Takeaways as Dallas downs CCL champs in a packed house

Jesus Ferreira and Paul Arriola made it nine games unbeaten for FC Dallas against the Seattle Sounders.

No one quite knew what sort of team the newly crowned North American champions would field, but Dallas dealt with as many surprises as Brian Schmetzer could throw their way to gain some ground on the top spot of the Western Conference.

West leaders LAFC drew 2-2 with Philly while Dallas remains third in the West now only four points back with Austin separating the pair.

Seattle, Better Than You Think

The title was shamelessly stolen from a catchphrase of our fearless leader, Buzz Carrick. The FC Dallas version is available as a T-shirt!

I had a couple of discussions before the game where this came up – and Nico Estevez really took exception to a post-game question that labeled the Seattle lineup as a C-team – but Seattle has way more depth than you’d expect in MLS. Let’s forget Nouhou, who was the only starter against both Dallas and Pumas.

This was Jimmy Medranda‘s 12th game against FC Dallas. Jackson Ragen went the full 90 for the eighth time this season. Josh Atencio appeared 24 times for the Sounders in 2021. Obed Vargas played an hour against Pumas in the second leg of the CCL final before making his eighth start of 2022. Leo Chu was a $2.75m buy from Gremio last year. Fredy Montero is the Sounders’ all-time leading goalscorer. Will Bruin started three of the Sounders’ last four in MLS and is one of the few players in MLS history to make over 100 appearances for two MLS teams.

Those are starters on most MLS teams, so celebrate that win just the same as if it was against Raul Ruidiaz and co.

Playing Chess

No matter what team he has at his disposal, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer has navigated his way to MLS Cup four times, winning two of them – something only Bruce Arena can top – and also boasts two USL Cups with the pre-MLS Sounders.

So it was a great test for Nico Estevez, and it produced a tactical battle.

FC Dallas prepared for Seattle’s usual 4-2-3-1 but Schmetzer rolled out a 3-4-2-1 for only the second time in 16 games in 2022.

“The entire week we trained expecting them to be in a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. So for them to come out with a five back, it was tough. It was tough to really understand, but I felt the team did a great job of staying connected. Just in the quick instruction that we had before the game, trying to manage the first half and then in the second half, we were able to make a couple more adjustments. Once we saw how clear it was how they were going to play.”

Paul Arriola on the surprise of Seattle’s back five

Dallas came out with a few adjustments after the break that Coach Estevez built on in the 62nd minute when Franco Jara subbed in for Tsiki Ntsabeleng to move to a 4-2-3-1 with Jesus Ferreira playing off of Jara.

Schmetzer had been readying Cristian Roldan and Albert Rusnak before the Dallas sub but held them and Samuel Adeniran for a moment to observe the effect of the Dallas change.

The visitors would then switch to a 4-2-3-1 with Nouhou stepping into the midfield with Rusnak shortly before Dallas took the lead.

GameFlow’s g+ chart is an indication of periods of possession. Seattle didn’t get a shot off after the 24th minute, but after Dallas took the lead, the Sounders did start getting the ball in dangerous areas as shown by the green threads.

Estevez reacted by bringing Nkosi Tafari in for Alan Velasco and moving to a 3-4-3 in the 84th minute.

It was certainly fair to criticize the selection and substitutions in Kansas City, but in this one Nico Estvez and his staff did a great job of tactically battling one of the best coaches in MLS’ short history.

Dead Balls

Remember times when Walker Zimmerman‘s head made Dallas a threat at corners, or when Michel’s left foot was an automatic assist on free kicks? FC Dallas led MLS in 2014 with 20 goals from set-pieces, last season that number was just six as Dallas could only count their fellow Texans and Inter Miami as being worse from a dead ball situation.

Ten games into 2022 and Dallas has three set-piece goals on the board. Those are:

Alan Velasco free kick vs Sporting Kansas City

Facundo Quignon vs Houston Dynamo. A Velasco corner flicked on from the front post that Quignon tapped in at the far post.

