The Breakdown – FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids

Well, that was certainly poor.

In the current stretch, I am willing to accept a certain amount of offensive deficiency because of the massive amount of talent missing from the front line. But there’s no excuse for being defensively poor given that the majority of the defense is in place.

“It’s important to get a response because we are all feeling down. We’ve had two games where we felt like we could have gotten more out of it and we let ourselves down. We are looking to improve small details ahead of next weekend.”

Sam Junqua

Lineups and Tactics

FCD social media posted the side was in a 3-4-3 but they pretty much weren’t. There were moments it did look 4-3-3 ish or even a 5-4-1 (when is the same thing but in a low block compression), but 90% of the time it was a 4-4-2. The eye test made it obvious that Amet Korca was playing right back but if you need confirmation here are the Avg FCD positions from two different sources.

FC Dallas' shape vs Colorado Rapids, July 8, 2023.
FC Dallas’ shape vs Colorado Rapids, July 8, 2023.

In these images, Sam Junqua looks like he’s in the middle but that’s because of the halftime side swap. In the first half, he was clearly playing as a mid or wing with Sebastian Lletget underneath the 9. Much more on all this down below.

At the half, FC Dallas brought on Herbert Endeley to play right wingback taking off Amet Korca, shifting Junqua to left wing back, and Marco Farfan to left center back, which turned the whole thing into an actual 3-4-3.

Then in the 70th minute, Coach Nico Estevez rolled the dice on a triple sub of attacking players as Dante Sealy, Bernard Kamungo, and Tsiki Ntsabeleng replaced Sam Junqua, Sebastian Lletget, and Edwin Cerrillo.

We had Bernie (Kamungo), Dante (Sealy) and Tsiki (Ntsabeleng) come on to help us create chances, but it’s just unfortunate to not find the goal.”

Coach Nico Estevez

The Rapids deployed a 4-2-3-1.

The Colorado Rapids XI vs FC Dallas, July 8, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)
The Colorado Rapids XI vs FC Dallas, July 8, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)

In the 63rd after going up 2 goals, Coach Robin Fraser brought on Jonathan Lewis and Michael Barrios for Braian Galvan and Calvin Harris.

Looking to close the game out, Danny Wilson (a defender) replaced their 9 Darren Yapi.

And finally, in the 88th minute, Ralph Priso and Ralph Priso replaced Bryan Acosta and Cole Bassett.


FC Dallas 1-0. 18th minute. San Junqua does it again with a good move through traffic and shot to the back post. The resulting cracker of a header by Lalas Abubakar could perhaps be judged an own goal (my vote) but either way credit for the play goes to Junqua.

Colorado Rapids 1-1. 45’+2′ of 1st half. Andreas Maxsø with a pretty good header off the corner but he’s unmarked. Not sure how you end up with an unmarked guy there. Both Amet Korca and Sebastian Lletget were close enough to have done better.

Colorado Rapids 1-2. 62nd minute. The handball on Sam Junqua is perhaps a bit harsh but it’s out of bounds with the current interpretation of the rule. Braian Galván converts the PK with a cheeky Panenka.

Lo Bueno

My FCD Man of the Match was Sam Junqua. He basically had 1/3 of the field all by himself and was playing right back, right wing back, right mid, and right wing. But he created/scored the goal and his work rate was terrific. The positional flexing was apparently meant to be the game plan and he did his best to help Korca behind him.

“I think he’s doing a good job for the team. He’s getting that confidence to get shots and score goals and that’s something that we like. He’s a player that works really hard and we’re really, really happy that he’s been helping the team.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Maarten Paes was again pretty outstanding. Only 2 saves on the day but both were quality.

Dante Sealy had an outstanding 20 minutes. He’s significantly better than he was 2 years ago when he left. He has been at PSV after all. It was really pleasing to see and I can’t wait to see more of him this season. 21 minutes, 9 touches, 4 shot-creating actions, 2/3 take-ons, 6/7 passing, 2 key passes. Dammmn.

“He probably felt nervous at the beginning when he came in but I saw him do well. He tried some 1v1s and he threatened the opponent’s backline. For his first game he did a good job.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Camino del Medio

While he’s still raw and needs lots of NTX playing time, I again like Herbert Endeley‘s effort, pace, and mentality. When he was drafted I wasn’t too excited but now I think he’s a player with something to offer. Yes, still a project, but I want him around.

Muy Feo

Amet Korca was getting absolutely wrecked, mostly by Calvin Harris. Korca has some raw stuff that makes him a project worth keeping around but he’s very inexperienced and reads the game poorly right now. He needs boatloads of games at North Texas (where he’s mostly just been ok) rather than FCD. To make matters worse he was deployed out of position at right back and asked to work with an advanced flexing tactic. But this isn’t on him, that’s all a coaching decision. A very poor coaching decision.

“It was an adaptable shape because Sam Junqua started up higher and helped us in the attack. When their wingback Andrew [Gutman] would push up, we had four at the back ready to defend it. We made some mistakes, some players didn’t adjust well in their position and it made it difficult for us to defend at times. In the second half we addressed the defenders and it helped the way the game was going. It made the game a bit more balanced.”

Coach Nico Estevez

As a consequence, in the first half, FCD’s shape was broken. What a mess. As the coach mentions, the intention was to have Junqua flex from mid to back with Korca adapting in and out. It ended up with Junqua flexing all up and down the side with Lletget completely abandoning the wing and Korca getting completely lost. Here’s what it looked like.

The actual shape deployed by FC Dallas at Colorado on July 8, 2023.
The actual shape deployed by FC Dallas at Colorado on July 8, 2023.

It was like everyone in the team thought they were playing different shapes. The halftime change fixed this issue, providing evidence it was just the player selection that made it not work.

Perhaps it was a consequence of this shape, perhaps it’s something else, but Sebastian Lletget had only 20 touches. He might as well not have been in the game. It’s not that he was bad (94% passing, 1 key pass) it’s that he was invisible.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. Once everyone gets back from injury I feel like Junqua is our best option at RB. He’s a threat every time he cuts inside with his left foot.

  2. The handball call was inconsistent with the way handball has generally been called this year. The last two years saw a sharp rise in PKs being called and it was mainly due to an excessive number or handballs being called. IFAB again issued new guidance at the beginning of the year (Fall 22) and since then PKs have fallen because referees have been instructed to not automatically call handballs if arms are “high” but to consider the “context” – this includes consideration of deflections. It’s become the norm for referees to not give handballs if the contact involves a deflection from another part of the body or another player has redirected the ball in an unanticipated way.

    It’s clear from the replays that the ball hit Junqua’s chest or shoulder first before hitting his arm. His arm was “up” because he was in the middle of his running motion and everyone pumps their arms when they run – it’s a natural position for his arm to be in given the context. Referees have been instructed to “consider the context” when issuing handball penalties. Given the context (deflection, arm up to due running motion) he shouldn’t have given the handball. There have been plenty of similar situations in the league this year where this call was not made. Finally, the initial decision was not to give the penalty – VAR had to intervene. If this is a “clear and obvious error” what about all of those other non-calls? It’s just another instance where IFAB’s direction is not specific enough and/or they are not enforcing consistency in rule interpretation.

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