After two and a half seasons, Luchi Gonzalez was relieved from his duties as FC Dallas manager last Sunday, replaced by long-time FC Dallas assistant coach and current Director of Soccer Operations Marco Ferruzzi.

Let’s look at three on-field changes to expect in Ferruzzi’s first game in charge of the team against Vancouver this weekend.

1) A More Defensive Mindset

Photo: FC Dallas

For anyone who has watched this team over the past month or so, this change should come as no real surprise. FC Dallas has conceded 15 goals in their last six games and has conceded 3 goals in 4 out of their last 5 games. Simply put, that is not acceptable at the professional level. It certainly is not a recipe for positive results on the field, which fans have seen on display as FCD has only 2 wins in their last 10 matches, both wins coming against lowly Austin FC. Ultimately, the team’s inability to keep goals out of the back of their net played a massive role in Luchi Gonzalez being relieved of his job.

From the start of his still-young tenure as interim manager, Marco Ferruzzi has talked about increasing his team’s intensity and has mentioned potentially having to “sacrifice” some things to be more defensively solid. It isn’t too hard to read between the lines there to see what Ferruzzi is getting at, look for FCD to sit a bit deeper, particularly in midfield, and generally care less about maintaining possession than what the team did under Luchi Gonzalez.

Ferruzzi has even told the media that he might “look weird” on the sideline against Vancouver as he celebrates defensive actions such as interceptions or clearances. Ferruzzi and FC Dallas fans will hope that this renewed focus on the defensive end will translate into fewer goals conceded on the field.

2) A Slight Change in Formation

This change is likely to be a bit more subtle as, in theory, the formation is not undergoing a significant change. Since Jesus Ferreira returned to the starting lineup near the end of the spring, FC Dallas has largely employed a 4-4-1-1, allowing Ferreira to play as an off-striker paired with Ricardo Pepi up top. This formation places more of an onus on the wingers, who are really deployed more as wide midfielders, especially defensively.

The two central midfielders were largely expected to both perform as box-to-box players, with one covering for the other if they joined the attack. This was able to produce some great results in the attack for Dallas but with players constantly rotating in and out of the lineup in midfield and defense, FCD consistently looked disorganized at the back, with the wingers often not doing enough defending and leaving full-backs, who were instructed to join the attack consistently in wide areas, on an island against opposing wingers.

Ferruzzi, on the other hand, is more likely to employ a classic 4-2-3-1. Ostensibly, this is not a major departure from the 4-4-1-1, the general shape of things is not drastically different. The main difference is likely to be in the central midfield. Expect both of those players to sit a bit deeper and generally join the attack a bit less frequently than they did under Luchi Gonzalez. In general, expect this team to feel a bit more like it did under Oscar Pareja. Less of a focus on pressing, more of a focus on defensive solidity and organization, and a team that is always ready to use their pace to counter-attack. Some of these changes may be more visible in the weeks to come as Ferruzzi gets more time with the team but expect to see the seeds of these start this weekend against Vancouver.

3) A Greater Presence of Veteran Players

In the first press conference from the club after Luchi’s firing, FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt made an interesting comment about the state of the team in 2021.

He mentioned that he thought that the team was potentially playing too many of the kids, and there was perhaps a veteran presence that was missing from the team. This comment felt strange; after all, wasn’t the academy and young player development meant to be the new cornerstone of the club and one of the main reasons that Luchi was hired in the first place? Regardless of all of that, it became clear that the upper management of the club feels that the club is not necessarily finding the right balance between veterans and young homegrown players, which affects the on-field results.

With that in mind, along with Ferruzzi’s renewed focus on defense, do not at all be surprised to see a few fewer young homegrowns in the lineup against Vancouver compared to what we have seen in recent lineups.

Bressan is healthy again, and Matt Hedges has steadily been working back from the hip injury that kept him out for a large part of the season. Even with how good Nkosi Tafari has been in defense, do not be surprised to see him dropped to the bench to make room for a more experienced central defense partnership. Young goalkeeper Phelipe, who has struggled in recent matches filling in for Jimmy Maurer, has some sort of visa issue that will prevent him (along with Freddy Vargas) from traveling to Canada, so it will either be Maurer (if he is healthy) or Kyle Zobeck in goal, either option a more experienced goalkeeper than Phelipe.

I would be very surprised to see either Edwin Cerrillo or Brandon Servania get the start in central midfield, with veterans Facundo Quignon and Bryan Acosta the likely pairing. We are still likely to see the youth in the attack, the part of the team that has been successful this season, but everywhere else, expect to see veterans given every opportunity to try to the right the ship and help push the team toward an unlikely playoff berth.

What do you expect from Marco Ferruzzi’s first game in charge of FC Dallas?
Will they pull off a huge win in Vancouver?

Featured Image: FC Dallas
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