The Breakdown: FC Dallas at Sporting KC – Sept 19, 2020

Well that was certainly a crazy game. FC Dallas has clearly developed a second style or play under Coach Luchi Gonzalez.  It feels completely alien as it’s so different from Luchi-Ball.  But it seems to work against certain kinds of teams.

I also never get tired seeing FC Dallas beat Sporting, particularly in KC.

There’s not a better place to get three points than here in Kansas City. There’s no better feeling. I love taking three points from Children’s Mercy Park. So glad to do that.

Ryan Hollingshead

Let’s break it down…

Lineups and Tactics

This new style Coach Luchi Gonzalez is implementing isn’t about shape, so I’ll come back to it later.  

With some light squad rotation – it’s basically going to be two games a week from here on out – FCD used a single-pivot 4-3-3 again with a dual-8.  Rotated in were Brandon Servania in midfield, Fafa Picault at right wing, and Johnny Nelson at left back.  Jimmy Maurer returned from injury at the exact time Kyle Zobeck injured something in his groin so that’s not really rotation.

FC Dallas XI at Sporting KC, Sept 19, 2020.

Michael Barrios and Bryan Acosta came on for Santiago Mosquera and Brandon Servania in the 56th minute in the wake of Johnny Russell’s first goal.  Ryan Hollingshead came on for Picault at left wing in the 65th minutes (trust is a powerful drug). Finally in the 73rd minutes, Bressan came on for Franco Jara as FCD shifted into a 5-4-1 that we have seen two games in a row now as a game killing measure.

FC Dallas late game 4-5-1 at Sporting KC, Sept 19, 2020.

Sporting KC was in their 4-3-3 that seems to be pretty much their standard. It can compress into a 4-5-1 quite easily if needed.

Sporting KC XI vs FC Dallas, Sept 19, 2020.

At halftime, Gerzo – who wasn’t having much luck against Bryan Reynolds, was lifted for Ilie Sánchez.  Then due to injury, Amadou Dia replaced Luis Martins.


1-0 FC Dallas goal. 42nd minute. A lovely cross by Johnny Nelson – right footed even -is met with a diving header by Franco Jara.

2-0 FC Dallas goal. 48th minute. On a corner by Reto Ziegler, Sporting makes a really poor clearance that falls right to Franco Jara for a gifted goal.

2-1 Sporting KC goal. 53rd minute.  Johnny Russell is untracked on a corner by Santiago Mosquera as the rebound is pounced on by Russell for a free shot on goal.

2-2 Sporting KC goal. 83rd minute.  Another set play where Johnny Russell is unmarked. This time it looks like Reto Ziegler is the culprit as Russell gets a free header.

3-2 FC Dallas goal. 86th minute. Graham Zusi gifts Michael Barrios with the easy game winner, only for Barrios to botch it.  Thankfully, Ryan Hollingshead is there on the trailing run to clean up the mess and take home the game.

El Bueno

Franco Jara was my Man of the Match with 2 goals. But it wasn’t just the goals.  22 touches, so he didn’t see tons of the ball, but 100% passing, 4 shots all on target, two of them goals, obviously. Imposing himself on the game.

My idea when I first arrived was to adapt to the team’s play style, but Luchi told me to relax and do what I already know but defend a little more than the normal. Step by step we are working on that and it’s all about the team efforts, as well, to make it all work.

Franco Jara

Tanner Tessmann was again excellent.  Not as good as the rapids game but still quite good. He’s so strong he just shrugs off defenders. It’s so rare to have that size and power combined with skill.  He’s playing well enough to perhaps keep Bryan Acosta on the bench.  40 touches, 71% passing, 1 key pass, 3 dribbles, 2 interceptions, 4 clearances, 4 for 8 on long balls.

Peter Vermes was quite upset after the game and he just loves to lecture people.  He was giving Luchi Gonzalez an ear full. The point here isn’t if Vermes was right or not, but that it’s a big positive that Luchi didn’t react. Coach Gonzalez stayed calm and wasn’t baited. Well done, coach.

