FC Dallas lost hold of Copa Tejas but remained undefeated against Austin FC with yet another draw on Saturday. Let’s look at three takeaways from the game.
1) Best performance in weeks
Although the result was undoubtedly a huge disappointment (more on that on the next two points!), the actual in-game performance against Austin was the best the team has put out in some time. FCD recorded 2.4 xG while only giving up 0.7 xG to Austin, meaning they had the bulk of the chances while holding Austin to relatively few chances. FCD regularly found a lot of space behind the Austin defense and the attack looked more dangerous than it has at any point during this 10 game run with only a single win. Additionally, FCD looked far more solid defensively than they have in recent weeks, only conceding a small number of chances to a very potent Austin offense. With the rivalry in mind, it is easy to forget that Austin came into the game as supporters shield leaders on terrific form. It is encouraging that Dallas was able to exert as much positive play over the game as they were able to. This is a trend that needs to continue if FCD wants to get out of this run of bad form.
2) Yet another blown lead
Throughout the season, and especially in this 7 game winless run, FCD has blown lead after lead after lead. Following the Austin capitulation, OptaJack tweeted a pretty remarkable stat: FC Dallas has drawn the last four matches in which it has held the lead in the 75th minute or later. Those matches being Austin at home, Houston away, Miami at home and Austin away. Falling behind after having a lead is always painful in this sport but doing so with such frequency late in the games is absolutely killer and there is little doubt that it has effected the team’s mentality late in games. Anecdotally, the body language from some of the FCD players following Diego Fagundez’s game tying goal on Saturday was tough to watch. Heads in hands, players slumped on the ground, no one really looked like they had an attitude of “let’s go get another goal”, it felt more like “here we go again.”
FCD has dropped 15 points from winning positions over the course of the season, only the Revolution with a staggering 24 points dropped have dropped more. This is a young team, one of the youngest in the league, and there are undoubtedly going to be growing pains with a new coach and a team trying to turn around from the second worst season in club history in 2021. At this point, it feels like FCD just needs to hold on to one lead. Similar to how a goal scorer in a drought just needs to see a ball hit the back of the net, FCD as a collective, from staff to players, just need to hold on to one lead and see the three points added to their tally at the end of the match.
3) Too defensive too soon?
Throughout the season there has been a clear defensive emphasis from Nico Estevez in his staff. This is completely understandable considering the frankly shocking defensive record of this team in 2021 and the turnaround with largely the same group of players in defense in 2022 has been stellar. Early in the season, particularly on the road, FCD played a very pragmatic and risk averse game, essentially trying to stifle offensive play in general, resulting in a lot of low scoring affairs where opposing teams hardly even registered any shots on target.
As soon wore on and FCD tried to step out of their comfort zone and play more open, along with some injuries and shuffling in the back line, the team began conceding more chances and more goals. In a number of games this season, FCD has spent the first 60-70 minutes playing an open and offensive minded game, playing on the front foot and often taking one or two goal leads, before making subs and tactical changes to revert to the risk-averse defensive minded approach. However, as we’ve seen in point number two, this has not been a success, with teams regularly scoring late in games against FCD to equalize or win.
My thought on this is FCD is making too drastic of a change in philosophy and often doing so too soon. The game against Austin exemplified this. For the better part of 65-70 minutes, FCD was in complete control of the game, creating a number of great goal scoring opportunities that could have seen them 2 or 3-0 up by the 70th minute. But when those goals didn’t come and fatigue began to creep in with the team, the substitutions came along with the tactical shift and suddenly Austin found new life, ultimately scoring off of a poor FC Dallas turnover in their own half. For the last 10 minutes, FCD had little to offer going forward to try to get the winner and it was Austin that ultimately seemed more likely to get a winner. This kind of thing has been too commonplace over the past couple months. I’d prefer to see FCD try to stay on the front foot late in games, as challenging and risky as that may be, to try to grab another goal on the opposition to put the game away, instead of trying to absorb pressure for 20-30 minutes every time they have a lead.
What are your thoughts as to where this team is it? Will FCD pull itself out of their run of bad form or are things not likely to change any time soon? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Stewart F. House