Peter Luccin has now had two games as the interim coach for FC Dallas and has come away with two wins.

Let’s examine that small sample size and identify a few things that already look different about the Burn.

1) Energy and Mentality

The new manager bounce is real. In Peter Luccin’s first press conference after becoming interim head coach, he talked about energy and mentality a number of times, specifically saying that the team needed more energy and a more positive and more aggressive, fighting mentality. So far, the team has certainly delivered what Luccin is asking for. It is difficult to bear this out particularly well by pointing to any statistics, but just by watching the team play, there’s a noticeable uptick in their willingness to commit themselves going forward as well as defensively. Dallas has given up a lot of shots in these two games, too many really, but they’ve blocked a bunch of those shots and have thrown themselves around to prevent shots or dangerous passes from coming in.

What remains to be seen is if there really is just the new manager bounce or if Luccin can continue to get this out of his team for the remainder of the season. If it is the latter, the Burn might have a genuine shot at making some noise in the second half of the season.

2) Directness in Attack

Dallas’ “ideal” route to a goal hasn’t really changed much to this point; they still want to try to transition from defense to offense rapidly to create chances and score goals. What has changed is how willing Dallas is to make that transition versus playing safe and maintaining possession. In 2024, under Nico Estevez, Dallas had leaned into safe play far too often, too many times choosing the safe route, going backward or sideways, and emphasizing their control of the field and possession rather than testing and probing the opposition backline.

So far, under Luccin, Dallas seems far more willing to play even more directly. To be clear, they obviously still pass backward and sideways at times, this is not anything close to Red Bull-style energy drink soccer, where everything is forward all the time, but there’s certainly a feeling that some of the shackles have been cast off and Luccin is pushing his team to take more risks and play forward passes and balls behind opposing defenses more often. This was especially effective against Minnesota United, where Dallas was able to get in behind Minnesota’s high line over and over again to create chances and score 5 goals. Teams will adjust to Dallas over time, and how they respond to it will be important, but it is good to see the team more willing to take risks in hopes of scoring.

3) Tactical Changes

Against St Louis, Dallas came out in what was largely the same shape as they’ve played for the majority of 2024, with a 3-4-2-1 look featuring largely the same personnel as well. Just a couple of notable changes in Lletget coming in for Liam Fraser next to Illarramendi and Omar Gonzalez coming into the back 3, pushing Nkosi Tafari to the left and Sam Junqua to the bench. But other than those more attacking changes and the previously mentioned more aggressive and freer play going forward, Dallas was still set up pretty similarly tactically and largely stayed that way through the game against St Louis, with the club citing a lack of prep time for the reason to not change things.

So, it was a bit surprising that just a few days later against Minnesota, Dallas came out in a sort of 4-1-4-1 look (despite what the club’s social media lineup graphic showed). Luccin had a handful of changes from the St Louis game, with Fraser restored to the team over Lletget, Tsiki Ntsabeleng coming in for Patrickson, Sam Junqua replacing Omar Gonzalez, and Bernie Kamungo spelling Marco Farfan. It ended up being a fascinating look to start the game, with Musa playing as a high striker, Ferreira and Kamungo operating as wingers (with Ferreira often coming inside), Tsiki and Fraser playing centrally with Asier Illarramendi playing deep as a proper 6 in front of the backline of Junqua, Tafari, Ibeagha and Paul Arriola, tasked with playing as a more standard right back. However, he obviously had a license to go forward.

It gave Dallas a huge boost offensively, as Illarra dictated play from his deeper position, and the combination of Musa, Ferreira, and Kamungo caused all kinds of issues for Minnesota’s backline.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, was how this evolved over the course of the game. As the first half went on, Minnesota’s dynamic playmaker Robin Lod, who is having a massive season for the Loons, started picking up the ball in really dangerous spots, finding gaps between Illarra and the Fraser/Tsiki combination centrally. At halftime, with his team up 2-1, Luccin made a straight swap substitution, with Farfan replacing Junqua at left back (this seems like a move with eyes on this weekend’s match against Seattle), but more importantly, made a slightly tactical shift, with the Burn playing more of a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, moving Fraser a bit deeper to help Illarramendi.

It didn’t necessarily work fantastically well, as Minnesota equalized. Then Dallas immediately replaced Ntsabeleng and Kamungo with Lletget and Dante Sealy, another pair of straight swaps but ones that offered fresh legs and fresh ideas. Lletget’s ability and physicality paid off quickly as he assisted Musa’s third goal to put Dallas up 3-2. Dallas largely maintained the sort of 4-2-3-1 look after Musa came off for Logan Farrington around the 70th minute and went on to score another goal, with Farrington releasing Ferreira for a one-on-one from a counter.

But Dallas still had one more tactical change, and it came with their final sub, Omar Gonzalez, coming on for Jesus Ferreira to shift the team into a 5-4-1, something that has been commonplace in the last couple of seasons when Dallas looks to close out games. Despite the defensive shift, they still managed to get another goal, with Lletget releasing Farrington, who finished wonderfully after some great work to create the space for his shot.

Tactical flexibility was something that Nico Estevez talked a lot about wanting to showcase with his FC Dallas teams. Still, other than some small tweaks here and there or big shifts when holding the lead or chasing a game, Dallas largely kept their tactical shape and system intact over the course of most games. Luccin, with a tiny sample size, seems more willing to change things up based on how the game is going and more willing to trust his players to be able to deal with those changes and respond accordingly. Let’s hope this continues moving forward.

What are your thoughts on Peter Luccin’s first two games in charge of FC Dallas?

PHOTO: FC Dallas

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