The Breakdown: FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo August 21

FC Dallas traveled to Houston and back on Friday for the first leg of the 2020 Texas Derby. Some progress was made for Los Toros but the 0-0 result still shows a large offensive deficiency is plaguing FCD.

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Well would you look at that, a 3-4-3.  That’s not a formation we see a lot around here.  It’s a combination of a back seven from the 3-5-2 and the front three from the “normal” 4-3-3.  This was clearly a defense-first shape from Coach Luchi Gonzalez, a sit deeper and allow possession kind of shape.

Ryan Hollingshead is still on quarantine, and may still be out for the Colorado game, Johnny Nelson took his spot for the 2nd straight game.  Franco Jara was the 9 in this one and Jesus Ferreira played “false” left wing.

The FC Dallas starting XI in a 3-4-3 at Houston Dynamo, August 21, 2020.

Coach Gonzalez brought on Fafa Picault for Ferreira in the 63rd minute in a straight swap.  Then Brandon Servania came on for Bryan Acosta and Paxton Pomykal for Michael Barrios in the 69th minute. Finally, Ricardo Pepi came on for Jara in the 89th minute.

Houston rolled out their normal 4-3-3 albeit without their best player Mauro Manotas.

Houston Dynamo XI against FC Dallas, August 21, 2020.

With a shallower bench, Coach Tab Ramos only made one change, bringing on Tomas Martinez for Christian Ramirez.


None, for the 2nd game in a row.

El Bueno

After the game, at the suggestion of Dan Crooke, I looked into Matt Hedges stats and WOW. I’m changing him to my Man of the Match.  He won 3 of 4 tackles, had 3 blocks, 2 interceptions, 9 clearances, and 7 recoveries. That’s 25 defensive actions. That’s amazing.  For comparison sake Reto Ziegler had 11 and Bressan 14 both of whom were solid.  On a night we all celebrated Hedges breaking the club’s regular-season games played record, all Hedges did was go out and have an extraordinary game.  He even had the one FC Dallas shot on target.

It means a lot. Obviously, to be that player for a club is a really special thing and I’m glad it was in Dallas. They took a chance on me and drafted me even though I had a bad combine and fell down the draft charts. So, I’m glad to just get a chance and look what it’s turned into. It’s really cool. 

Matt Hedges

The Hedges congrats video is a win. Amazing.  I love seeing all the olds guys come back and I really love seeing Jason Kreis here. If that bridge could be repaired it would be amazing.

Brandon Sevrvania was my initial Man of the Match in the immediate post game. His insertion elevated the play, moved the team up the field, created a possession type game, and generally made the team look much, much better.  It’s not something statistically we can point to, he was only 3 for 8 passing for example. It had more to do with his positioning – how he helped connect the lines, how he defensively turned the play, how he broke forward. Even something as simple as the run he made late into the goal box to position himself to score (the pass didn’t reach him). 

Brandon Servania all-touch video vs Houston Dynamo, August 21, 2020, by 3rd Degree contributor Mr Kranks.

Paxton Pomykal, again.  I mean we’re beating a dead horse here. The dude should be starting. He’s special. We know it. You know it. Everyone knows it.  Yes, he’s dealing with an injury flare-up but even if it’s just 70 minutes against Colorado, get him in there.

You may wonder why Johnny Nelson is in the bueno part of this post as, in many ways, he was just ok, particularly going forward. Although to his credit he was better in that regard than in the previous game.  But this is a kid making just his 6th career start and he had a very tough assessment with the dangerous Alberth Elis on his side and, for the most part, Nelson had a pretty good night shutting him down. Predominately, Nelson turned Elis inside to the help defense, that’s a smart play.  One obvious bad moment was the turnover Nelson had that almost led to a goal. But overall for a young player, this was a net positive game in my mind.

As I said in my post game Instant Reaction (see below), if you had any doubts about Jimmy Maurer being up for the job you shouldn’t any longer. Back-to-back games of 7 saves and 6 saves. Well done. So much of goalkeeping is communication and being in the right place at the right time.

It felt good. It’s what I’m there to do. The guys in front of me defended well. The chances they did have were further shots from outside the box. There was only one or two that were really dangerous like the one from Elis, which was really unlucky. The guys had tons of blocks and fought hard in front of me. And that’s what I’m there to do. 

Jimmy Maurer

The white jersey with blue shorts and white socks is a win. That’s a beautiful look for the white kit and is a vast improvement on the all-white look.

MLS: FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo
Aug 21, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dynamo defender Maynor Figueroa (15) controls the ball as FC Dallas forward Franco Jara (29) defends during the first half at BBVA Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Camino del Medio

I didn’t enjoy the 3-4-3, but you can argue it worked.  The sometimes slow-as-dirt FCD defense didn’t give up any goals (no, not all of them are slow, but a few are). I have no idea if it was the game plan, but the first half was pretty much a straight bunker and counter without any counter. This 3-4-3 certainly isn’t what we have come to know as Luchi-Ball.  Only 43% possession, just 79% passing accuracy, a low 415 passes.

I’m proud of the way we defended our half, our box, our goal, credit to the guys in the backline. Credit to the guys upfront, it was a full team effort getting compact behind the ball and making it difficult to break us down. 

Luchi Gonzalez

Franco Jara was a mixed bag. Not as fast or mobile as I would like. Not getting shots. But he’s an above-average passer for a forward. He had only 2 missed passes out of 16 in the offensive half of the field. That keeps the play alive and moving.  He’s also super savvy reading the game, making dummies, fakes. Man, if only he was 28!   Ricardo Pepi could learn a lot from him.

Muy Feo

1 shot on goal again. That’s not good enough. Full Stop. 7 shots total, that’s not good enough. The disconnect to the front line through midfield continues.  What does it say when be far the most dangerous moments for FCD mostly came on corners with Ziegler playing balls to Hedges?

We’ve got to keep working. Those are synchronizations, those are positional things. Spacing, timing, and the potential is definitely there.

Luchi Gonzalez

Someone in the Thiago Santos and Bryan Acosta double-pivot isn’t doing the necessary linking. I want to point my finger at Acosta. I’ve soured on him. Looking at the way FCD played after Servania came on helps reinforce that thinking. But let’s also think back to March, the two games Santos looked amazing. Those were in a double-pivot and you could argue Santos was getting forward and linking with Tanner Tessmann being the more stay-at-home of the pair.  Either way, something needs to change here in this combo. By now you should know what my vote is.

To my eyes, Fafa Picault looks stiff and off the pace he had earlier this year.  I had been wondering why he isn’t starting and now I think I know.  Having said that, I think he was more dangerous than Jesus Ferreira who had no successful passed into the final third, although he had the weird cutback shot that one can argue was the closest FCD came to scoring.  The problem of where to play Jesus continues and Franco Jara’s arrival only makes that harder.

Michael Barrios isn’t getting assists perhaps because he’s not getting enough of the ball.  On the broadcast, I think it was Steve Davis who mentioned he thought Barrios looked a little off his game.  Frankly the whole team does. By my count, Barrios had 17 touches. That’s not enough.

Next Game

FCD gets the hated, at least by us, Colorado Rapids on Wednesday.  7:30 pm kickoff at Toyota Stadium.

Except Kellyn Acosta, we will always love us some Kellyn Acosta.

Kellyn Acosta, 2016. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Instant Reaction – 3 Things: FC Dallas at Houston

My post game instant reaction.

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