FC Dallas returned to playing competitive soccer for the first time after in nearly 5 months.
Both FC Dallas and Nashville SC were removed from the MLSisBack tournament and have been waiting to return to playing a game.
FC Dallas lost the first game 1-0 in a disappointing match where they felt that could’ve come away at least a point.
The second match showed more of the dominance that FC Dallas can make when given ball possession though they could not find the back of the net and drew to a scoreless draw.
A new start and a new formation for FC Dallas’ first game back. Luchi Gonzalez went for the 3-5-2 with newcomer Franco Jara getting his first appearance and start in an FC Dallas uniform. Bressan featured in the backline along with Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges.
FC Dallas were patient in their play and continued their build-up from the back of the field. Reggie Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead both got up and down the field, creating a numbers advantage in the attack and defense. Bryan Acosta, Thiago Santos, and Jesus Ferreira rotated within the midfield and allowing the team shape as a whole to morph with the shape of the team.
Nashville SC decided to sit back and try to attack FC Dallas on the counter-attack, hoping to catch the homeside. Nashville wasn’t in much of a hurry to press against FC Dallas but rather contain any forward advancements made by the homeside.
Luchi Gonzalez made his first substitutions with Paxton Pomykal and Ricardo Pepi for Jesus Ferreira and Franco Jara respectively, in the 59th minute.
Gary Smith made his first two changes with Abu Danladi and Alistair Johnston coming in for Daniel Rios and Brayan Beckless respectively in the 67th minute.
Luchi Gonzalez, not wanting to stay shutout, brought in Tanner Tessmann and Zdenek Ondrasek for Thiago Santos and Reto Ziegler respectively.
Meanwhile, Dominique Badji came in for Derrick Jones as Nashville similarly was looking to come away with the full three points. Matt LaGrassa and David Accam came in for Abu Danladi and Hany Mukhtar as Nashville’s final subs in the 82nd minute.
It didn’t take long for David Accam to be the impact sub after he received and dribbled the ball down the left side of the field, cutting inwards to score on the top of the box to give Nashville the lead and the second goal in the club’s time in MLS.
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) August 13, 2020
FC Dallas would end the night goalless and their first game back yielded 0 points.
After a lengthy rain delay, FC Dallas kicked off the game at 11:07:06 PM.
Luchi Gonzalez made a formation change, reverting back to what at first appeared to be 4-3-3. John Nelson replaced Ryan Hollingshead at the left fullback position. Paxton Pomykal started on the left-wing while Franco Jara played underneath Zdenek “Kobra” Ondrasek.
FC Dallas started the game with a high intensity trying to not only keep possession of the ball but made attempts to get forward quickly. Nashville wanted to contain FC Dallas while going forward on the counter-attack.
FC Dallas started the second half with the same intensity and continued to press forward, hoping to take the lead and control the match. Nashville began to press more and wanted to transition quickly.
Fafa Picault and Jesus Ferreira were Luchi Gonzalez’s first substitutions of the night as they came in for Paxton Pomykal and Zdenek Ondrasek respectively. Franco Jara made way for Ricardo Pepi as Jara is still becoming acclimated to his new team and the Texas climate. Santiago Mosquera was brought on as a set of fresh legs for Michael Barrios.
Despite the strong start it was not meant to be for FC Dallas as they came away with only 1-point and were shutout by Nashville over 90 minutes.
Thoughts & Takeaways
Before the MLS season, Luchi Gonzalez had plans to play a 3-5-2 against NYCFC. Against Nashville, Coach Gonzalez got the chance to deploy this new formation along with new players: Franco Jara and Bressan (while not a new player, a newer face to the normal backline of Ryan Hollingshead, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, and Reggie Cannon).
Highlighting the attack was Franco Jara and Michael Barrios. Jara fed off the movement and disorganization created by Barrios to find space to attack. While it wasn’t the night and debut that Franco Jara wanted, there were moments that his abilities did shine.
