The Breakdown – FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo

This weekend, FC Dallas went down to take on the Houston Dynamo and brought back a point and El Capitán. By most measures, that’s a successful trip.

I’ll be honest, the Dynamo game and the home game against Columbus frustrated me. The road trip to Philly was a set of tactics I bought the justification for. But the other two? Not so much.

Still, a road point is a road point and FC Dallas remained undefeated throughout September, recording five draws and one win

“In those draws, there were a lot of games where we deserved to win. If you look at our last road match in Philadelphia, we had a goal that was disallowed, and we had a lot of chances. In the home game against Atlanta, we had multiple chances which we could have capitalized in. Overall, we deserve a better outcome in some of these games. In other, we play very good teams away from home, but the team competes, and we were great on the defensive side. We just need to score and capitalize those chances that we are creating.”

FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez

We’ll come back to chances in a bit.

Lineups and Tactics

FC Dallas played the 3-4-3 again. More on this below. Most everyone rotated back in with the exception of Jose Martinez. It’s a pretty straightforward selection.

FC Dallas XI at Houston Dynamo, Sept 30, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
FC Dallas XI at Houston Dynamo, Sept 30, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Paxton Pomykal replaced Facundo Quignon in the 66th minute, usually, that’s the time frame for scripted subs but this one felt natural.

In the 80th, FCD went with Liam Fraser and Jader Obrian replacing Paul Arriola and Alan Velasco and shifting to more of a 3-5-2 look.

Finally, Jesus Jimenez replaced Jesus Ferreira in a time-killing, game-killing move.

Credit to the Dynamo socials for posting a shape when many clubs don’t, but this one wasn’t accurate. Here’s the accurate one from MLS, a 3-4-3. It included a little rotation off their mid-week US Open Cup title.

Houston Dynamo XI vs FC Dallas, Sept 30, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)
Houston Dynamo XI vs FC Dallas, Sept 30, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)

In the 58th minute, Dynano brought some big guns off the bench with Coco Carrasquilla and Nelson Quinones replacing Brad Smith and Iván Franco.

In the 81st, Ethan Bartlow replaced Erik Sviatchenko in a like-for-like move.

And lastly, in a final run at the game, Ibrahim Aliyu replaced Corey Baird.



Lo Bueno

My FCD Man of the Match was Maarten Paes. Yes, again. Officially 5 saves and a couple of them were really impressive. What a season he’s having with a current GAA of 1.00 which is on pace for the 3rd best individual season in club history. He continues to be massive and steal FCD points.

Y’all are going to get tired of me talking about Asier Illarramendi. He had 75 touches in this game, the next-highest FCD total was 55 by Nkosi Tafari. Illarra also led FCD in carries (46), progressive passes (8), tackles (5), intercepts (3), blocks (3), and recoveries (8).

We might need to start talking about Sam Junqua playing more. He led FCD in passes into the final third with 8 and was 2nd in progressive passes with 5.

“We adjusted well at half-time, we put Alan (Velasco) and Jesús (Ferreira) closer to each other and dropped Paul (Arriola) so we could keep releasing Sam Junqua in the weak side pocket.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Terrific road support by the FCD fans.

Camino del Medio

I can’t stand the way FC Dallas uses the 3-4-3 formation because they end up overrun in midfield mostly cause of the way their wings play. This was the worst example yet of that. Possession was 63% to 37% in the Dynamo favor. This was the 4th worst possession on the season and it limited FCD to just 4 shots on goal. We always say that FCD doesn’t want the ball but damn, this was rough. And to be completely fair, FCD has a 2-1-3 record in their lowest 6-possession games this season. It does work in terms of results. But good grief is it painful to watch. The 4 shots number is the 2nd lowest of the year and a bottom 3 in xG. the only game worse in shots was the 1-1 game at Seattle back in July.

“We had some difficulties building pressure from the beginning. We adjusted well at half-time… … With those adjustments, I felt like we were able to press better. In the second half, we were stable defensively. We had good moments in transition that would have led to more, but we could not get the final pass on points like I mentioned earlier. We rushed, the passing was not good, and I don’t think we were clean overall.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Muy Feo

Solid black versus solid white is the most lame and boring combo of kits in MLS. When you watch it on TV there’s nothing that tells you who is playing. No flavor, no… and stay with me here… Color.

Facundo Quignon struggled to do much in this game. He wasn’t catastrophically bad but he was very conservative. 90% passing is nice but 0 progressive passes and 0 progressive dribbles isn’t. 0 shot-creating actions, 0 tackles won, 1 intercept, 3 recoveries, 0 take-ons, and only 2 passes into the final third. And worse he was dispossessed 3 times. Rough.

Regardless of the tactics, Dallas failed to create enough chances to win this game. 4 shots with just 2 on goal isn’t enough to give yourself a chance to win. Houston should have won this game and didn’t mostly because of Maarten Paes. For FCD, that’s not a recipe for sustained success. Paes may not be great every game or be here very long at this rate.

“There were a few things we had to adjust along the way but in general it was to keep things narrow and not let them combine through the middle, which they do well. I think we were good with that. We would’ve liked to have attacked a little more aggressively and we made some changes to do that.”

Sam Junqua

Here’s the thing, the FCD tactics on display in this game were of a poor team playing on the road against a very good team. I don’t believe that is the case. FC Dallas is just as good as Houston. These teams are very comparable. This isn’t Sheffield United at Manchester City but one team laid out tactics like it was. Perhaps desperate times call for desperate measures but it feels like panic tactics.

“This is the FC Dallas that we know right? Transition and hold them when we need to, press them when we need to. You know we had a few chances that I think were pretty clear for us. You know obviously we’d love to have the ball a little bit more, but in the end it was always going to be this type of game.”

Maarten Paes

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