El Capitán takeaways after Dallas grabs a late win in Texas Derby opener

FC Dallas left it until the third minute of stoppage time for a great comeback win in the opening game of the 2022 MLS Copa Tejas.

Edwin Cerrillo returning to the starting 6-role was the only change from the goalless draw in New Jersey last week.

Sebastian Ferreira gave the orange the lead in the 33rd minute before subs Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Facundo Quignon turned the game around at the death.

Sudden Impact

If you want to talk about the last FC Dallas coach who seemed to have substitutions figured out, you’re probably going back beyond a decade.

Former headman Luchi Gonzalez was accused of reacting 10-15 minutes too late. Coach Oscar Pareja made a lot of like-for-like changes without addressing the deficiencies in the game. I moved to Dallas towards the end of Schellas’ tenure, but I’m left with the memory of players being brought on to play out of position.

At the time of the Franco Jara sub, my initial thought was that maybe Szabolcs Schon or Jader Obrian would be the option. Alan Velasco was having a rather passive performance and things just weren’t going the right way for Paul Arriola.

Instead, the 67th minute addition of Jara brought some grit and helped with the move to a 4-2-3-1 where the front four rotated roles to pull the Houston marks out of position.

Despite Jara’s tenacity, the energy levels dropped in midfield and there wasn’t a lot of movement off the ball. A frustrated Alan Velasco kept dropping back – along with Jesus Ferreira – the defensive third to try and get the ball moving.

That nicely set up the 84th minute triple substitution. Tsiki Ntsabeleng is certainly a high energy chase-everything player to put in late but Facundo Quignon is maybe not who you’d think of in that situation. Needless to say, the pair attacked balls in the six-yard box and made all the difference.

I asked Nico Estevez about the subs and what he was looking for. It was a long answer that may be easier to paraphrase.

The staff had identified a few changes, including the formation switch, before the half as Houston moved into more of a 4-4-1-1 that was really dominating the game. For the subs, Nico specifically wanted to use different profile players to give Houston a different challenge.

Coach Nico Estevez celebrates FCD’s game-winner against the Houston Dynamo, April 23, 2022.

The Blueprint

On the other hand, that’s three of the last four games that have been far from pretty. Going into half time I feared that New York Red Bulls may have given teams the blueprint for frustrating FC Dallas.

Buzz had given the scouting report in a midweek 3rd Degree Burn. Houston are a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 team that sits in a mid-block. Dallas started well and suddenly the Dynamo move to a 4-4-1-1 with a high press that absolutely killed any momentum Dallas had.

The Hoops had three shots in that opening ten minutes and 51.3% possession. The remaining 35 minutes of the half wielded a single shot and only 43.1% possession. The stat that really stood out for me in the first half was this:

Cerrillo led FC Dallas with 27 passes into the final third coming into the eighth game of the season. Brandon Servania (5) and Jose Antonio Martinez (4) both overtook him for a joint team lead with 29 as Cerrillo only made a single pass into the final third against Houston.

We’ve just discussed the changes that undid the damage but a change Houston made in the 11th minute took until the 84th minute for FCD to finally break free from.

Probably more so as they were the home team in this case, but that’s something a lot of coaches should sit up and take note of when it comes to shutting Dallas down.

The Other Guy

The officiating was certainly interesting. Good or bad, I just want to see a game reffed consistently, and Victor Rivas did that. Kind of.

Neither side was happy with his general performance. You’d see a slight shoulder nudge called then nothing given when a player was kicked up in the air.

I want to focus on the game’s big moment, the free-kick from Memo Rodriguez that may or may not have gone in.

I thought it was in at the time and I haven’t seen anything that makes me say it definitely wasn’t, but there isn’t an angle from the broadcast that conclusively shows the whole of the ball over the whole of the line either.

In this case there needs to be proof that the ref made a “clear and obvious error” in not awarding a goal to even warrant going to the monitor.

The Photogrammetry chap believes the ball was close to two inches from fully crossing the line, but that’s with poor angles and not zoomed-in shots.

