The Breakdown: FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders – 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs

By virtue of finishing 7th in the Western Conference in 2019, FC Dallas got a chance to dance this postseason. 7th-place being the lowest seed in the playoff, Los Toros were left with the unenviable task of traveling to Seattle to face the Sounders.

With only three wins on the road this season and only one win in Seattle all-time, the outlook to advance was bleak. But the FCD players and staff adapted a “why not us” mentality and put in one heck of an effort in the 4-3 loss.

“Warriors. We don’t care about the environment. We don’t care. 30,000 fans. Whatever. It doesn’t matter to us, we are going to play our football. That showed today because this team of capable of so much and you saw a little bit of that today. There was no fear from us, there was no hesitation.”

Reggie Cannon

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Wow, did Coach Luchi Gonzalez roll the dice or what? Reggie Cannon got the start at right wing of the 4-3-3 with Michael Barrios on the left wing and Bressan at right back. Barrios and Cannon did swap wings partway through the game. FCD stuck with Zdenek Ondrasek which meant a press/build instead of counter but it was a little more of a mid-block press, at least initially, deeper than normal.

FC Dallas starting XI at Seattle Sounders in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, October 19, 2019.(FC Dallas / FC Dallas)

In the 77th minute, Coach Gonzalez makes a double sub bringing on Paxton Pomykal for Bressan – Pomykal played as the 10 shifting Cannon to his natural right back position – and Santiago Mosquera for Jesus Ferreira.

In the 95th minute of regulation, Jacori Hayes came on for Ondrasek shifting Barrios up high. Then in the 108’s minute, Edwin Cerrillo came on for Brandon Servania, presumably to get some fresher legs in midfield.

Seattle started their usual 4-2-3-1. Jordan Morris at left wing and Brad Smith being the logical assumption as to why Cannon started at right wing.

Seattle Sounders starting XI vs FC Dallas in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, October 19, 2019.(Seattle Sounders / Seattle Sounders)

In the 67th minute, Coach Brian Schmetzer brought in Víctor Rodríguez for Brad Smith. In overtime, Nouhou Tolo came on for Joevin Jones (97’), Luis Silva came on for Kelvin Leerdam (111’), and Jordy Delem replaced Jordan Morris (114’).


1-0 Seattle Sounders Goal. 18th minute. Brandon Servania tried to steal a pass in midfield and missed which gave Raul Ruidiaz space behind Servania. Ruidiaz shoots as Matt Hedges tries to close, partially blocking Jesse Gonzalez, as the ball goes in at the post.

2-0 Seattle Sounders Goal. 22nd minute. 3 of the 4 FC Dallas defenders are caught upfield leaving Seattle with a 2 on 1 against Matt HedgesJordan Morris is set up one on one with Jesse Gonzalez and scores.

2-1 FC Dallas Goal. 39th minute. A cross from Michael Barrios on the right isn’t cleared, bounces around, and falls to Reggie Cannon. Cannon makes a nice finish for his 3rd career goal and 1st in the playoffs.

“That was an important goal before the half to just reaffirm that ‘Hey, we’re playing a good game here. We’re competing well and let’s take it up a notch. Let’s actually play the second half the way we finished the first half.’ And I thought we executed that.”

Luchi Gonzalez

2-2 FC Dallas Goal. 64th minute. Off a Michael Barrios corner form the left, Matt Hedges manhandles Gustav Svensson and slams home the header. Classic Hedges.

Wait… first career goal?!?! What are you talking about?

3-2 Seattle Sounders Goal. 74th minute. A Seattle corner is flicked on to Jordan Morris who is backing down Brandon Servania. Morris had position and redirects the ball in for an easy goal.

3-3 FC Dallas Goal. 82nd minute. Another corer, this time Reto Ziegler swings it in. Bryan Acosta is unmarked on the backside and the long kick finds him for the easy header.

4-3 Seattle Sounders Goal. 113th minute. After two blocked shots, Jordan Morris out jumps Edwin Cerrillo for the header to complete his hat trick.

