FC Dallas rode a 5th-minute Houston red card to a 2-0 win over their Texas Derby rivals, but what can be taken from a game in which the Burn had a man advantage for 85 minutes?

Let’s look at three things Dallas can take from the derby win moving forward.

1) Marco Farfan is Back

FCD’s mainstay at left-back for the past two seasons finally made his season debut against the Dynamo. He started in place of Dante Sealy at left wingback and played the first 45 minutes before being subbed out at halftime. Farfan made perhaps the biggest play of the game when his darting run triggered a lovely ball into space from Liam Fraser that Farfan picked up ahead of Houston’s Griffin Dorsey, who bundled over Farfan outside the box and picked up a 5th-minute red card.

Beyond that moment, Farfan played as Dallas fans would expect after seeing him in 2022 and 2023. He’s a consistently willing runner, defends very well, and is generally a smart player on both sides of the ball. Farfan felt like a stabilizing force on that side of the field after the inconsistent start to the season at that position from Dante Sealy. Farfan’s return isn’t going to singlehandedly turn Dallas’ season around, but it feels like a big step in getting things working better on the left side.

2) Returning to the Back 4?

Following the red card, it was really a tale of two halves for FCD for the remainder of the game. Dallas basically stuck to the same general setup and personnel that they started with following the red card, playing out of the back 3 with Patrickson and Paul Arriola playing underneath Petar Musa. The results were…not great. Dallas put up 11 shots in the first half but only managed to get one on target, a shot from Petar Musa that came from a ball over the top of the Houston backline delivered from Nkosi Tafari. Not exactly masterful stuff in terms of breaking down Houston’s compact defense. A lot of the same chance creation issues that have been seen throughout the season were there in the first half, and although Dallas controlled the game, they didn’t really look much like scoring.

In the second half, Nico Estevez made a rare halftime substitution, bringing on Bernie Kamungo for Marco Farfan. This accompanied a bit of a tactical change, with the team moving into more of a back 4 look. Sam Junqua moved to a left-back position and pushed high up the field while Kamungo took up a spot on the right wing, allowing him to cut inside on this left and Ema Twumasi to get forward from right back. This combination created Musa’s opening goal as Kamungo created some havoc by cutting inside, a loose ball fell to Twumasi, who made a quick, aggressive turn and played in Musa who took his goal well. This wasn’t exactly something that couldn’t have been created in the back 3 look, but the entire team looked more comfortable playing out of a more familiar back 4 shape. Tafari and Ibeagha rarely looked troubled at any point in the second half as they formed their familiar partnership, and Sam Junqua threatened consistently down the left-hand side.

But the introduction of Jesus Ferreira and the shift to a 4-4-2 look are really what changed things (more on Ferreira shortly). At that point, Dallas really looked dangerous, and it wasn’t long before their 1-0 lead turned into a 2-0 advantage from a short corner routine that found Ibeagha’s head.

I don’t think this second-half performance will herald an immediate return to a back-four formation moving forward, but surely Nico Estevez and his staff will have noticed a difference in how the team attacked in the two different shapes against 10 men. Don’t be surprised to see more frequent shifts into the back four in games moving forward.

3) The Ferreira-Musa Connection

Jesus Ferreira made his first appearance in quite some time, coming on as a second-half sub in the 67th minute. This gave him and Musa about 23 minutes to try to form an on-field connection that just hasn’t really been seen so far in 2024, largely due to Ferreira missing the majority of the season thus far. But those 23 minutes brought some encouraging signs. One is that Ferreira, unlike his appearances earlier in the season, was largely positionally sound, staying high and not dropping way too deep as has become all too common in the last year or so.

The second was a single moment, but one that felt like it could be replicated in the future. Ferreira found Musa in the box with a lovely ball over the backline. Musa’s touch wasn’t quite perfect, and the Houston defense was able to get in and block his shot, but it was the exact kind of look that everyone around the club probably imagined when Musa was signed.

The hope moving forward will be that Ferreira can stay healthy and disciplined and continue to further that connection with Dallas’ record singing.

Where does Dallas go from here after beating Houston? 

PHOTO: FC Dallas

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