FC Dallas have entered the final stretch of the MLS regular season and started things off with a disappointing home draw against Seattle followed by the elation of a huge road win in Salt Lake. This week, we’ll look at three ways Dallas improved from the Seattle game to get the three points in Salt Lake.

1) Offensive cohesion

The Burn offense, not a particularly prolific unit in general, felt especially disjointed against the Sounders. Only on a few occasions, almost all in the first half, was Dallas able to string together passes and generate chances on Stefan Frei’s goal. In the second half, it dried up completely as Dallas failed to register a single shot on target. Seattle should definitely get credit for playing solid defense, they are the best defensive unit in terms of goals conceded in the west but with the talent Dallas has up front, they really should have been able to produce more. Dallas’ talisman and top scorer Jesus Ferreira looked especially out of sorts as he struggled to find the game.

It took a little while in Salt Lake on Wednesday night, but Dallas was able to flip the script and put together some real quality chances and looks offensively. FCD’s first goal, a lovely sweeping move that saw Paul Arriola score his third goal of the season, and second in three games, was one of the most aesthetically pleasing goals they’ve scored all season. They then did what seemed to be absolutely impossible and actually earned a penalty kick in an MLS game as Marcelo Silva bundled over Jader Obrian in the box. Finally, they capitalized on an RSL mistake as Obrian and Ferreira worked a nice combination into an easy finish for Ferreira’s brace. It wasn’t total domination by any means but it was lovely to see the Dallas offense generate chances of real quality and show some of the clinical finishing that has been lacking in 2023. It is a good time of the season for things to start coming together on that front.

2) Forcing (and capitalizing on) errors

Going hand in hand with the offensive struggles against Seattle, Dallas failed to trouble the Seattle defense in any significant way in terms of forcing turnovers. Dallas’ offensive success in 2023 has been heavily dependent on rapid transition and when they fail to turn teams over in dangerous spots, it becomes a bit of a slog for FCD. Again, it is worth noting that Seattle are a quality team and part of the reason they are so high in the standings is because they don’t make the kind of errors that Dallas thrives on but if Dallas wants to do anything in the playoffs, they’ll need to be able to force good teams into bad mistakes.

And that’s exactly what they did on Wednesday against RSL. Jesus Ferreira missed a great opportunity to chip Zac MacMath in the first half as MacMath did well to scramble back and make the save but in the second half Dallas was ruthless in taking advantage of RSL mistakes. Nkosi Tafari’s lovely pass caught Marcelo Silva out as Obrian ran in behind him and earned the penalty as Silva clattered through him to try to win the ball. Crucially, Jesus Ferreira was able to capitalize on FCD’s first penalty in well over a year to put Dallas into the lead. Dallas’ press then forced Justen Glad into trying to thread a pass into a tight window where Dallas was able to turn RSL over in midfield and then transition rapidly to lead to the third goal and kill the game. It was great to see Dallas actually attack the box aggressively in this game. Far too often the Burn fall into a pattern of trying to pass around the opposition box or go backwards in opportunities where they can press an advantage or take a risk going forward. Hopefully this continues in the last 6 games of the season.

3) Improving after halftime

Both games were a tale of two halves in very different ways. Against Seattle, Dallas started strongly, putting early pressure on Seattle and getting their goal within the first 15 minutes of the first half. Dallas would, as usual, rue some missed chances and had opportunities to extend their lead going into halftime. But after the halftime break, the script flipped completely and Dallas’ offense completely dried up. They generated a couple of early shots but went the bulk of the second half completely failing to test the Sounders defense while Seattle put pressure on Dallas, ultimately scoring 10 minutes into the second half and coming close to pulling off a last second winner on a counter opportunity. Dallas was just flat, it was like Seattle made a number of adjustments and came out hungry while Dallas was complacent.

It was the complete opposite in Salt Lake on Wednesday. Dallas started rather flat, allowing RSL a number of early opportunities that forced Maarten Paes to make some crucial saves to keep Dallas in it. They settled into the game decently enough before conceding late in the first half, a trend that has been far too common through 2023. It was a gut punch that looked like it might spell disaster for the Burn, but they came out of the halftime break a different team. They didn’t make significant tactical changes or anything like that, but they played cleaner and with more purpose and were able to generate a number of high quality chances while also limiting RSL as they mounted their comeback. RSL ended the half with a lot of shots on goal, but a high number of these were after Dallas had made it 3-1 and began sitting back absorbing pressure to kill the game.

Ultimately, Dallas needs to be able to put together a complete game. Combining the first half against Seattle with the second half against RSL would make for an incredible performance, the type of performance that Dallas has struggled to put together all season, but if the team is going to have one half be better than the other, it is usually going to be better to improve after halftime instead of regressing. Let’s hope that trend can continue down the stretch.

How are you feeling following the first round of Saturday/Wednesday games? Let me know in the comments below!

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