The Breakdown: FC Dallas a Nashville SC

One of the things we believe about MLS is that getting a good result against the same team for 4 games in a single season is hard to do.  For Nashville SC, this weekend that proved to be the case as FC Dallas went down to Tennessee and brought home 3 points.

It’s a good feeling, from the beginning it was a chippy game. I had a sense the players wanted to respond in this game. We haven’t gotten the best results against this team. The last game here hurt. 

FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez

Let’s break it down…

Lineups and Tactics

Luchi Gonzalez opts, in some ways, for a repeat of the previous games set up and tactics, but with some light rotation forced by two training knocks suffered by Franco Jara and Fafa Picault. In their places are Ryan Hollingshead – meaning Johnny Nelson is at left back, and Ricardo Pepi.

FC Dallas starting XI at Nashville SC, November 4, 2020.

We had to make some adjustments and we felt that having Ryan on a wing, which he’s done before – we did that against Kansas City away, he scored his first goal this season doing that – and we just felt it was a good adjustment. Johnny has good experience. He’s good in the backline on the left, so let’s go with this and see what we got to adjust.

Luchi Gonzalez

At the 71st minute mark, the familiar refrain of Jesus Ferreira being subbed out for Tanner Tessmann occurred, shifting Ricaurte higher. Then in the 80th minute, Santiago Mosquera replaced Ricardo Pepi.

And finally in the 84th minute, Reto Ziegler replaced Thiago Santos and Nelson – who had been playing LCB since maybe the 65th-minute mark – shifted to holding mid alongside Tessmann.

FC Dallas end of game XI at Nashville SC, November 4, 2020.

To the surprise of many Nashville observers, Gary Smith changes to a 3-man back line (or 5 if you prefer that kind of talk). Dax McCarty, a name I was looking for, was rested.

Nashville SC starting XI vs FC Dallas, November 4, 2020.

A first-half injury meant Jalil Anibaba replaced Jack Maher in the 28th minutes and Smith pulled the trigger on another change at halftime bringing on Jhonder Cádiz for Daniel Ríos.

There was a double sub in the 69th minute as Alex Muyl replaced Matt LaGrassa and Handwalla Bwana replaced Randall Leal.

Finally, Derrick Jones came on for Tah Anungain the 77th minute.


1-0 FC Dallas goal. 19th minute. Andres Ricaurte plays to Jesus Ferreira, who takes a short dribble before playing over the top to a charging Ryan Hollingshead. Walker Zimmerman initially makes the stop by Hollingshead puts away the loose ball.

Offisde?  I’m sure VAR looked but it’s pretty dang certainly close.

El Bueno

Ryan Hollingshead was the Man of the Match for me. The goal was great but he was quality all night and a thorn in the side of Nashville causing stress to the defense and pushing back against their intensity.  On top of that, he did it at left wing, a position he isn’t as comfortable with these days (62% passing).  Then he shifted to left wingback to finish the game. 1 goal, 1 key pass, 1 goal-line save.

Thiago Santos was equally as outstanding and was just about as dominant as a holding mid can be. 11 of 12 duels won, 83% passing, 73 touches, 12 recoveries, 4 fouls drawn, 4 tackles (2 won), 4 intercepts, 4 clears, and was dispossessed only 1 time.

Thiago Santos passing and defensive chart at Nashville SC, November 4, 2020.

Johnny Nelson playing left back, left center back, and holding mid shows his versatility and fantastic roster value.   MLS teams need guys like this. At 93% passing he had the 2nd cleanest passing game among FC Dallas players behind Ricardo Pepi who was at 100% (27 touches, 16 passes).  Nelson had 2 tackles, 2 intercepts, and 4 clears.

Jesus Ferreira had his best game of the season. He’s made great strides the last few weeks raising his work rate, effort, and effectiveness – the latter through better positioning and runs into the box. I continue to have some fitness concerns as it’s been over a year since Ferreira went 90 minutes.  With no more information than that, I fear Covid-19 complications. I really hope that fear turns into nothing.

FC Dallas only had 10 shots, that’s not amazing or anything, but what is amazing is 0 shots were off target.  Nashville had 4 blocks with the other 6 FCD shots being on target.  That continues the recent trend of better shooting efficiency and shot selection by FCD. 66% of FCD shots were in the box. That’s terrific too.

Another game of me loving Andres Ricarute as a deep play making 8 in a double-pivot.  87% passing, 3 key passes, fouled 3 times, 2 tackles, 1 clear, 1 intercept, 1 block… 10 for 11 on long balls. That’s the key, sitting deep the whole offensive game is in front of him and he can break defenses with his mid to long passing.

Camino del Medio

FC Dallas didn’t press a whole lot to my eye, instead, they went with a mid-block. This was also medium level Luchi-Ball with just 421 passes and 44% possession. FCD was a lot happier than usual to let the opposition have the ball.  It’s why touches are a bit low across the board for Dallas.  Some tactical versatility is a good thing.

We basically imposed their own style on them, and said ‘Okay, try to come break us down’. Try to use your attack and, and create something and they didn’t really have much. their only chances really were lobbing the ball in the box to their big guy [Jhonder Cadiz]. 

Ryan Hollingshead 

Muy Feo

While holding a home team to 12 shots is pretty good and forcing 7 of them off target sounds nice, I didn’t like that 70% of Nashville shots were in the box.  I like to see a team kept higher than that.

Next Game

In the season final, FC Dallas travels to Minnesota to take on United. Sunday’s kickoff is at 5:30 pm CT on Fox Southwest.  A tie or a win and FC Dallas will host a home playoff game.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

FC Dallas at Nashville SC…

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