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It was Texas Derby day in DFW as FC Dallas wanted to overcome the first-leg loss in Houston. FC Dallas needed a win with a 2-goal lead to secure El Capitan for another year. Not only did they keep El Capitan but dominated the match in a 6-goal thriller that ended 5-1.

The Game

It was a slow start to the game in the second leg of the Texas Derby. FC Dallas not only wanted to keep El Capitan but earn 3-points to their playoff efforts. FC Dallas first got on the board after Bryan Acosta played a cross from the right side of the box to Dominique Badji who was fouled resulting in a penalty. Reto Ziegler scored his 5th goal (4th scored penalty kick) of the season.

It didn’t take long with Jesus Ferreira scoring his 7th goal of the season thanks to a ball laid off by Zdenek Ondrasek.

FC Dallas continued their goalscoring success thanks to Zdeněk Ondrášek after receiving the ball from a cross by Ryan Hollingshead on the left side of the field.

The Cobra wasn’t done as he earned himself yet another goal.

Paxton Pomykal was the first substitute as he came in form Dominique Badji. Ricardo Pepi ended “The Cobra’s” evening as he saw his first minutes as a professional in the Texas Derby.

In the last ten minutes of the match, Memo Rodriguez pulled a goal back for the away side.

It wouldn’t be an MLS match without a VAR review that ruled the goal offsides.

Bressan came in for Jesus Ferreira as to help secure the lead for FC Dallas.

Michael Barrios was the final nail in the coffin for FC Dallas as he scored the fifth goal.


Thoughts & Takeaways

Response

There was much importance for FC Dallas when it came to this match: nationally televised, playing the derby, must win to keep El Capitan, and a must-win game for playoff hopes. While the opening minutes of the match were slower than the rest of the match, Luchi Gonzalez had his team respond on this occasion to a spectacular result. Points are going to be valuable to every team in MLS as they hunt to secure a place in the playoffs.

The way FC Dallas has responded to needing points is just the mentality and momentum needed to carry into the final stretch of the season. The players have shown up each game ready to compete and fight and the 2nd half of the Montreal game is the perfect example of how FC Dallas has responded in matches they need results in.

We spoke earlier about Montreal, the second half being a reference,” Luchi Gonzalez told the media.  “It’s a reference for us. In this season, we are going to talk about the Montreal second half, we are going to remind ourselves to visualize what it took to get back into the game. The energy, the pressure, we needed to press, we needed to be together, we needed to commit numbers forward, we needed to have urgency, so it’s a good reference, and we can use it as a catalyst in this push at the end of the season.”

The response in-match has also been excellent. One of the changes from the beginning of the season to now is how FC Dallas has responded to being scored on. Los Toros has been attacking from the first whistle and is not waiting for a match event (like being scored on) to initiate the attacking intensity.

Mentality

One of the harder things to quantify is the confidence and morale. Earlier in the summer, during the difficult run of form, there was a sense of eagerness and unsettledness about the locker-room. The players knew that their performances weren’t getting results and they desired to change how games were ending. Though, the feeling within the team has changed.

“I don’t want to talk about playoffs,” FC Dallas striker Zdeněk Ondrášek told reporters. “Everyone is talking about playoffs, playoffs. For us, it is the next game, Cincinnati. We don’t look at the other teams. We know what we are, and we know what we have to do. We have to get as many points as possible, and that is our only target. If you want to win the league, you have to play like it is playoffs from the first game of the season, so it doesn’t matter how we lose, we know that if we win and make many points we will be there and Cincinnati is the target now.”

The mentality that “The Cobra” shared with the media is very reminiscent of FC Dallas’ mentality under Oscar Pareja in 2016: the next game mentality. While it may not a remarkable mentality, it does make sense to take things in small pieces. The MLS season is a long one, 34 games long over 8 months (9 including the playoffs). It makes sense to take the season one game at a time and learn from the previous match. Luchi Gonzalez and his staff have been learning throughout the season from each game and are going game by game in the remainder of their season.

Finer Details

Throughout the season, Luchi Gonzalez has wanted his fullbacks to not only get up the field but cut inside and have an overlapping play along the flanks. Reggie Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead displayed overlapping play as they combined with the midfield to work themselves and the ball into the attack.

Ryan Hollinshead & Reggie Cannon Passing Chart
Ryan Hollinshead’s (12) and Reggie Cannon’s (2) passing chart against Houston Dynamo | Photo: mlssoccer.com

Hollingshead had plenty of success in the midfield, as he is naturally a midfielder, while Cannon still has the majority of his passes coming from the defensive half but it is an improvement from last season and the beginning of this season.

This detail of Coach Gonzalez’s game plan has been a work in progress as Cannon and Hollingshead have worked on the timing of combining the with the interior players along with cutting inside and contributing effectively to the attack.

Jesus Ferreira has been tasked with playing in the midfield and has really made the false-10/free-8/Jesus-role (whichever is your favorite) his own. His physique and stamina to not only play in the attack but also get centrally in the field and contribute is a remarkable development.

Jesus Ferreira Passing
Jesus Ferreira passing chart against Houston Dynamo | Photo: mlssoccer.com

He is contributing from all over the field. While many of his passes are lateral or back-passes, he is setting up passing chains and starting attacks and the movement up the field.

Brandon Servania got a start after Paxton Pomykal was rested on the bench and he provided a different style in the midfield. His box-to-box nature cannot be appreciated enough as Luchi Gonzalez stated, “we decided to go a little bit more clear, six-eight-ten profile.”

Brandon Servania Passing & Defensive
Brandon Servania passing chart and defensive actions against Houston Dynamo | Photo: mlssoccer.com

Servania’s passing is neat but he also had a clear defensive presence in the game. He demonstrated the qualities of an “eight” that can help set up teammates but also provide cover for others. Brandon covered when Bryan Acosta would venture up in the field as he took on a more central role to help cover a possible Houston counterattack.

“Whenever Bryan goes forward, we have to have someone sit and I think that I am trying to do a little bit better of being aware when he goes forward,” midfielder Brandon Servania told Dallas Sports Nation. “I have to stay and cover and try to prevent those counters, especially with this team. They are very dangerous on the counter with Elis and those guys up top. I think that I was trying to be a little more mindful of that but also at the same knowing when I can get in the box and trying to get goals. I think that we did a really good job overall and glad to get the three points.”

This style of play that Servania brings to the game is valuable to thwarting advances by opposing teams when Acosta goes forward. While Ferreira and Pomykal are more attack-minded, Servania provided defensive insurance while also contributing to the attack.


FC Dallas now has six games left in the MLS season and currently sit in 7th place with 40 points. They are 1 point behind San Jose Earthquakes who have 41 points (through 27 games) and 3 points ahead of Portland Timbers (through 26 games). Three points separate seventh-place FC Dallas and second-place Real Salt Lake.


FC Dallas returns to action against FC Cincinnati on Saturday, August 31st at 7:00 PM at Toyota Stadium.

Featured Image: FC Dallas
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