Brandon Servania vs Colorado. I wouldn’t call it one but MLS does since the play went Farfan free kick to Velasco, Velasco pass to Servania, Servania shot.

This team is beginning to look threatening on set-pieces again. They did mix in some short corners that had very little success but the following clips show Matt Hedges going close twice, Stefan Cleveland having to punch away awkwardly in a threatening spot, Facundo Quignon getting a header off, and Paxton Pomykal narrowly missing at the back post in an almost carbon-copy of Quignon’s Texas Derby winner.

https://3rddegree.net/storeroom/2022/05/Set-Pieces_in_boxvSEA_1.mp4

The Buy-In

We’ve heard a lot about a new era and everything being a process, but fans really seem to be buying in this time. A 19,096 sell-out, and crowds that actually look like the figures announced rather than 10,000 with a generous number of tickets distributed not being used.

There may be differing views over what is best for the supporters’ groups, but the participation from the majority of fans was as loud as I’ve heard since FCD won a penalty shootout in the Western Conference Semi-final against Seattle in 2015. I really hope the SGs are able to capitalize on this and turn Toyota Stadium into something that’s not easily ridiculed.

Post game drone light show at Toyota Stadium (Dan Crooke)

I don’t know how much the gimmicks that Jerome Elenez and his team have come up with have affected the numbers but the brief moment of the drone show I got to see was outstanding. It certainly challenges the halftime soccer dogs for best marketing bit at FCD.

I’ve seen the average price of a drone show listed at around $400 per drone. FC Dallas had in the region of 150 drones which would be $60,000. If you assume $2 each for 20,000 light-up necklaces that sync up to the show, you’ve hit $100,000 before fireworks.

If that’s really the difference-maker for the additional 3,304 people that purchased tickets from the Texas Derby, it’s a great investment. Assuming the average available ticket is $30, that’s almost at break-even without concessions, merchandise, or parking.

We’re only six home games in and seeing these results already. So many people over the years have begged that FC Dallas promote itself and they’re getting to say ‘I told you so’.

Looking Ahead

It’s the start of a rough week on the road for FCD. Tuesday brings the US Open Cup Fourth Round at Sporting Kansas City before West Coast games Saturday and the following Wednesday in LA and Vancouver.

SKC pulled out an unlikely draw with only 26% possession at New York City FC. Both sides will likely heavily rotate, with Dallas possibly featuring Brandon Servania pairing up with Thomas Roberts in the midfield. Roberts recently returned, while Servania sat out the Seattle win after his red card in the recent trip to Children’s Mercy Park.

The game kicks off at 7:30 pm on ESPN+ regardless of what market you are in.

2 Comments

  1. I commented to the wife that the FC Dallas chant in the 2nd half was about the loudest I had ever heard the stadium. You could almost say everyone was clapping and chanting. Was quite nice.

  2. “Those are starters on most MLS teams” – umm, no. In fact, I seriously doubt any of them are starters on any MLS team. There is a reason Seattle only has 7 points through 8 games and we saw it on full display Saturday night. Their bench sucks. They have 1 point from matches where they started 4 or more reserves – that’s a strong indicator that their bench is pretty bad.
    Bruin, Medranda, and Montero are done as MLS level players – if Seattle is smart they will use them as little as possible. Chu has pretty good underlying metrics but it is based on only 453 total minutes so it could simply be small sample size bias. He has potential, but he has yet to really demonstrate it. Ragen, Atencio and Vargas are all promising young players but an objective analysis of their play so far shows that they are below average players compared to their MLS peers that have similar number of minutes. In fact, Vargas rates as 68 out of 72 for CM/DMs per ASA’s goal+ metric (400 minutes min).
    Seattle has two senior roster spots open. They need to fill them at the summer transfer window with MLS quality reserves because their fixture congestion is such that they won’t be able to play their starters every match. Otherwise there is a real possibility that they miss out on the playoffs for the first time in their history.

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