Welcome back to The Breakdown for 2021 as the season kicks off. FC Dallas opened play against Colorado Rapids at Toyota Stadium. While they didn’t score the defense looked solid so like usual with Coach Luchi Gonzalez there is a base to build on.
Let’s break it down…
Lineups and Tactics
Coach Gonzalez – as we predicted – opted for the 3-4-3. Really the main question at this point is Bressan in the 3-4-3 vs Edwin Cerrillo in a 4-3-3.
Coach Luchi only made two subs, bringing on Paxton Pomykal for Andres Ricaurte and Ricardo Pepi for Franco Jara.
The Rapids under Robin Fraser are listed by MLS as playing a 4-2-3-1 but it sure looked like a 4-4-2 to me, at least defensively. Granted the shapes are pretty similar. Like everyone these days, shapes are fluid, it was just intriguing to see it compress to 4-4-2 and not 4-5-1.
Coach Fraser also made just two subs: Nicolas Benezet for Michael Barrios and Jonathan Lewis for Andre Shinyashiki.
Jose Martinez was my Man of the Match. I thought he had a large presence in the game, it was noticeable how he was directing traffic and organizing. Even teaching and at times demanding of player in front of him. I loved it.
Jimmy Maurer was just as valid a choice for Man of the Match with a fantastic 6 saves. His distribution was also excellent at 95.5% with a terrific 4 for 5 on long passes. Picking up right where he left off last year.
Freddy Vargas is already the offensive fulcrum. 59% was the lowest passing rate on the team but he was the most aggressive. 9 progressive moves led FCD, 4 for 5 on dribbles that also led FCD. That’s a pretty good start to build on.
Johnny Nelson with 1 key pass, 3 dribbles (2nd on team), 77% passing, and 3 crosses… not bad. Just 45 touches. He needs to see more of the ball but that’s not his fault as his teammates often bypass him. That’s a good start for me. FCD needs to get him involved more.
Y’all are gonna hate this but Bryan Acosta was, quietly, pretty good. 85% passing, 2 for 2 on dribbles, 4 progressions, 2 key passes, 3 tackles, 17 pressures, 91% pass receptions, and 8 recoveries. That’s quality. Add in 0 shots into the stands and that’s a good day.
Kellyn Acosta looked fantastic. He was moving better and covering more ground than I can recall since he left Dallas. He was 100% into it and playing with a ton of Moxie. FCD should be glad the missing Sam Vines required Acosta at left back to deal with Obrian’s pace.
Camino del Medio
While their shot total of just 11 at home is too low, the FCD shot selection was good with only 2 shots coming outside the box. Plus 5 of the 11 were on target, 50% on target for this team (blocks) is pretty good. Most of the best chance came early in the game before the Rapids adjusted and limited shots.
Franco Jara remains engaged as he was against Houston. Working hard and playing with grit – for 60 minutes anyway. His xG of 0.3 led FCD (tied with Hollingshead), 3 shots (with just 1 on goal), and he drew 3 fouls. But he wasn’t as effective against this much better defense in Colorado. I know he likes to false-9 but I would like to see him higher as I don’t think he’s quick enough to get back into the danger area all the time.
For both coaches, I think the low number of subs is about early season team build – concepts, cohesion, 90-minute fitness.
I don’t like the 3-4-3, at least not the way FCD plays it. For a 3-4-3 work, it needs to be more like 3-4-2-1. The wings can’t be wings they need to come inside and under. They have to open space for the wingbacks. Given the way Jara false-9s this is a fundamental contradiction. Given the way Jara plays it should be 3-5-2… at which point it would make no sense for Jara to be the 10 in that system. So I hate it.
The wingbacks are not getting forward enough – see the previous point – and in general the team didn’t use them to build as they should. Bressan played 12 long balls (10 connected) and Martinez 11 (only 5 connected) that’s not Luchi ball. Ryan Hollingshead passing at just 64% shows you how out of sorts he is at right back. They both weren’t getting into the final third enough, although Nelson was better. Middle-third yes, final-third no.
FCD struggled to get the ball to Franco Jara. He had 3 shots on the day to lead FCD and 1 key pass but he only had 29 touches – the least of the starters. Jader Orbian had 34 and Freddy Vargas 45. This pass weight chart shows the disconnect from the midfield.
FC Dallas travels to the bay to face the Earthquakes. Kickoff is at 2:30 CT from PayPal Park on Univision/TUDN.