El Bueno

By the time the game ended, the result didn’t even matter to me anymore. So many times this season, FCD went down early on the road and folded. Often getting beaten up pretty badly. Not in this one. The gut check was amazing. FCD fought back from 2-0 then again from 3-2. It was so much fun to watch and I dare hope it’s a sign of growth and progress for this young team and coach. Stefan Frei had to make four big saves down the stretch to deny FCD.

“We made a dog fight out of this. I also liked our fútbol. I thought we played, we expressed ourselves, we lived. We’re going to hurt in the short term, but in the long term I see growth and I see amazing potential in our human beings, in our locker room and I’m looking forward to the future of working with this group and the staff.”

Luchi Gonzalez

54% possession and 81% passing on the road is some pretty good Luchi-Ball. 34 crosses! 24 shots on the road, that’s fantastic. More on shooting in a bit.

FC Dallas Man of the Match was Reggie Cannon. Asked to play an unfamiliar position and fared admirably. He caused some trouble up top and played good defense. He got the opening FC Dallas goal and got the team back in it. He was asked to move to left wing and did that too. Finally shifted back to his normal right back and was find. No USMNT let off at all.

“You know working on myself mentally behind the scenes as soon as those two goals happened. I kind of smiled a little bit. I met it with a challenge. I was excited. Because, when things get tough like that you can’t give up then because that is just when the tides turn.”

Reggie Cannon

Mett Hedges I thought had a strong day, showing strength, commitment, and leadership. His goal was a big one too. 93 touches, 82% passing (that’s a little low) but 2 key passes and 7 of 13 on long balls. 5 aerials won, 5 interceptions, 7 clearances, 3 blocked shots, and 1 massive goal.

Paxton Pomykal made a big difference coming in. 5 of his 9 passes were “key passes” creating opportunities for FCD to score. 43 minutes, 21 touches, 5 key passes, 3 shots. He didn’t get on the score sheet but the FCD play elevated after he came on.

Camino del Medio

By starting Zdenek Ondrasek, Coach Gonzalez didn’t use the counterpunch style strategy from a month again in Seattle, instead sticking with the more normal press, albeit from a deeper position. Cobra had some nice layoff passes, more than normal even, and helped the build-up. But, he didn’t score. FCD success of late has depended greatly on Ondrasek scoring. He wasn’t able to get as deep in the box as of late and couldn’t capitalize.

I don’t want to come down on him as having made “mistakes” but I did think Jesse Gonzalez could have done just a little more on the first two goals. Screened on the first one? Sure, maybe. Maybe a slip. From that far out it just seemed a little soft. The 2nd one – granted a one on one versus Jordan Morris – went through the wickets.

Muy Feo

Pass the ball, Bryan Acosta. Pass the ball and FCD wins the game (probably). (Clip should be qued to the proper play)

When the lineup was announced, it was clear to me a mistake was made that there was no over the top threat was available on the bench. With Dom Badji out, some pace was needed as an option. The only other pace option was Bryan Reynolds who as left in Dallas to play with North Texas SC. Jacori HayesEdwin Cerrillo, and Eric Alexander are basically the same player on paper – experience aside. One of them should have been dropped for Reynolds.

I’m not anti-Bressan, but in Luchi-Ball the outside backs are asked to get way forward in play, sometimes even both at the same time. So they need pace, particularly pace to recover, and Bressan doesn’t have that. On the first Jordan Morris goal both Ryan Hollingshead and Bressan were up, so when Ziegler pinched Hedges was left all alone against several defenders with no help to be seen. Neither Hollingshead nor Bressan could recover in time. Johnny Nelson was available on the bench and we know he can play right back, which might have been the better choice perhaps.

Again, finishing wasn’t clinical enough. Only 8 of the 24 shots on target. That’s not a great ratio and is something to improve on going forward. 54% of FCD’s shots came from outside the box. That’s poor. Acosta, the holding mid, led the team with 6 shots… That’s not what you want. FCD is a team that has to get action in close, in the box, where Ondrasek can work.

Next Game

2020 spring training. That’s when the next game is.

“You need to suffer and need to have pain in your life to reaffirm that there’s a lot of work to do. The future is about fighting and getting up and trying again. This hurts, but I know we’re going to bounce back in the right way and work and keep building on our ideas.”

Luchi Gonzalez

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