The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs CF Montreal, March ’24

Losing at home in MLS is bad. It’s particularly bad when the club is unbeaten at home since July of the previous year.

Giving up two goals is bad. It’s particularly bad when the club hadn’t given up two goals at home since September of last year when Atlanta United was in town (Nkosi Tafari didn’t start that day).

Both are perhaps even worse in light of Montreal replacing two of their three front-three starters in the first half due to injury.

“I didn’t like all of the game. I’m not happy with what I saw. We did not try what made us successful all of preseason and it hurt us tonight.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Lineups and Tactics

FCD Coach Nico Estevez continues with the 3-4-3.  Your mileage may vary.

With Sebas Ibeagha out, Coach Estevez was forced to bring in his only remaining healthy center back Omar Gonzalez. Quite reasonably, Gonzalez played in the middle with Nkosi Tafari shifted to RCB.

Petar Musa made his MLS debut with a spot in the XI. Logan Farrington stayed on as one of the 10s with Bernard Kamungo shifting to right wing back forcing Herbert Endeley to the bench.

“Some of our players haven’t been playing the whole preseason, it is their first game together. Paxton, Patrickson, Omar, and Lletget who is coming from an injury are all almost new players that couldn’t work with us this preseason.”

Coach Estevez

In what was probably a planned halftime sub, Patrickson Delgado replaced Asier Illarramendi. Illarra had been struggling with some discomfort all week and was a game-time decision coming in.

In the 61st minute, Jesus Ferreira – on a 30-minute restriction – came on for Logan Farrington.

And in the 84th, Paxton Pomykal – also on a 30-minute restriction – came on for Liam Fraser. In addition, Eugene Ansah and Sebastian Lletget replaced Bernard Kamungo and Dante Sealy. Paul Arriola shifted to left wingback.

As FCD pushed to get the tying goal, the formation devolved into something like this.

Late-stage FC Dallas vs Montreal.

Since the CF Montreal social media are cowards and don’t post a shape, we look to They also play a 3-4-1-2.

Montreal XI at FC Dallas, March 2, 2024. (Courtesy MLS)

11 minutes in, Kwadwo Opoku was injured in a collision with Sam Junqua and was replaced by Jules-Anthony Vilsaint.

45+5 minutes in and Josef Martínez was also forced to come on for the injured Matías Cóccaro.

In the 77th, Victor Wanyama and Sunusi Ibrahim repalced Samuel Piette and Jules-Anthony Vilsaint. A sub got subbed. Bummer for that guy.


0-1 Montreal. 20th minute.

A cross from Ruan deflects off Sam Junqua, falling to Matías Cóccaro who lays a nice clean ball to the charging Jules-Anthony Vilsaint who scores with potentailly his first touch of the game. Liam Fraser had tracked Vilsaint but overran the play to try and double Coccaro.

1-1 FC Dallas. 46th minute.

Fantastic ball in behind by Asier Illarramendi to Bernie Kamungo. Nice cross by Kamungo to find Petar Mesa for the goal. Called offside but reversed by VAR.

“I make sure I look up to the guys that have the ball. If they have time and space, I just try to make a run in behind them and give them an option. That’s all I was trying to do and they found me. I didn’t think I was going to score a header from there so I just tried to find somebody that was in the box. Congrats to Petar for scoring his first goal.”

Bernie Kamungo

1-2 Montreal. 60th minute.

A terrific run in behind Omar Gonzalez by Josef Martínez is rewarded by a wonderfully weighted from Ruan. Sam Junqua and Dante Sealy were both caught up field and Paul Arriola was unable to recover in time to compensate. A great counter-attack goal.

Lo Bueno

My Man of the Match – and pretty much everyone who was FCD watching – was Petar Musa. When you score a goal in your debut you get the nod. Frankly, he was FCD’s best player. 1 goal on 3 shots, 2 on target. 2 key passes, 79% passing, and 3 shot-creating actions.

“It’s nice. I am feeling good, it was a warm welcome here. Today was a full stadium, a really nice atmosphere and our fans, they supported us.”