Second Spectrum installed ten additional cameras in Toyota Stadium for advanced statistical use. I don’t believe the VAR or broadcast has access to those so we may see a new angle appear by the time PRO Referees does its next YouTube breakdown.

Time to Clean Up

FC Dallas has had an issue with finishing in spells. MLSsoccer.com recorded FC Dallas at 2.2 xG for the game but – like the season thus far – that’s not a great indication of the quality of chances Dallas had or even could have had.

Let’s go through a couple of those chances and add some context:

8:48 – Brandon Servania right footed shot from the edge of the area (0.06 xG)
The best thing Servania could have done here was spread the ball left to Alan Velasco in space for the cross.

10:49 – Jose Martinez left footed shot from five yards (0.1843 xG)
The ball is on the floor in the six-yard box. That’s got to be in, let alone on target.

15:19 – Paul Arriola right footed shot from 12 yards (0.0793 xG)
Initially one-on-one, inside the area, with Velasco in space if you can shake your marker.

66:16 – Alan Velasco left-footed shot from 21 yards (0.0297 x G)
Good effort but look at how much space Ferreira is in on the right.

71:52 – Jesus Ferreira right footed shot from 12 yards (0.1088 xG)
He needed to let the ball run across his body, and then he’s got Clark all alone in a position where his hips can open up and get some power behind a shot.

85:28 – Jose Martinez left footed shot from 29 yards (0.0186 xG)
Velasco in space on the left. Complete waste.

The team left a few goals out on the field, but their bigger issue is not taking shots. Only three teams have taken fewer than Dallas’ 83 shots and their 39.8% on target rate is third-best in the league. Tied 13th for passes into the penalty area and tied 6th for dribbles into the box, Dallas is not converting those possessions into chances.

Tarting Up On Game Day

FC Dallas is really starting to make an effort with the gameday experience. The supporters in The Rhine sounded fantastic, buoyed on by a decent traveling support.

I appreciate the investment and the idea of the FC Dallas crest behind the goal. It was a little underwhelming, starting with the bizarre orange and white smoke bombs that were set off to start the ‘red alert’ video before the players make their way to the pitch.

I expected something that visibly lit up after goals and Peter had joked about the idea of a Burn-style flamethrower from the mouth of the longhorn on the logo. Instead it was a glowing white around only the edge of the FCD logo that carried on through the whole game. Some people reasoned that it should look better when it’s not a 2pm afternoon game, but that’s still an area lit by the floodlights. It also has the potential to get Dallas in trouble on an opposition penalty if there’s a light-up box distracting players.

I hope it’s something they build on and make a spectacle of the gameday experience if they’re set on not putting fans down there.

It’s worth pointing out that between the investments on and off the field, the stadium is looking better. The numbers aren’t improving much, not that they ever meant a whole lot. The 15,792 announced attendance actually looked like a 15k crowd rather than the fudged number for a sub-10k crowd.

Looking Ahead

Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City are up next. SKC only have two wins on the season, both 1-0 home results against Houston and RSL. They’re Vancouver’s only win in 2022, just three points ahead of the last place Whitecaps.

Dallas lost the last two games against Kansas City but are still riding a five-game unbeaten streak at Children’s Mercy Park, with four wins and a draw. Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira scored in July’s win when the sides last met in KC.

Saturday’s game will be shown on TXA 21 at 7:30 pm along with the usual streaming options at FCDallas.com and ESPN+ depending on your location.

3 Comments

  1. I think we are seeing one of the reasons why Ryan was so valuable as a fullback. While he would invariably give the ball away at least once a match in the defensive third he was good (and brave) at playing through or around the high press. So far, Farfan has not shown that ability or even the desire to attempt it. They need to figure something out or teams are just going to high press Dallas to death . You can’t expect to continually get good results if you can’t control the run of play.
    Maybe when they build out of the back against a high press they should switch to a 4-4-2 diamond shape with Velsco at the top, Pomykal on the left and Servania on the right. If the opponent abandons the press they can switch back to the 4-3-3.

  2. It’s a change in tactics more so than Farfan not being able to do so. You can notice this with Ema staying back as well. This has led to the good defensive performance, but does reduce some of the offensive flow.

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