Dallas has dropped back-to-back games to Montreal and New York Red Bulls and comes back home to face Vancouver in desperate need of three points. This week, let’s look at three things the Burn must improve if they want to pick up three points against the Whitecaps.

More crosses

The wingback play of this team has become an almost tiring talking point, but as long as Nico Estevez and his staff continue to persist with the 3-4-2-1, it will continue to be a worthy point. Much has been discussed about the defensive positioning of the wingbacks and the issues they’ve had on that side of the ball, but the offensive side has been lackluster as well. Put simply, Dallas needs to get more balls into the box on crosses. To this point, Dallas has only had 14 successful crosses for the season, which is just not good enough. Unlike previous seasons, Dallas has a true target forward (two of them, in fact, considering Logan Farrington’s size) in Petar Musa, a player who can rise up and meet crosses in the air as well as find space in the box for balls on the ground. But, to this point, Dallas has largely looked to play through the middle.

I’m not at all saying that the Burn need to go out and just spam cross after cross after cross into the box, praying that Musa is able to make something of one of them at some point, but consider that Dallas’ only shot on target in open play against the Red Bulls came from an aerial cross that met Musa’s head, Dallas’ goal against Montreal came from a switch of play that resulted in Kamungo using his head to cross the ball to Musa and Dallas’ first goal against San Jose came from a ball recycled back out from a corner, and you have a lot of early evidence that just getting the ball into the box is going to reap rewards for the Burn. They need to do it in greater volume against Vancouver.

Win the wingback battle

Vancouver will likely be the second team Dallas will play in 2024 that will also play a back 3 formation. Montreal was the first, and the team formerly known as the Impact showed the Burn the importance of wingback play. Ruan and Ariel Lassiter significantly outplayed Dante Sealy and Bernie Kamungo in that game, and Montreal regularly attacked in behind the Dallas wingbacks, creating both goals from runs made by Ruan in behind the Dallas defense.

The wingback play so far has been one of Dallas’ biggest issues in 2024, with players like Dante Sealy, Herbert Endeley, Bernard Kamungo, and even Paul Arriola essentially having to learn how to play the position properly on the fly. The defensive positioning from Sealy and Arriola was much improved against the Red Bulls, but Dallas needs more from the wingbacks in the attack. More importantly, Sealy and Arriola, who seem to be most likely to start against Vancouver, need to win their individual battle against their opposing numbers. If they can accomplish that, it will go a long way towards Dallas having success against the Whitecaps.

Don’t get caught in transition

Much like in 2022 and 2023, when Dallas has been able to organize defensively, they have held up quite well, allowing very few goal-scoring opportunities or even shots in general. Transition opportunities are always dangerous in soccer for any team; it is why smaller and less talented teams sit deep and play on the counter against stronger teams. But this version of FCD is perhaps even more susceptible to the transition game in 2024 due to the move to the 3-4-2-1. With Dallas’ approach in pitch control staying consistent, the wingbacks and outside center-backs have found themselves really high up the pitch. This is not inherently a problem, but if the ball turns over, as it did from a wayward Jesus Ferreira pass in the second half against New York, it leaves considerable gaps in the Dallas defense for teams to quickly attack, as the Red Bulls demonstrated as they quickly found Emil Forsberg on the break which in turn was able to get a cross into Lewis Morgan for the game-winning goal. Both goals Dallas conceded against Montreal, as well as the lone goal conceded to San Jose, came in similar kinds of transition situations.

This is a difficult thing to address. Dallas, especially at home, is not going to suddenly become a team that will sit deep and play extremely cautious to completely avoid these situations. The wingbacks are going to get high up the pitch, and the center-backs are going to support the attack. Dallas must execute better offensively and avoid some of the poor turnovers they’ve had to minimize the danger in these scenarios. The Dallas midfield must also be very quick to react if the ball does turn over to prevent the backline from being put into poor situations. This is all easier said than done, but it will be crucial for Dallas to figure out this part of the game if they want to be successful with this formation in 2024.

What do you think FCD needs to do to get back into the win column on Saturday night? Let me know in the comments below!

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