Takeaways as Whitecaps dampen FCD’s return

Finally, after a long international break, FC Dallas was back to MLS play. Perhaps we can pretend that break lasted an extra week after a disappointing 2-0 loss to Vancouver.

The Whitecaps made it three consecutive wins over FCD, as Dallas drop to just one win in the last ten games between the two.

One surprise in the lineup came as Matt Hedges was nowhere to be seen with a late shin issue. Jesus Ferreira took the armband, flanked by Alan Velasco and Paul Arriola. The midfield three, much like before the international break consisted of Brandon Servania and Paxton Pomykal ahead of Facundo Quignon. Nkosi Tafari joined Jose Martinez in the center of defense, with Ema Twumasi and Marco Farfan. As usual, Maarten Paes was between the sticks.

A goal just a minute and a half in, and a free kick just before halftime left Dallas two down at the break. Nico Estevez turned to Franco Jara, in place of Brandon Servania, with Jesus Ferreira dropping back to the ten spot.

Shortly after the hour, two more subs came with a like-for-like swap of Edwin Cerrillo for Facundo Quignon. Jader Obrian subbed in for Ema Twumasi to take over the entire right side with Alan Velasco’s slightly unorthodox role (we’ll get to that later).

Jose Martinez hobbled out late on to give way to Joshue Quinonez, before Tsiki Ntsabeleng replaced Paxton Pomykal.

Thoughts & Observations

FC Dallas struggles with those teams that will happily sit in a mid-to-low block and occupy space in the middle of the field. Dallas tried to play around with 24 crosses, more than double their average of 9.6 crosses per game in 2022.

Statistically, FC Dallas didn’t come out terrible. 66% possession, made 87% of their 621 passes. Crucially Dallas recorded 16 shots to Vancouver’s 4 which gave the Hoops the edge on xG, 1.2-0.7. The issue came with how efficient both teams were.

We’ve spoken about Dallas’ efficiency in 2022 on the podcast. The team’s 11.86 shots per game before Vancouver isn’t an enormous rate. Five of the past eight seasons had a higher number, with four of those seeing 14+ shots per game. Even focusing on shots on target or xG, this is a very average year. It’s the conversion of goals.

Dallas 14.49% of shots scored is the best since the first 60-point season in 2015. Its 6.92 shots per goal (both pre-VAN) is the best since the 2016 double-winning season.

So to have 16 shots, and only one on target is really the key to what happened. The quality of chances wasn’t bad with eight coming inside the Vancouver area, securing 1.2 xG which isn’t far from the season average of 1.46 xG. Despite the joint top scorer in the league and a player who had scored in five straight, Dallas simply couldn’t put chances away.

The Goals

The opening goal was a real team effort so to speak. You could go as far back as the giveaway between a poor pass from Alan Velasco, and desperate touches by Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania to give up the throw in.

I’ve got a clip I’ve pulled apart below. Ema Twumasi fails to get back leaving Nkosi Tafari to challenge for and lose out on a header – maybe Jose Martinez should have gone for that one since Tafari’s pace was certainly required further back. Incidentally, Tafari seems to underestimate the danger and doesn’t go full sprint back as Facundo Quignon passes him. Then of course there’s the Argentine’s unfortunate touch to Lucas Cavallini and an unlucky attempt at a save by Maarten Paes that only sees the ball off the post and in. I don’t think there’s a reasonable way you can single out any one or even two players. Everyone other than Marco Farfan could have done a little more to prevent such an early goal.

The second wasn’t much better starting with the foul by Facundo Quignon. FC Dallas has a habit of giving away free kicks in bad places. You could argue that it was a tactical foul but Jose Martinez is in a good position to deal with the run at the start of the clip below.

Let’s move on to Maarten Paes. With Cavallini and Deiber Caicedo both standing over the ball, Paes calls a three-man wall consisting of Paul Arriola (5’6″), Jesus Ferreira (5’9″), and (5’6″). It takes the bench gesturing to Tafari and Martinez to get the far taller center backs in the wall. While Paes’ positioning and movement suggest he anticipates Cavallini’s left foot, he positions the shortest player in the team to protect the far side of the goal should Caicedo take the shot right-footed and away from Paes’ reach.

If you stop the clip at 36 seconds before the shot is taken, hold something up in a line from the ball to the base of the left post. That sight line should be covered to provide a challenge to either get the ball up and down, or curl heavily inside. Paes has told me before that he’s made a mistake calling a three-man wall where he needed four. It seems to have happened again.

Alan Velasco failing to jump as the ball goes over his head was the cherry on top of it all.

Velasc-oh…

I had a couple of thoughts on FC Dallas’ record signing so I’ll go as official as using subheadings!

His Role

Alan Velasco’s role in the team has had a few impacts on other players. Paul Arriola wants to be on the left cutting in on his right foot, but Velasco has almost exclusively lined up on the left side.

He’s been given a largely free role as a roaming playmaker. The issue is the rest of the team doesn’t seem to adapt to it. We saw Ema Twumasi responsible for the entire right side for much of the first half, and Jader Obrian after their substitution.

If a player is going to try and be a roaming playmaker, you want them to find the ball and make some plays happen. Velasco only completed seven forward passes from 26 touches in a dire first half. All too often he was the highest player up the field, and on the opposite side from the ball.

Frozen

There were moments where Velasco popped up in acres of space and his team just didn’t want to pass to him. Here’s a 46-second passage of play where I’ve highlighted the times I think Alan Velasco is full open and available to pass to.

He’s visibly calling for passes yet it’s a backwards pass, lateral, long ball to the right touchline, backwards pass, and finally clear down the line to the keeper. I keep hearing it’s a great locker room vibe but I wonder if there are exceptions to that.

That said, when Velasco did get the ball in the first half, it wasn’t all smart passing and cutting runs as this from the first half can demonstrate.

Looking Ahead

Joining Dallas in a summer swoon are their next opponents, Austin FC. Red cards in three of their last five games and no home wins since April.

Jesus Ferreira just scored four goals at Q2 Stadium with the national team, so a good opportunity to get him back among the goals if Austin makes the same mistakes as last season in playing out of the back.

For anyone not taking out a mortgage to have bought tickets, Saturday’s game will air at 8 pm on TXA 21 and FCDallas.com/stream in the Metroplex.

If you’re in need of some pregaming, Toyota Soccer Center will be hosting the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs that day.

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