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FC Dallas came into the Philadelphia Union game coming off a smashing 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake where the homegrowns come out into the spotlight. After such a convincing performance, there was hope for a repeat against a new and revitalized Union team. Though, things did not favor FC Dallas succumbed late in the game for a 1-2 loss.

The Game

After learning that Carlos Gruezo, Jesse Gonzalez, and Pablo Aranguiz had violated a team policy and where therefore serving a one-game suspension, this gave opportunities to three new players in the starting lineup. Thomas Roberts obtained his first start in his career on the left wing for the sick Santiago Mosquera. Jacori Hayes filled in for the injured Bryan Acosta. Jimmy Maurer got his first start of the season for the suspended Jesse Gonzalez.

FC Dallas Starting Lineup (@ Union)
FC Dallas Starting XI versus Philadelphia Union Photo: FC Dallas

The first opening 15 minutes of the game favored FC Dallas. They came out strong and did well passing the ball up through the middle of the field. Ryan Hollingshead earned a foul right outside of the box where Reto Ziegler smashed in a beautiful free-kick. Though the Union is known for pressing hard at home and they continued to press FC Dallas as the first-half progressed. It was not an ideal half and the backline was on their heels and looked very overwhelmed.

The second half was like the first half: FC Dallas came out in the opening minutes doing well but were quickly overwhelmed with the passing and pressing of the Philadelphia Union. Zdenek Ondrasek subbed in for Thomas Roberts as Luchi Gonzalez looked to change the attitude of the team. FC Dallas continued to struggle defensively as John Nelson subbed in for Michael Barrios. Matt Hedges trip over a Union player which resulted in a Union penalty. Jimmy Maurer made the initial save though Cory Burke got an early jump over the FC Dallas defense to score the rebound. Brandon Servania made his MLS debut subbing in for Jesus Ferreira as FC Dallas looked to walk away with a point on the road. In the final moments of the match, Alejandro Bedoya scored giving the Union the full 3 points.

“We suffered for 90 minutes. We were not able to keep the ball so we have to analyze what we did wrong, but we can’t defend for 90 minutes and expect to win. I was hoping for a point today and in the future, if this happens again, we should be able to take a point in these games, but we can’t say that we deserved to win.”Reto Ziegler


Thoughts and Takeaways

Playing the Kids

There were 6 homegrowns who saw the field of play in this game. The kids got 43.8% of the touches in the game which isn’t bad. Edwin Cerrillo is still finding his footing in this league and while he isn’t at the level of Carlos Gruezo, he is making progress game by game. He did make 49 passes which were second to Reggie’s 53. Let’s take a look at his passing chart.

Edwin Cerrillo Passing
Edwin Cerrillo Passing  Photo:mlssoccer.com

There are some side passes, but he also has a healthy number of passes that go up the field. Reggie was kept occupied and did a great job controlling the right defensive side of the field. Paxton looked well in the opening minutes of each half but looked frustrated that he was not getting much of the ball as well as being shut down by the Union, which isn’t ideal for him. Roberts looked very good in the opening minutes as he was connecting passes very well and served as a focal point on the left while drifting centrally at times.

Many people felt that this result is a side-effect of “playing the kids.” While there is truth to that, it isn’t the whole truth. The youth held up well on their own and showed that they can compete in MLS level. Not having Gruezo did make an impact and asking Cerrillo, Pomykal, or Hayes to be a Gruezo isn’t what their strengths are (though Cerrillo shows promise of being at least as good as Gruezo). Roberts didn’t get much of the ball to work much of his magic.

Defense

When you don’t have a player like Gruezo or even Acosta to help shield the backline, you are opened to more attacking chances. As a result, your backline needs to do a lot more defensive work. Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler were worked for the full 90 minutes.

Reto Ziegler was everywhere and that had its positives and its negatives. What was good is that he was quick to try to shut down the opposition. The concern is that he was caught out of position many times as an opposing player came in behind him. This forced either Hedges or Hollingshead to move in to cover the space, which opens space somewhere in the else in the field from this movement. His positioning was very similar to the Columbus Crew game. Hedges was called into action more on the right side of the field.

Matt Hedges Heat Map
Matt Hedges Heat Map Photo: whoscored.com

With Hedges being called into action, this didn’t help Ziegler as he had more space to cover. Again, Gruezo usually helps with shielding these guys and helps in the defensive play which helps ease the workload that Hedges and Ziegler must do so things don’t end up so hectic as they were in this game.

Substitutions

The substitutions were interesting in this match. From the eye test, seeing how stretched that Ziegler and Hedges were throughout the match, having either a defensive midfielder (in this case Servania) or another central defender (i.e. Bressan) can be brought in to help tighten things along the backline. Simply put, a defensive substitution might’ve been a first given the defensive struggles as well as having a one-goal lead. Given what we have seen from Bressan, he defends with his skill and experience which was needed in this game.

The Cobra was brought on instead and that comes with its own merits. First, the team spirit looked low in the game and Ondrasek does bring spirit and passion. Secondly, he, along with Ferreira, could keep a high line, which occupies the center back and the center midfield on the defensive play. Though, Ondrasek is a striker and not defender.

John Nelson was then brought in for Michael Barrios. This substitution was a good one though the right player probably was not taken off. As Union coach Jim Curtin said, “The second Barrios comes off the field for them was our cue to know they were going to see this out,” Curtin continued with, “The kid Nelson is a left back by nature, not a winger so we were aggressive and countered their move.” With John Nelson coming in, it suggested that Hollingshead might move in centrally with Nelson taking on the left back role. Instead, Nelson was playing more as a left midfielder which was an interesting choice. Nelson did the best that he could but he had a tendency to play deeper and defend which lead to crowding with Hollingshead.

Barrios does hold his own defensively and he helps shield Reggie to an extent. On top of his defensive capabilities, he does provide a counter-attacking threat as once on the counter, he will tend centrally. The threat that he imposes helps keep the opposing defense from getting too far up the field. Though with the removal of Barrios, that threat is gone, and the Union moved higher up the field.

Player Positioning
Philadelphia Union Left & FC Dallas Right Photo: whoscored.com

It wasn’t a pretty game but it was a good learning moment for the coaching and players alike.

“I thought we could have gotten away with a point. I thought that would have been fortunate considering some of the stats I saw in terms of shots, but we have to know how to get a point in this game. In the 92nd minute, there was a breakdown there that we are going to review and work to get better.
 
Disappointing not to walk away with a point, but at the end of the day that’s reality. We have to move on and bounce back for the opportunity we have next week against Portland.”Luchi Gonzalez


It is good that these types of games are happening early in the season so that the details can be worked out. For the young players, they now have the exposure in a game where they were pressed and overwhelmed for good portions of the game. FC Dallas takes on a struggling Portland Timbers at home on Saturday, April 13 at 7:00 pm

Featured Image: FC Dallas
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