In the penultimate home match of the season, FC Dallas hosted New York City FC in what was a must-win game for Los Toros.

It was not going to be an easy match taking on the first-place team in the Eastern Conference as FC Dallas faced competition that they most likely will meet in the playoffs. After a less than stellar start, FC Dallas was able to pull the result back and finish the game with points being shared in a 1-1 draw.

The Game

It wasn’t the ideal start to the game as NYCFC got a very early goal from Castellanos from a cross by Tinnerholm from the right side of the box.

The early goal really forced FC Dallas to be aggressive and both teams played a competitive game. There was a clash of heads between Brandon Servania and Anton Tinnerholm and Tinnherholm was eventually substituted out of the game in the 23rd minute. Brandon Servania couldn’t hold out much longer as he was also substituted out in the 27th minute for Paxton Pomykal.

FC Dallas continued to press on the second half but NYCFC was forcing FC Dallas to play more conservatively. The first half ended with the home side being down 0-1.

FC Dallas came out in the second half much more fluid though NYCFC wasn’t letting up on the pressure.

Dominique Badji was the second player substituted for FC Dallas as Santiago Mosquera came in the 58th minute.

Zdenek “Cobra” Ondrasek gave FC Dallas and their fans some hope after recovering the ball in the box and volleying the ball into the bottom corner of the goal to level things at one goal each.

FC Dallas kept looking and looking for the goal that could secure them the three points though after numerous attempts FC Dallas and New York City FC split the points.

Thoughts & Takeaways

NYCFC’s Tactics

While lots of the focus is on FC Dallas, New York City FC displayed some tactical moments of interest that challenged FC Dallas and other moments that FC Dallas was able to exploit. Something that MLS fans are aware of is the small field that NYCFC plays on at Yankee Stadium. The speed of play on the outfield on the baseball field also yields in a slower-paced game as the ball moves slower than that of the pitch at Toyota Stadium. NYCFC has adopted a pressing game that looks to overwhelm teams with their smaller field and slower moving ball, and it has resulted in success for them with a 10-5-1 (W-D-L) home record.

NYCFC aimed to play the same way against FC Dallas in the opening 30 minutes and it worked within the first minute as it resulted in a goal. Though, given the heat and moderately humid weather and the larger and faster pitch that Toyota Stadium has, the NYCFC players were not going to be able to hold out the same game plan for much of the match.

“…In the first 30 minutes, we could have scored two or three goals, but after that we were lacking,” New York City FC head coach Domenec Torrent stated after the match. “We played maybe 30-35 minutes amazing, maybe the best away game… I told my players about that because sometimes in playoffs you lose control and you have to defend compactly and use the ball to counterattack.”

What NYCFC was able to do continuously throughout the match was have tactical discipline and commitment to a game plan and play as a single unit. This was evident on the press and on the transitions from defense to attack and vice versa. This afforded FC Dallas little space to work with and thus resulted in much of the attack originating in the middle of the field and being played out to the wings.

FCD Passing vs. NYCFC
FCD Passing vs. NYCFC. Notice the fanned out passing from center of the Dallas half. | Photo:

The ability of NYCFC moving as a unit has played a large part to their success in being a successful team in MLS this season with limited “star players.” This discipline and awareness to helps them to stay balanced and give up a few pockets of space for opposition teams to work with. The idea of playing as a unit was evident in NYCFC’s defense as a cross from FC Dallas players and attempted an attack from the top of the box was met with an organized distribution of NYCFC defenders.

Playing tactically sound teams will be something that Luchi Gonzalez and his team are going to have to account for if they enter the playoffs and hope to make a run at MLS Cup this year.

First 30 Minutes

It goes without saying that giving up a goal in the first minute of the match isn’t the right way to start a match. The concerning thing was how reactive FC Dallas was in the opening 30 minutes of the game. FC Dallas didn’t really find their rhythm until the water-break in the first half.

“It was a roller coaster emotionally just because it couldn’t have started worse,” Luchi Gonzalez told reporters after the match. “First play of the game, we conceded, and we didn’t do anything we talked about in the first play. Took us 25-30 min to shake it off. It was important that we didn’t concede again quickly because they could have scored again, and that’s a credit to Jesse and the backline. They literally saved us in some crucial places.”

Credit does go to the defense for keeping FC Dallas in the match and not faltering under the constant pressure that NYCFC was applying. There was a disconnect between the midfield and the attacking players for FC Dallas as the Dallas players were unsure as to how to handle the NYCFC press. With multiple numbers closing in on the player with the ball, it limited the options that the advanced Dallas players had. Dallas has played against teams that press and man-mark, so the situation wasn’t an unfamiliar one. How FC Dallas responds in moments such as the ones presented in this match has highlighted this season and will determine the amount of success that FC Dallas fans can hope from their team in the remainder of the season.

Final 60 Minutes

The water-break was the change that allowed FC Dallas to go about controlling the match. The response is that of what FC Dallas has displayed at home in August and September. The players played with confidence and an energy that allowed them to have a strong attacking presence. This was the needed response and change of style that allowed FC Dallas to earn a goal back.

“I think our energy and our push and our response to get numbers forward, to press better, together, be more aggressive,” Luchi Gonzalez stated about how his team responded. “I think over the course of the last part of the first half and certainly the second half, New York [City FC] started to drop off. They are a good team and were trying to find solutions short. In the end they started to stretch with some direct play… It was us being more aggressive, showing more energy, and desire because we didn’t want to lose this game and New York seeing the momentum shift and tactically and probably playing more conservative and absorb more.”

It goes back to the mentality of the team. By responding with energy, this caused NYCFC to sit further back and resulted in a game where Dallas controlled the latter two-thirds of the game. The way FC Dallas has been able to read how the game is developing in the match has improved and has allowed them to be competitive in matches. It is a matter of bringing out the energy and focus from the first whistle in the game and carrying that energy through the entirety of the match.

FC Dallas heads on the road for their penultimate match of the MLS season as they will face the Colorado Rapids who have gone on a successful stretch of games recently. The match can be viewed on Sunday, September 9th at 6:30 PM on TXA21 for viewers in DFW and ESPN+ for viewers outside of DFW.

Featured Image: FC Dallas
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