Solving the Cobra/Jara Conundrum

As practices begin to ramp up and we inch ever closer to [[[the]]] MLS is Back Tournament, the elephant of a question still remains, who should FC Dallas start at striker, Zdenek Ondrasek or Franco Jara?

While there is no absolute right or wrong answer here, there are a few interesting ways of looking at the situation to determine an answer.

One of the first factors in determining who to play would be who is in the best form.

Fortunately for the club, but unfortunately for answering the question, both strikers are in fantastic form, as Ondrasek has struck once in each MLS game that had been played before the break while Jara has scored 7 in 10 Liga MX games, including a brace in his final game for Pachuca.

If not form, then maybe play style will be a good deciding factor.

Ondrasek is a big striker who is known for his high pressing and exceptional finishing, while Jara is a big striker who is known for his high pressing and exceptional finishing. Dagnabbit not again.

Let’s try another category to split the difference between the two.

“Play the youth” has been the FC Dallas mantra for years now! Surely this would be the perfect situation to give preference and the younger of the two aaaaaaaaand they are both the exact same age (31). 

So it seems that FC Dallas is equipped with two strikers who are nearly identical in most important facets of the game. Both players are designed to do what it takes to put the ball in the net, so how can Luchi make full use of both of them while not minimizing the other? 

A perfect fit for this situation would be the 4-4-2 diamond formation, also known as a 4-1-2-1-2. This formation fits the club’s personnel and the glut of fantastic and dynamic midfielders such as Paxton Pomykal, Thomas Roberts, and Bryan Acosta. All of whom excel in a hybrid 8 role when given a higher impetus on attacking than a typical box to box 8 would.

The starting XI in such a formation would look something like this:

For the strikers, high pressing on the opposition’s backline would be key and both Kobra and Jara are adept at it. Most of their chances will come through crosses from overlapping fullbacks and balls to their feet from the 10 and 8’s.

Additionally, it would allow Ricardo Pepi to play striker when substituted on, his most natural position, rather than being thrown out to the wing.

Fafa Picault played in the same formation last season at Philadelphia Union and although it was not his strongest position when compared to being an out and out winger, he should have no problem slotting into the second striker role again.

The two options for the CAM position would play the position very differently but each could be effective in their own way.

Michael Barrios would be looking for his trademark late runs to get on the end of balls over the top, from there he would likely look to square the ball to one of the strikers making an oncoming run. In this situation, the build-up play would rely on the midfielders linking up with the strikers rather than directly through the CAM. Barrios would be likely roaming around the width of the pitch in the area behind the pressing strikers. This will utilize Barrios’ natural ability to receive, turn, and send a through ball between defenders.

In the same position, Jesus Ferreira might find his best fit for the team. Jesus had an interesting role with the team in 2019, starting the season at Striker but slowly moving back into a 10 in a 4-2-3-1 then into an 8 in a defensive 4-3-3, where he started the season.

Jesus is a good presser and will need to utilize that ability in this position. He also distributes well with his back to goal. Although he may not be able to control the 10-spot in the way Mauro Diaz did half a decade ago, his pressing and ability to carry the ball through the midfield should do enough to help him succeed in such a position

The two wide midfielders, Pomykal and Acosta, would be given license to make surging runs into the box and get further forward. This plays perfectly into the skillset of our CM’s, many of whom are perfectly suited for this advanced 8 role.

A perfect example of the perfect fit here is when Pomykal was substituted on vs MNUFC. The game was tied but Pomykal made the difference, first by dribbling to the edge of the box, then playing a perfect through ball to Barrios who squared it to Servania to score, then dancing along the end line and evading multiple defenders before himself playing a perfect cross to Servania to score.

Finally, the fullbacks will be given a greater license to attack, and with Ryan Hollingshead coming off of a 6 goal season and Reggie Cannon having already assisted a goal this season, such a set up would be very beneficial in the attack.

Unfortunately, it is rather unlikely that Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez will deviate from his typical 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 formation and this is most likely how Luchi will set the team for the majority of the tournament:

For the tournament, Ondrasek will most likely start a majority of the games, since he is already fit and has been working with the team for a while now and in an interview, Luchi said that Jara’s introduction to the XI will be gradual in order to ensure he is match fit.

The midfield will likely be changed every game to fit the opponent, as is Luchi’s style.

If Ondrasek is able to maintain his recent goalscoring form and stay fit, then there will be no questions about who the starting striker should be.

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