The Breakdown: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake, October 24, 2020

After the pain of watching the Dallas Cowboys this afternoon, I felt I needed to work on something much more positive. So I decided to break down the FC Dallas game at Real Salt Lake.

I didn’t watch FCD/RSL live as I attended North Texas SC in person. But based on Twitter, I was expecting one of the worst performances of all-time… instead, I saw a mid-table team who stinks on the road trying to grind out a point.

There’s a lot of tactics and game plan talk in this one. And yes, we can separate the tactics from the performance.

It’s an important point that I’m sure will make a difference at the end, but we have to move on quickly.

Coach Luchi Gonzalez

Let’s break it down…

Lineups and Tactics

Coach Luchi Gonzalez opts for a 4-3-3 as usual, but the big change was a lack of Luchi-Ball for a low block.  More on that down below. Thiago Santos was back but Bryan Acosta was out with a hamstring issue so Tanner Tessmann stays in the lineup.  Jesus Ferreira got the start for Fafa Picault.

FC Dallas starting XI at RSL with Jesus Ferreira as a false-wing, October 24, 2020.

Fafa Picault replaced Jesus Ferreira at the half. More on that too down below. Matt Hedges subbed in, for just the 8th time in his career, for Andres Ricaurte in the 70th minute and the team shifted to a 3-4-3.

FC Dallas’ late game 3-4-3 at RSL, October 24, 2020.

Brandon Servania replaced Frano Jara in the 86th minute making the shape more 3-5-2 and then Ema Twumasi replaced Michael Barrios in the 93rd minute.

RSL seems to be playing a 4-4-2 with a relatively narrow midfield.

RSL starting XI vs FC Dallas according to MLS, October 24, 2020. (Courtesy MLS)

Coach Freddy Juarez brought in Justin Meram for Douglas Martínez in the 69th minute. Then made a double sub in the 79th minutes of Jeizon Ramírez for Maikel Chang and Nick Besler for Pablo Ruiz.



El Bueno

Let’s talk tactics.

While it’s boring and you can hate it, Luchi’s choice to low-block bunker, kill the game, and play for a tie (or steal of the game) was a good one.  This team stinks on the road (1-4-3) and got blown out at Nashville playing offensively. Playing for a road tie in this short season was the right choice and it did in fact work. Holding a team to 3 shots on goal is a fantastic defensive performance collectively.

We knew it was going to be a difficult match with the weather, the field, the team, the altitude. The important part was that the team was focused from the first minute until the final whistle. 

Michael Barrios

The first half was a “shorten the game,” low block kill (see Sporting KC at FCD the other day). I think that’s why Jesus Ferreira started. Ferreira and Franco Jara played hold-up ball, looking for a foul, or a fluke counter via lay off to Barrios to steal a chance.  Ferreira 92% passing, Jara 100% in the first half executing the plan. Also, both Ryan Hollingshead and Bryan Reynolds were in stay-at-home mode to protect the slow center back combo. 

In the second half, Luchi decides to put in a high-presser, Fafa Picault, to try and pick and choose moments for a turnover and steal. The FCD low block shifted a bit toward a mid-block. Then the addition of Matt Hedges changed the game completely. The outside backs became wings and ventured forward a little and Dallas was able to control the midfield.  That allowed them to hold the ball and leave RSL few chances.  FCD still was in a kill the game mode, but this half was better and FCD got a few chances.

We had a couple of great chances and we were able to get Fafa (Picault) in and use his speed. We changed the game in the second half and gave ourselves a bit better chance. At the end of the day we come away with a solid point. 

Jimmy Maurer

In short, I liked the game plan. 

54% of the RSL shots came from outside the box, that’s good. 10 RSL shots were blocked.  And just 3 hit the target, all in the first half.   Compare that to FCD who had 63% of their shots come inside the box. Yes there were only 8 of them, again, low-mid block, but that’s much better in terms of scoring chances. 2 shots on target and only 4 off, that’s 50%. Again, that’s good.

Jimmy Maurer was great again. He only had to make 3 saves but he did so as usual. He was my Man of the Match because he had the best individual performance.

Camino del Medio

I think Luchi pulled Andres Ricaurte for Matt Hedges in order to keep a three-man front line to press while also keeping the two holders in front of the three-man backline. Maybe some Ricaurte minute-load management too.  The occasional, well-timed press was the best chance FCD had to score at that point without breaking their defensive shell.

The other was just to organize ourselves better. If we are going to press, we need to press together. If we are going to midblock, we need to drop, drop off and reorganize, and be compact.

Luchi Gonzalez

Michael Barrios was such a mixed bag in this one. 2 shots both on target – the only 2 the club had – and a key pass. But he was a turnover machine. 51% passing and 6 fumbled receptions although he wasn’t dispossessed. 0 dribbles, which isn’t good.

Muy Feo

What I didn’t like was how flat FCD was with energy in the first half.  They were in a bunker sure and I bet that’s not fun. But you still have to bring spirit and energy.  The energy lifted in the second half and FCD looked much better. Attitude and energy matter, even when playing for a tie.

Halftime we were talking about things we could do better to try and change the game and get some more chances going forward, get a little bit more control of the game, and not be pinned back so much and be giving away so many chances. We were able to do that. 

Jimmy Maurer

While I thought Franco Jara was doing some good things in terms of hold up and transition, he was too casual receiving passes with 7 flubbed receptions. That’s not good.

Also, without Matt Hedges, FCD has been plagued by dropping too deep off of shooters. This is particularly true of the long-range shots. Even when they are outside the box the defenders need to close with alacrity.  Just as in Nashville this was a problem at RSL. 

Where are the blue shorts?  All-white stinks. Boo!  Obviously the answer is RSL in blue shorts but I don’t mind shorts of the same color as long as the socks and jersey are sharp contrasts, which these are.

Next Game

FC Dallas hosts Brek Shea and Inter Miami at Toyota Stadium on Wednesday at 7:30 pm. Game is Fox Sports Southwest.


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