FC Dallas returned home to take on a New York Red Bulls that has struggled thus far into the season. Both sides exhibited squad rotation as FC Dallas fell 1-3 in a difficult and concerning game.
Was this game a sign of things to come or was it just a small bump in the road of the FC Dallas season?
John Nelson made a start at left-back. Not wanting to lose the verticality that “utility-player” Ryan Hollingshead provides, Hollingshead started at right-wing for the yellow-card suspended Michael Barrios. Luchi opted to start Dominique Badji as a striker. Santiago Mosquera made his return to the left-wing along with Jacori Hayes in the middle. It was another slow start for FC Dallas as the Red Bulls capitalized on the opportunity and scored in the 12th minute. FC Dallas was forced to make an injury substitution for Badji. Jesus Ferreira came in and the substitution was fruitful as Jacori Hayes played in a cross for Ferreira to slot a header into the bottom corner.
Despite the hope that the Ferreira goal had provided, FC Dallas continued to look frustrated. Zdenek Ondrasek came in for Ryan Hollingshead and birthday-boy Thomas Roberts came in for Jacori Hayes. The Red Bulls scored 2 more goals to solidify the result leaving FC Dallas and fans wanting more than what was given.
“Tough because we had a great week of training. The boys are trying to play, we’re trying to play. Their intentions were everything we had trained in terms of with ball and our ideas. We got caught on the dribble a few times and we have to play quicker and combine a little more out. Once we break the first and second line, we need to hurt them on the last line. We slowed it down sometimes when we could have pushed it to next gear and got in behind them in goal. red bulls are a fighting team. They were efficient in the way they played and transitioned. I know they were missing some key guys but credit to them but that’s a fighting philosophy and I respect it.” – Luchi Gonzalez
Thoughts and Takeaways
Things have not been the same for FC Dallas in these last stretches of games. Again, the speed of play has not been what fans have been accustomed to since the beginning of the season. A consolation is that FC Dallas showed spurts of that intensity and speed. When looking at the stats, Luchi Ball is back: 15 shots, 6 shots on target, 65.2% possession, and 583 passes and FC Dallas beat out the Red Bulls in these categories (9 shots, 4 shot on target, 34.8% possession, 307 passes). So, the stats say that Luchi Ball is back, but we didn’t see that this game. Why? Well, let’s look at the passing chart.
In the first half there is some red originating in the FCD half but the second there is a lot more. FCD opted to go for long balls to help stimulate the attack which explains some of the red lines. The shorter red lines are the more concerning part of the passing chart. It is a result of the press that the Red Bulls adapted which put the back 6 (the defenders and Jacori and Acosta) under severe pressure. The type of passing might be part of the answer. Arguably, it was transitioning, being tactically aware, and the small details that decided the game. The Red Bulls were simply quicker and sharper on their transitions than FC Dallas. They were able to shift from attack to defense and vice versa quickly. They committed numbers to their style of play quickly throughout the full 90.
A Look at Goals (scored against FCD)
On the first goal, there is space on top of the box that Aranguiz is tasked with covering. Asking one player to cover the top of the box against 3 possible runs into the box isn’t going to end well. Acosta (pink circle) should arguably be higher up in the box to help cover the open space (blue circle) with Aranguiz. Tactical awareness was the theme of this goal.
On the second goal, once Santi has been beaten, Reto is already running out to charge the player with the ball. The Red Bull player that ends up scoring (Nealis in blue circle), was initially being covered by Aranguiz who is going into to help Santi, has space to set up his shot. This may have been a miscommunication with players on who is covering who in the corner, but it is understandable that players are going to try to win the ball back, but it comes down to details.
The last goal the Red Bulls scored exemplifies the speed of transitions. Jesus and Nelson are behind the speed of play (the back 4 is connected with lines) with Roberts and Acosta being tasked in covering the middle. Reggie is occupied with the runner (on the right of the image) behind him as Reggie will try to keep a short distance between him and the runner. This leaves FCD in a 4v3 situation where Roberts is trying to win the ball back and Acosta, Hedges, and Reto are occupying the two players in front of the ball in the triangle. Red Bulls did well with moving around to confuse the FCD players but the rest of the team is jogging back behind the play as more Red Bull players are committing up the field.
“Their two goals in the second half were immediately after we didn’t put away our chance and that’s soccer. If we don’t punish, we can get punished. So it’s football, but we are going to stand up and work. We have work to do. That’s what life is about and what this moment is about. That’s what is going to make us better because this is a process.” – Luchi Gonzalez
The Player Changes
With FC Dallas going to play 3 games in 8 days, with 2 of those games being LAFC in 8 days, squad rotation was expected. Ryan Hollingshead was tasked with playing right-wing. Given that Ryan has been playing left-back for this team, one can’t really expect him to quickly and easily make the change from a defensive player to an attacking player. It wasn’t the best game for Hollingshead, but it is hard when FCD is lacking in depth in the winger department.
Pablo Aranguiz played as a 10 today, which is his strongest position, and he looked great visually. He had 1 shot, 3 chances the created (most tied with Acosta), 74 touches, 53 passes with an 83% pass accuracy (3rd highest on the team).
John Nelson impressed which further strengthens the argument that he was the biggest success of the draft pick. He was defensively sound and very confident in tight space and under pressure. He finished with 90 touches, 56 passes, 85.7% pass accuracy, and 1 tackle.
Let’s Get Ready
FC Dallas has arguably overperformed and exceeded expectation so far into the season and we may begin to see them “regress-to-the-mean”. Things are likely to get difficult for FCD and Luchi Gonzalez as they take on the LAFC in their next two games. They are hit with injury woes as Santiago Mosquera and Badji got injured in this game. Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and Edwin Cerrillo are leaving for the U-20 World cup and Bryan Acosta and Carlos Gruezo will most likely leave for their national teams for summer tournaments. If both players are called in, there will a period about 2 weeks there FCD’s midfield will be low on players (if the USA goes all the way in the World Cup).
It looks like FCD has hit a style roadblock and can’t find their rhythm in games. Teams have likely begun to figure out ways to pick apart Luchi Ball with pressing and man-marking being the most effective methods to stop FCD. This is all part of the process for Luchi and FCD and one must hope (and I do believe) that Luchi will learn and adapt from this. Its going to be important to be patient with this team as these summer months will prove to likely be difficult.
It’s a process and there is a learning curve for everyone on this team and we just must wait it out. The important thing is that FCD, under Luchi Gonzalez, has a special project that shows lots of promise that could produce wonderful players and soccer.
Featured Image: FC Dallas