It’s been a tale of two penalties in just four days for FC Dallas.
A fantastic finish from Franco Jara in the opening minutes against the Galaxy, along with a penalty saved by Maarten Paes was enough to give Dallas a second straight win on Saturday. On Tuesday however, Nico Lodeiro made it count from the spot to give the Sounders the points.
Both games saw interesting lineups. Dallas went with a 4-4-2 against LA as Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Facundo Quignon both dropped out with illness and injury.
Seattle was more of a rotation as the team sat Hedges, Pomykal, Ferreira, Twumasi, and Arriola from the usual XI. The three more attacking players of that group would sub in, so not a complete rest as Nico Estevez commands a very short bench.
All too often in Major League Soccer, it feels like teams worry only about their game. We know Nico is all about small adjustments to cater to the opposition, and that showed against LA as Dallas once again targeted Chase Gaspar.
In the earlier game this season, Dallas played the same ball outside of Gaspar to get behind the defense half a dozen times.
In the weekend’s win over the Galaxy, there was a clear plan to frustrate him and Eriq Zavaleta. Both earned yellow cards, there was even a moment where Alan Velasco kept taking the ball around Gaspar to bait him into picking up a second yellow. It forced Greg Vanney into a pair of half-time changes.
Similarly for Dallas against Seattle, the Sounders targeted the gaps between Joshue Quinonez and Nanu. Quinonez fell victim on the 4th-minute chance that was saved, then the long ball that turned into a penalty as Paes rushed out and fouled Jordan Morris.
And you got really what’s become expected of Nanu, not much on either side of the ball.
Somewhat frustratingly you saw two teams grinding out a 1-0 home win over the past few days.
Dallas let LA have the possession and gave up the better chances against LA in the second half to sit on a lead with a more defensive shape.
Seattle gave a masterclass in closing out a win. They gave Dallas a lot of the ball early on, then after the penalty, they turned up the pace to prevent Dallas from making any immediate comeback.
Then it was just a case of letting Dallas come at Seattle and knowing that they have guys like Nouhou and Jordan Morris for a strong counterattack against a fragile FCD back line possibly punching above its weight in the game without the leadership of Matt Hedges.
Dallas was close in the xG battle, as long as you’re talking about the nonpenalty xG count. Seattle won that count 0.52-0.48 as both teams struggled to work their way into the box. The plan was a low-scoring draw and it showed.
Nico switched his formations around in both games. Against LA, Estevez said late changes in the midfield forced him into a 4-4-2. That shape worked, it gave Jara someone to play off because he’s not quick enough to be a lone striker. Jesus Ferreira didn’t have to be in two places at once as Jara could hold up play after Ferreira dropped into the midfield. Best of all, Paxton Pomykal got to play a deeper game-controlling 8 role.
Dallas moved into a 5-2-3 later in the game, and they would start that way against Seattle. Well, in reality, it laid out as more of a 3-4-3 as the wingbacks got higher up the field.
A half-time sub in Seattle brought Ferreira in for Quinonez to set Dallas up in a more familiar 4-3-3.
This would have been a great opportunity to go back to the 4-4-2 and give Jara an outlet after a frustrating half stuck high up the field with no support. Instead, Ferreira was ineffective out of the midfield until the Pomykal sub pushed Ferreira back up front. He only had one touch in the Seattle box other than his 86th-minute header.
Going back to the diagram where it shows the passing lanes. Notice that there isn’t one between Nanu and Jader Obrian. That’s a side that isn’t working well at all.
After yet another Maarten Paes Man of the Match performance behind a saved penalty against the Galaxy, Dallas were happy to absorb pressure and let the Dutchman do what he does best.
That’s something we talked about after the RSL win in how the team has evolved in its grind-out wins after earlier relying on stopping shots altogether.
Paes was especially proud that on all three penalties he’d faced prior to Seattle, he’d gone the right way. At that point, it’s a lot of luck whether you can get enough behind the shot or if it’s just tucked too far into the corners.
Nico Lodeiro sent Paes the wrong way at Lumen Field, to add insult to the injury of giving away the penalty in a moment where he didn’t really need to rush out. It looked as though Morris was about to take the ball out wide to get on his right foot, a chance to stay on his line and just make himself big for a similar save of that against Lodeiro in the fourth minute.
