatening on the flanks. Jesus Ferreira came in for Santiago Mosquera who had an average outing. As FC Dallas was looking for the equalizer, Luchi Gonzalez turned towards Pablo Aranguiz who replaced Bryan Acosta who was getting too friendly with the referee of the match and, quite honestly, avoided two red card situations. Though it was too little too late as many of FC Dallas’ chances would come up short. The game would end favoring the Crew as Luchi Gonzalez, and FC Dallas lost for the first time in 2019.
“Second half we came out with a little bit more of a purpose with the ball to impose more. Whether it was through a counter or a build, we did it to get closer to their goal at the end. I have to be proud of our group and boys to push the game to the end and create eight or ten crosses in their area to be dangerous.” – Luchi Gonzalez
Thoughts and Takeaways
Luchi Gonzalez likes fluidity with the team shape and that is especially true with the midfield three. He wants the players to be able to play all the positions, to be able to attack, to defend, and to fill in the gaps. Though, I think that FC Dallas was too fluid with their shape in the first half. When Columbus would press, the midfield and backline tended to be caught out of position. Hollingshead and Pedroso would creep forward to try to win the ball back from the defender, and normally, Gruezo would slide into the center-back area while Hedges or Reto will move to help cover the space. Though in this game, Hedges and Ziegler were occupied with Zardes or Higuain and Gruezo would try to cover the gap. Though with the overloading of Crew players in the Dallas midfield and defense, it is covering space rather difficult.
In the second half, FCD was more structured than in the first. As the Crew began to sit back, FCD was given more chances to go forward and attack. In games like these, you want to be able to have the ability to bring players off the bench who can help with give you a fighting chance. All three subs are players who can do so though they weren’t given enough time to do so. It might be that Coach Gonzalez felt that he had a nice dynamism going and didn’t want to alter it.
Again, I found it interesting how Ziegler would come forward to make a defensive play and this would change the shape of the backline and thus, FC Dallas had one less defender in the case of a counter-attack. I’m not too sure if there was a tactical reason behind that or if Reto saw opportunities to make a defensive play higher up.
Another point of interest for me was how deep Barrios and Santi were playing defensively. FC Dallas took on a 4-5-1 look as a result and defensively, it looked like either winger didn’t know who to cover when the ball was being played down the flanks. This allowed Columbus to take advantage of the gaps that opened.
A little concern of mine is how crowded the middle across the attack was in this game. Look at the average positioning for both teams.
FC Dallas was very compact with Badji, Santi, and Barrios basically on top of each other. The Crew in comparison were spread out which the Crew to move the ball around more efficiently. The passing for FC Dallas was consistent with previous games this season: 658 passes at 86% pass success rate and 806 touches. Possession was down to 55% which would be expected being on the road with both teams wanting the ball. Still impressive, nonetheless.
So, let’s state the obvious: the attack isn’t up to what fans are expecting…yet (I’m going to try to remain optimistic). Columbus did a good job committing numbers to the defense and limiting what Santi, Badji, and Barrios could do. Granted, the Crew tackled (pun not intended) this at the root: the midfield. Paxton and Acosta really didn’t get to do too much of creating chances since the moment they got the ball, there were 2 players getting on them. FC Dallas was limited to going on the counter-attack which led to the best chance of the game: Paxton playing a through ball to Barrios. FCD had 6 key passes with 5 of them coming in the second half as the Crew was sitting back trying to protect the lead.
Badji had 24 touches throughout the match which isn’t ideal. Fans have been vocal with their displeasure of Badji thus far into the season after notching 6 goals in preseason. While his output hasn’t been ideal, I will argue that he hasn’t been given the same service that he had in preseason. This isn’t so much as anyone’s fault but rather that the midfield is still gelling to together and FCD is facing MLS competition. It doesn’t help that we will lose 2/3 of our midfield against Colorado. It’s a work in progress and it isn’t time to hit the panic button.
Luchi Gonzalez was reflective stating: “Every game is going to be different, so we want to continue to improve our identity, and to certainly learn to run a play, set pieces, run counters, and make everything a moment to score on. We’re going to review and enjoy the process of growing and building.”
Yes, it was a tough loss but it wasn’t a terrible loss. Better to iron out all the wrinkles in the beginning of the season than later on.
FC Dallas faces the Colorado Rapids on March 23rd at 4:30 PM. It will be interesting to see who fills in for Acosta and Gruezo for this game. I would think that it will be Cerrillo and Servania depending on how Jacori Hayes is doing. North Texas SC plays it’s last warm-up game before the start of their season. They play immediately after the conclusion of the FC Dallas game.
Featured Image: FC Dallas