Jara is a player that can change games and create moments (as he has done at Pachuca) and as he becomes more acclimated to his new team:
“I need to adapt to this heat and this rhythm of the game,” Franco Jara told the media after the first game (in Spanish).
“It’s not an excuse but it’s been over 170 days since I’ve last played a competitive game. I will be working on my rhythm step by step, and I think it’s a little disappointing to not finish out the game for my team. But I will work to be in my best form and to be up top with my teammates. That is my goal to get in the best shape possible.”
The midfield trio of Jesus Ferreira, Thiago Santos, and Bryan Acosta was all fluid in their movement on and off the ball. Jesus Ferreira had a tendency to cut out wide to the left which caused fullback Ryan Hollingshead to cut inward towards the midfield. Thiago Santos and Bryan Acosta rotated about each other and did drop deep at the moment which did leave a hole in the midfield. Though, this hole would be filled with either fullbacks or Ferreira.
The defensive three of Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, and Bressan similarly had flexibility in their line and were not a rigid backline. When FC Dallas had the ball, the fullbacks moved up their respective flanks, both outside backs (Ziegler and Bressan) would move outward which is when one of the central midfielders would drop in.
There was a high amount of flexibility in the defensive shape which gave FC Dallas a number advantage in each phase of play.
This flexibility allowed FC Dallas to have seamless transitions from attack to defense and vice versa.
“Just talking about my new role in this formation, part of it is to be more deadly because the fullbacks are the ones pushing ahead and creating the opportunities that we have,” Reggie Cannon said about the new formation.
“Unfortunately tonight, Nashville had a very good, solid defense. We were creating chances but just not getting that final touch. That’s been the story in many games, we just have to find it and when it clicks, it clicks. Honestly, this formation revolves around the fullbacks: They’ve got to do the most, run the most, and be the most active. We take that on our shoulders and try to be better on Sunday.”
FC Dallas started the game with high intensity and a sense of urgency. The response from the players is what fans and the coaching staff would’ve wanted from their team after a disappointing loss in the first game.
FC Dallas continued to move forward up the field and wanted to play the ball in space. During the (first) preseason, FC Dallas spent time working on playing vertically and not being afraid to switch the ball. Both aspects of that began to show in this game.
Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler helped initiate the sudden movement forward by playing a long ball to the attack if given the space and opportunity. Paxton Pomykal, even though on the wing, did come inside and at times pulled a Nashville player with him which allowed John Nelson to make an overlapping run into space.
FC Dallas tends to build-up well and makes the passing combinations to create quality chances but the execution in the final third is missing. Franco Jara was brought in to score goals for the team but it is difficult if the ball isn’t consistently getting into position for the strikers.
FC Dallas, and Nashville, are both trying to find their form given their removal from the FC Dallas is back tournament. For the players, these first few competitive matches will be key to regain their sharpness during matches as well as executing the game-plan against opponents.
Understandably, FC Dallas will not be up to their peak form as the rest of the league is. Despite the constant train that Luchi Gonzalez and his staff have undergone, play competitive matches is what allows a team to be competitive and build match sharpness. With more games, FC Dallas will find their form again and will be able to consistently compete with the rest of the league.
For FC Dallas, Luchi Gonzalez, and his players, they will all want to be ready for the coming season and be able to not only make the playoffs but also make a deep run for MLS Cup. FC Dallas has a strong team that can be competitive and there was a confident mood that the team could go and with the MLSisBack Tournament. With the addition of Franco Jara and Andres Ricaurte, FC Dallas can be a serious contender for MLS Cup.
Though, with the reduced season, FC Dallas, like North Texas SC, may be pressed to find match form quicker than a regular full-length season may provide. With both games complete, FC Dallas and Luchi Gonzalez have plenty to work and focus on for the rest of the season.
FC Dallas will head south on I-45 to play against Houston Dynamo in the first match of the Texas Derby on Friday, August 21st at 7:00 PM.
Featured Image: Cooper Neill