Paes’ full stretch save off a later free kick showed his spirit wouldn’t crack after those two negatives. He talked a lot about suffering after the LA game and remaining stoic whether the team wins or loses. That’s a good attribute for any footballer, but especially a goalkeeper who really need to keep their emotions in check.
Now for the first of two points that aren’t really related to either game but came up on Saturday.
The transfer window closes on Thursday ahead of next month’s roster freeze. Dan Hunt spoke on the pregame show:
“We’re the second in the allocation order in Major League Soccer, so we would have the second chance to get a player coming back into the league. There’s a couple of guys looking at coming back. We also have the opportunity to maybe move a player and open up a roster spot that way. We’ve been talking to a couple of trade partners. The goal is to try to get at least one more player here that can help us finish out the season strong. And look, there’s real value in that second allocation spot. Usually, that’s a player that’s gone to Europe and had a career, maybe not played a bunch of games but could be a meaningful contributor back here in Major League Soccer.”
That sounds promising but as Technical Director Andre Zanotta told Buzz last week, there’s no cash to make anything happen. Dallas’ offseason drained its allocation money and the club is tight against the salary cap.
Richie Lareya keeps getting linked with FC Dallas. Transfer fee aside, his salary is close to $500,000 a year at Nottingham Forest, which is annoyingly less than Nanu’s $668,750 cap hit for 2022, but still not an amount Dallas can afford.
We know Szabolcs Schon was a potential sale although as a U22 player he only has a $200,000 salary cap hit. There hasn’t been much chatter other than that, and we still don’t know the future of Justin Che.
Sitting in standstill traffic close to midnight on Saturday, it occurred to me that the talk of rebuilding the north and east sides of Toyota Stadium that FC Dallas and the City of Frisco is no doubt looking for further revenue from more attendees to the area around Toyota Stadium if not the stadium itself.
Access and egress at Toyota Stadium is dire as it is.
It took close to an hour to get from the Stonebrook Parkway exit on the DNT to Toyota Stadium on Saturday. That’s 1.8 miles and a more-than-a-mile tailback where people are dangerously attempting to cut in as late as possible on a toll road. I was glad I’d planned to get there an hour early or I would have missed the start of the game.
Normally I’m lucky enough to miss the traffic on the way out since we have media availability. On Saturday the drone show ended about 30 minutes before I made my way to my car, where there was the diversion north towards Eldorado.
It’s remarkable that the traffic pattern on home games involves cramming hundreds of cars down three lanes of the service road at the side of a hospital from the Main Street exit of the Tollway. Then they split either side of the stadium, competing at the turn lanes with the traffic from the US-75 side of the stadium.
The exit plan is to send most cars north to avoid the Main Street entry ramp. This means they have to merge onto Frisco Street on a series of four-way stops around Toyota Soccer Center.
None of this with a police presence as you’d see at any half-busy church on a Sunday morning or many larger office buildings at rush hour. It all seems like we’re one bad crash away from the type of gridlock set up during the escape in the Italian Job (The Sir Michael Caine original, not the crap one with Mark Wahlburg).
I’ve heard of people avoiding the July 4 games because of the traffic and parking. I’ve happily skipped that game for that reason also. With a fifth sellout this season, we’re seeing a lot of strain on the few small roads that cross the stadium complex.
It may not be THE answer, but I always thought Arsenal were clever when they first opened the Emirates Stadium.
For context, like most major stadiums, there is no parking within miles meaning you have to get in and out by train. Realizing that 60,000 going to the two London Underground stations that serve the stadium is not ideal, Arsenal reduced the price of a beer after the game to encourage people to stay in the stadium bars and stagger the number of people in the streets. The Winners Club looks like it could do with a boost in revenue, and it’s sad to see the bar on the south side closing so early.
It may not have the efficiency of making some roads one way with traffic being directed or just more road, but FC Dallas can do things to help alleviate the concentration of traffic.
FCD stays in Seattle through Friday before heading south to Portland for the second part of the road trip.
That game will air on TXA 21 and all the usual spots with a 9:30 pm kick-off.
The Timbers host Nashville first tomorrow, after a nutty 4-4 tie with Minnesota where they trailed 3-1 then briefly led 4-3.