FC Dallas finally snapped their 7 game winless streak with a huge win over Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake, handing RSL their first loss at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2022. This week, we’ll look at three things that went right for FC Dallas to get their first win since May.

1) The bunker (finally) worked

Throughout 2022 when leading matches, FC Dallas has tried to bunker down, play defensively, focus on limiting opposition chances and hit teams on the counter. This was no different during FCD’s 7 game winless run and particularly in the previous 4 matches in which FCD blew their leads in the last 15 minutes of matches. Put simply, it wasn’t working. Though FCD did generally limit chances for opposing teams, it wasn’t enough as week after week it seemed that another team was able to break through the FCD bunker and score equalizing or winning goals as FCD repeatedly dropped points.

Well, for the first time in months, the bunker finally worked on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. For the entire second half, along with the last 10 minutes or so of the first half, FCD were virtually nonexistent as an attacking force, even electing to shift to a hyper defensive 5-4-1 formation for the majority of the second half. They certainly suffered due to this choice as RSL sent wave after wave of attacks toward the FCD defense, racking up 25 shots and controlling a whopping 80% of possession in the second half. But FCD was able to prevent any massive chances in the second half as RSL was largely resigned to trying shots from outside the box (Justin Meram came the closest late in the match) or trying to whip in crosses (RSL racked up 33 of them over the course of the game), but Maarten Paes only wounded up being tested a total of 5 times throughout the game, with most of those shots on target actually coming in the first half.

To be clear, this really isn’t a sustainable tactic (more on that in point 3) and it is not something that I would like to see Dallas continue to do going forward, at least not to this extreme extent. But considering the challenges of playing in the Salt Lake altitude, RSL’s lofty home record (they had won their previous 10 home games), and more than anything, the effect that grinding out this win should have on the team’s collective mentality, it really could not have worked out better for FCD.

2) Early pressing was deadly

Before FCD set up shop in their own end and absorbed massive amounts of pressure, they were actually pressing high up the field. The first 7 or 8 minutes of the game were a bit of a mess with RSL largely imposing themselves, but once FCD settled, they were able to generate sustained pressure with the high press and force a number of turnovers in RSL’s defensive third. The first couple of these turnovers generated high quality shots from Alan Velasco and Paxton Pomykal but Velasco’s shot was saved by Zac MacMath and Pomykal blazed his shot just over the bar. But the third big forced turnover was the charm as FCD won the ball on an RSL throw in deep in their half and quickly turned that into a goal as Pomykal found Jesus Ferreira in the box and Ferreira neatly tucked the ball into the corner. It was the exact type of goal that Nico Estevez and his staff likely dreamed about scoring when planning for the game and it was great to see FCD’s press, which has been effective at various points throughout the season, generate so many early scoring chances that the offense was able to capitalize on. Don’t be surprised to see this trend of early pressing, especially on the road, continue through the rest of the season, especially as the season draws to a close and temperatures cool off a bit.

3) Cut down the giveaways and had a bit of luck on their side

One of the things that plagued FCD during their winless run were poor giveaways, often times leading directly to goals. Most recently, the giveaway that led to Austin’s equalizer was an especially egregious example as FCD were largely in control of the game and allowed a moment of pure sloppiness and switching off to beat them. These kinds of moments were largely absent against RSL as FCD was quite safe at the back and in midfield, cutting down on poor turnovers and silly mistakes. Maarten Paes in goal also completely eliminated some of the moments he has had this year where he has spilled shots in poor areas and was completely sure-handed in goal.

That being said, to be completely fair to RSL and fully acknowledge the situation, FCD also had some luck on their side they haven’t had in other games during this run. RSL’s finishing was down right woeful. Only getting 5 shots on target from 25 shots total is brutal, especially considering RSL had 10 shots in the FCD box. FCD is no stranger to that kind of poor finishing themselves and has also been no stranger to opponents getting some fortunate bounces go their way. It was nice to see some of that kind of stuff fall for FCD for once this season.

How are you feeling about FCD’s first win since late May? Do you feel like the team will turn around their fortunes in the coming weeks? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured Image: MLSSoccer.com
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