The Breakdown – FC Dallas at Sporting KC

The first of back-to-back games for FC Dallas at Sporting Kansas City. This one was an MLS regular season game. It was an entertaining affair, full of all the usual shenanigans that riddle the history of these two clubs.

“We rotated with so many young players. I am pretty sure that they learned a lot because this is what we need. This is what the kids need too. So this is the way that FC Dallas wants to grow as a club, we as a team need to give the opportunity to the young players. 

FC Dallas Interim Coach Peter Luccin

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Interim Coach Peter Luccin is throwing us tactical curve balls game after game. This one was mostly a back three again – although with a 5-2 front – but Luccin is using flex shapes with defenses shiting in and out of a 3 to 4 to 5-man back line. Sam Junqua being in tells us the base was a back 3 but with some heavy rotation the shape was wonky. The main difference from the 3-4-2-1 is that Bearnard Kamungo was playing high as a 2nd striker with Tsiki Ntsabeleng underneath.

There was quite a bit of rotation as the plan for the Open Cup on Wednesday really impacted this XI.

The FC Dallas XI in a 3-5-2 at Sporting KC, July 7, 2024.
The FC Dallas XI in a 3-5-2 at Sporting KC, July 7, 2024.

At halftime, Sebastian Lletget replaced Tomas Pondeca.

56th minute, the big guns came on as Paul Arriola, Asier Illarramendi, and Petar Musa replaced Tsiki Ntsabeleng, Nolan Norris, and Dante Sealy. Kamungo shifted to wingback and Musa took up the high spot with Farrington and Arriola underneath.

80th minute, Marco Farfan replaced Omar Gonzalez.

The graphic isn’t super clear, but that’s a 4-2-3-1 for Sporting KC.

Sporting KC’s XI in a 4-2-3-1 vs FC Dallas on July 7, 2024. (Courtesy Sporting KC)

Sporting had rotated as well and in the 58th minute made a triple sub right after FCD with Stephen Afrifa, Zorhan Bassong, and Erik Thommy coming on for Dániel Sallói, Tim Leibold, and Alan Pulido.

65th, Khiry Shelton came on for Kayden Pierre.

70th minute, Johnny Russell replaced Alenis Vargas.


0-1 Sporting KC goal. 11th minute. Dante Sealy is man-marking Willy Agada, has his arms around him, in fact, somehow loses track, and Agada heads in the goal.

0-2 Sporting KC goal. 23rd minute. The Dallas defense is a little out of sorts, Alenis Vargas finds space at the backside to play a classy chip to the near post. Willy Agada sneaks in between Nkosi Tafari and Ema Twumasi for the goal.

“On the second goal, we worked the ball really well in that situation. The circulation of the ball was great. I thought that Alenis (Vargas) did a really good job to find his space and then he puts in a great service. Don’t get me wrong, Willy is in the right place but you can’t miss that one. I mean, it’s right there. He hits a great ball. But the circulation to get there was excellent. It was good.”

Sporting KC Head Coach Peter Vermes

1-2 FC Dallas goal. 30th minute. Technically an own-goal by Tim Meila, but Bernie Kamungo did all the hard worth and put on the pressure, with some help from Logan Farrington.

2-2 FC Dallas goal. 65th minute. Good team goal, the over-the-top ball is collected by Paul Arriola, who finds Logan Farrington, who crosses to Petar Musa for the goal.

2-3 Sporting KC goal. 82nd minute. Memo Rodrigez makes an untracked run to the top of the box (*glances at Paul Arriola*) and smashes in the game-winning goal.

Lo Bueno

Logan Farrington was my Man of the Match. He was again terrific for 90 minutes. He’s made it over the rookie hurdle and should be a lock starter at this point. Farrington had a staggering 8 shot-creating actions, 5 key passes, and 2 goal-creating actions. He again led FCD in drawn fouls with 4, that’s 10 in the last 2 games.

Sebastian Lletget was again fantastic in the midfield after coming in. He and Asier Illarramendi need to be the starting combo from here on out. In a half of soccer, he had 45 touches, 88% passing, 4 progressive passes, and 8 recoveries.

Nolan Norris got through 56 minutes without a yellow card!! Love it. And he was fairly involved with 39 touches, 83% passing, 21 carries, 1/3 on tackles, 1/1 on challenges, and 3 clearances. Only dispossessed twice with 1 poor reception. Baby steps, play the kids.

“It’s about the process. I always demand the best from myself. I feel confidence from the players and the staff and it’s about enjoying it and playing confidently. I need to be more demanding, and the team needs to do more as we work towards the next match.”

Nolan Norris

I thought Sam Junqua was FCD’s best defender in this one. He kept getting left on an island and held up pretty well trying to cover for the lack of help on his side. He passed at a lower clip than the other two, but again he had Sealy and Pondeca on his side. 84% passing, he did have 3 progressive passes and 2 into the final third. Defensively though was his stronger suit, 2/4 on tackles, 2 blocks, 2 intercepts, 2 clears, 1/1 on challenges, and 0 fouls committed.

This was Nkosi Tafari‘s first game as captain from the start of the proceedings.

Nkosi Tafari, Captain for the first time for a complete game, takes on Sporting KC, July 7, 2024. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Camino del Medio

I think I like the way the Dallas defense under Peter Luccin flexes in and out of a back 3 to back 4… and sometimes even a back 5. At least as a general concept and idea. Mainly it’s happening on the right side with Ema Twumasi in this game. I’m not sure the other side understood the assignment. So it’s failed pretty miserably in the first half.

I’m just going to put this quote from Law 15 right here and you can be the judge.

“All opponents must stand at least 2 m (2 yds) from the point on the touchline where the throw-in is to be taken.”

“An opponent who unfairly distracts or impedes the thrower (including moving closer than 2 m (2 yds) to the place where the throw-in is to be taken) is cautioned for unsporting behaviour and if the throw-in has been taken an indirect free kick is awarded.”

FIFA Law 15: The Throw In

Muy Feo

Tomas Pondeca really struggled to find the game in this one. He only had 13 touches in the half of soccer he played in the double pivot. Lletget had 46. Still, play the kids. Pondeca deserves some more PT but at his higher more attacking position that Tsiki Ntsabeleng is occupying these days.

Poor start by FCD. In a game against a rival just below you in the standings to give up two goals in the first 23 minutes is really poor. It doesn’t matter how much you rotated the mentality should be the same. Sporting had 2 goals in their first 3 shots. Not good.

“With all the rotations that we did, I think we started well in the first 15 minutes. Then after that, we changed a bit in terms of our energy, our press was different, and we became passive. So that’s why they started having the ball scored those goals”

Interim Coach Peter Luccin.

The FC Dallas shape was a mess. Check out this average FCD position thru 56 minutes from our friends at MLS Statistics and Analysis, specifically check out the left wingback (LWB), aka Dante Sealy. Who is so out of position he’s higher than Musa and Farrington. See goal number two for an example of why this is a problem.

FC Dallas passing flow chart and average position through minute 56 vs Sporting KC on July 7, 2024, by @MLSStat.

Goals off of crosses and the failure to win aerial duals has reared its ugly head again. This was a problem from early in the season. Focus, will, and determination are what it takes to defend crossed in and Dallas failed at that. Nature of the heavy rotation? Something to be watched certainly.

FC Dallas Playoff Hunt

Playoff Point Watch ~44 pts (probably)
Have: 23 pts
~Need: 21 pts
Game left: 12
~Wins Needed: 7

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