The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs Austin FC, March 2024

Usually, the title of this feature is in reference to what we’re going to do in the piece. But this time, it’s also representative of what happened with FC Dallas.

They had a breakdown. Twice.

“We’re in a difficult moment to get a result but, for us, it’s 24 hours of being disappointed and tomorrow starts a new opportunity to get three points against St. Louis.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Lineups and Tactics

Coach Nico Estevez rolled out an honest-to-goodness 4-4-2. Eugene Ansah filled in for Jesus Ferreira.

In the 71st minute, Logan Farrington replaced Eugene Ansah. That’s a straight swap.

81st minute, the triple sub. Patrickson Delgado for Liam Fraser, Tsiki Ntsabeleng for Ema Twumasi, and Bernie Kamungo for Dante Sealy.

Austin FC used a 4-2-3-1 and since their social media are cowards we’ll use the MLS version.

Austin FC's XI vs FC Dallas, March 30, 2024. (Courtesy MLS)
Austin FC’s XI vs FC Dallas, March 30, 2024. (Courtesy MLS)

78th minutes, Guilherme Biro replaced Hector Jimenez. In the 84th, the greatest defender in FC Dallas history, Matt Hedges, replaced Jader Obrian. And at 91+ Gyasi Zardes came on for Diego Rubio.


1-0 FC Dallas. 51st minute. In a total surprise, Eugene Ansah pounces on a knock-down header by Petar Musa, thus executing what no one else in the club has been able to do since Musa got here, converting a run off the 9 for a goal. Almost like a real off-striker should. Jason Kreis would be proud.

1-1 Austin FC. 54th minute. Austin has a throw-in and the cross isn’t challenged fast enough. Julio Cascante isn’t tracked by Liam Fraser, and even though Sebas Ibeagha and Nkosi Tafari are there, neither wins the aerial duel, and the goal is scored.

“One of the issues we’re having is that we’re conceding goals from situations that we should control. That goal from the throw-in is something that can’t happen.”

Coach Nico Estevez.

1-2 Austin FC. 70th minute. Sebastián Driussi is allowed bags of space in midfield and he floats on into the box to Diego Rubio. Nkosi Tafari lets Rubio sneak behind for the goal. Did Tafari think Rubio was off? Just lost concentration? Not good.

“On the second goal there was only one player in the box so we have to do better. We have to read that in-swinging cross, we have to anticipate the drop, the ball goes there and we have to make contact with the opponent player.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Lo Bueno

I said in my Instant Reaction – 3 Things (see below) that my Man of the Match was Maarten Paes…. but as I dig into the stats in the cool light of dawn, I’m changing my vote and going with Petar Musa. Paes had 1 save in 3 shots. Musa? Well, no saves obviously… But, in 35 touches he had 6 (!) shot-creating actions and 1 goal-creating action (the assist). He also had 2 blocks (t-1st), 2 clears, and 5 recoveries (2nd). He was 2 for 2 on takes-ons (1st) and won 4 aerial duels (1st) twice the next-best player Ema Twumasi. He’s got a lot of ways he can get better but this was a good showing by him.

I liked the spirit shown at the end of the game. Sebastian Lletget was noticeably busting his ass for 90 minutes. Nkosi Tafari finally started hitting people. And there were at least hints of some pride and fight for respect.

“These are the moments where we get to see players’ true characters. It is easy when things go your way, but now is the time that we need to show our character and respond. We can’t throw away the good things we do throughout the matches and continue to build.”

Sam Junqua

Camino del Medio

If Alex Ring weren’t 32, I would call Austin FC about him in this time of FCD midfield trouble. I’ve always admired his game. Driussi gets all the hype, the assist on the Rubio goal was nice, and he had 2 key passes. But that’s it on 80 touches? Ring? He had 6 shot-creating actions and 5 key passes on his 57 touches. This is not to say Driussi is bad, just that Ring is good and is my kind of player. One of the things that killed Austin last year, for me, was putting Ring in the back line.

Muy Feo

The game production missed a goal for a replay. SMH.

Dallas was dominated in all phases. Possession: 67% to 33 %. Passing: 85% to 75%. Shots: 13 to 8. Touches: 697 to 397. Here’s the thing though, that’s Nico-road ball. Our friend Aeman Kafai tweeted that FC Dallas on the road is 24th in MLS on the road with a -1.36 xG difference. That’s the Nico Estevez grind it out, kill the game, go for a goal late, and steal points away. Do we hate it? Heck, yes we do. But Coach Estevez would say it’s working as intended… or it was if not for the two goals on crosses.

“We don’t think about excuses or missing key players, we knew that the group that we had today could get a good result today and compete well. We competed overall very well in the first half. We didn’t concede a goal, we didn’t create much offensively but the adjustments we made in the second half helped us get a little bit more dangerous in their zone. At the end, we had four shots on target and they had four but they scored two goals.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Sam Junqua and Sebas Ibeagha led the team with 47 and 48 touches. Which was a reflection of the game and the state of the FC Dallas midfield. FCD had almost as many long passes (74) as medium (81) which says to me they are bypassing the midfield in favor of direct play. With no Paxton Pomykal and Asier Illarramendi, it’s no surprise. It is what it is. Dallas only made 15 passes into the final third (Austin 52). Lletget (1 for 8) and Arriola (1 for 6) struggled on the long passes resulting in 0 key passes between them and only 3 passes into the final third.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. So is the 3-4-2-1 abandoned after only three games? If there is a reason to fire Estevez this should be it. Why would you spend the entire pre-season implementing this new formation and the player adjustments that went along with it and then ditch it after only three matches? What a complete waste. This is a sure way for him to lose the confidence of his players. I’ll bet the players are confused on how to play in any formation now and that they are close to checking out on him.

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