Johnny Nelson took a step in the right direction with this offense.  We talked about a lack of action in the attacking third. But he brought some of that in this one (see chart, below left). That’s good progression by a younger defender, love it, excellent.  While he’s overall a net win in this game, there’s still one issue in the deep build-out. Teams are still keying on him to pinch him against the sideline.  Reto Ziegler passed the ball to Nelson once early in the first half in a deep build-out position, it was immediately keyed on and pinched… so Reto pretty much stopped making that pass to Nelson. It only happned once more all game and that pass wasn’t completed. (See Ziegler’s chart, right.)

FCD again was terrific in their shot selection. 13 shots with 9 on target, you got to love that. 77% of shots coming inside the box. That’s fantastic.  Keep it up.

I like that FCD has a new style to play. We’ve seen it two games in a row. It includes a mid to low block and little concern with possession while looking for counter attacks.  Only 36% possession in this one and a paltry 283 passes when we’re used to the approximately 600 passes of Luchi-Ball.  It seems Coach Gonzalez is using this style when FCD is having trouble building out against a press or facing a team that is able to disrupt their passing. 74% passing accuracy by FCD puts this game in the latter category.

Camino del Medio

I was concerned that Coach Gonzalez chose to bunker in the 5-4-1 too early in the 73rd minute?  30 minutes is a long time to kill. But, you know, it worked. So all’s forgiven?

We did it around the 74th minute or so, so slightly earlier than normal but we felt there were some overloads wide that we felt we had to handle and take care of.

Luchi Gonzalez

Look, I get it. The game delaying isn’t fun. But it is part of soccer, it’s pretty standard.  It’s happened to the US so many times it ought to be familiar to you.  Is it enjoyable? No.  But it’s part of FCD as a culture to play this way and has been for some time.  Is there too much of it? Probably.  I could do with less for my taste. But it is what it is.  As a fan base, we need to just get used to it, I think, because I doubt it will stop.  The real problem is referees coming in looking for it and deciding that they are going to punish it and stop it rather than just letting the game play out. 

And we might have to get used to Los Toros being the villains.

It was clear to me coming in that Thiago Santos was in need of a rest and it was just as clear that sitting on a one-game suspension on his next yellow he would intentionally get one. Which he did.  It took me 2 seconds to spot it while looking at the games notes, an opposing coach should have warned his team to be on the lookout for it. To expect it. Instead, Sporting seemed surprised and angry.

I know they started punishing them at the end, but the free kick right at the end, I think it’s Thiago [Santos], that’s not even time wasting, that’s just complete disrespect.

Johnny Russell

Here’s the referee on why there was no PK given to Khiry Shelton in the first half.

In the opinion of the referee, the goalkeeper of FCD had established his position well before Khiry Shelton knocked the long ball past him. The goalkeeper made no movement to interfere with Shelton, who then collided with the keeper in what the referee deemed to be a coming together of two players without foul play.

Referee Alex Chilowicz (via MLS Pool Reporter)

Muy Feo

When Bryan Acosta first subbed on, I commented that I loved the energy he was bringing. But he has to be smarter. Once the referee calls a couple of those aggressive defensive fouls – even if you disagree they are fouls – you have to recognize it and stop making that foul.  Now’s he’s not available when he might have been Santos’ replacement.

The Univision English commentators seemed slanted toward Sporting all night, to me anyway. Maybe it’s the home field? Or maybe I’m just as biased?

I didn’t think the late foul near the edge of the box by Bryan Reynolds was a foul, it looked like a bigger and stronger defender won a shoulder charge to me.  But then my whole life I was bigger and stronger and got called for that all the time. So, again, I’m probably biased.

Also, if Johnny Russell – who is a hell of a good player – had connected on this studs first tackle it would have been a red.

Next Game

FCD stays on the road this Wednesday – sort of, they do come back between games – at the reeling Atlanta United who are winless in 6 with 4 losses and 2 ties.  Kickoff from Mercedes-Benz Stadium is at 6 pm CT on Fox Sports Southwest.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

FC Dallas at Sporting KC, Sept 19, 2020.

1 Comment

  1. To see THAT coach complain about time wasting was really galling. Luchi should have said, “You’re the coach of SKC, right? And you’re going with THAT?”

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