Petar Musa

Patrickson Delgado looked pretty promising to me. I liked how rangy he was. Bouncing forward a bit, cutting passes. Covering wide in shape and in recovery position. Positive showing by a 20-year-old. 77% passing is lower than one might love but 4 progressive passes in a half is pretty good.

Sebastian Lletget looked pretty bright as a 10 under Musa. Better than Arriola. I’d like to see more of Lletget, perhaps even as a starting option soon. He had one of two successful takes on for FCD in the entire game. Yey him, boo everyone else! Arriola didn’t even attempt one.

Two games, 2nd straight announced sellout of 2024. That’s fantastic.

Camino del Medio

So much for the money 22 shots of last week. Falling back to 11 shots isn’t the plan, I wouldn’t think. At least 7 of them were on target. That’s a surprise since 64% of their shots came from outside the box. That’s what I get for complaining about the shooting-on-target percentage.

Liam Fraser was a bit hit-and-miss for me, he was very conservative positionally and the team played through him with 93 touches. 85% passing is fine for anyone not named Illarra and the 7 progressive passes is real nice. But on the other hand, he only had 1 defensive action, a block. 0 tackles, 0 challenges, 0 intercepts, 0 clears, and 3 fouls committed. He did have 9 recoveries. It’s almost like he was liking rather than holding.

Muy Feo

Montreal beat FCD with their own medicine, the rapid transition counter to catch them out of shape. (Possession: FCD 55%, MON 45%) Both goals happened with wingbacks caught upfield. Generally speaking, wingback play has been poor. A certain amount of growing pains is going to be necessary but when you combine the growing pains of a new formation with the pains of kids doing jobs they never have before, it gets ugly.

“Frustrating. Frustrating because we weren’t able to play the way we wanted to and Montréal frustrated us. The missed passes, the turnovers, not being able to get good pressure to them, the straight balls through our team, and them running through was all very frustrating. And it’s frustrating not to get three points at home where we say we want to be great, and tonight we didn’t do that.”

Omar Gonzalez

Coach Nico clearly loves him some Bernie Kamungo. Don’t we all? But right now Coach is forcing Kamungo into this shape when his profile doesn’t fit the needs. It’s not working and frankly, Coach needs just let Bernie come off the bench for a time.

It’s disappointing to see FCD struggle with a mid-block. That’s new. Mid-blocks they handled fine last year, it was low blocks that were a problem. FCD was missing that get-behind factor.

“I think we have to be patient but it’s a good punch in the face to wake us up and see that there is a lot of work to do that we already knew. The season is long, we’re building something that we believe is going to be good.”

Coach Estevez

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. Great analysis Buzz! I wanted to add a couple of things (based on being at the game and I haven’t watched the broadcast yet).

    The wingbacks are a great conceptual idea/tactic – but we have to put humans in those positions. Humans that are willing to have the highest possible work rate for as long as they are on the field (as my son and I call it: guys that will run until they puke and then run again). We definitely have not seen that yet. And because of that lower then needed work rate (which, I know, is ridiculus to ask of any player), the entire formation doesn’t work. Both goals were wingbacks caught upfield as the play developed. (that said, I actually kinda like Arriola’s work rate as a wingback…so maybe that is an option).

    In addition, for this formation to work, you have to have 3 CBs that don’t make mistakes, basically ever. Omar G doesn’t fit that mold. He was a step behind and tentative. (I say that with respect as an old guy that is now a step behind and tentative when I play).

    And I don’t want to harp on the refereeing (because, well, we have seen the regular MLS referees), however, the no-call in the box when Musa was shoved off the ball (in the first half – don’t remember the minute) was inexcusable. And the fact that it was reviewed by VAR and didn’t even lead to on on-field VAR review is simply inexplicable.

  2. A few thoughts after this game.
    1. Musa played very well but was not supposed to play 90 minutes which I found weird.
    2. I agree with you about bernie. But maybe there is a way to play him in that position if he keeps working and working at it.
    3. Ansah looked very sharp in his short cameo. He was constantly making runs and getting into open positions yet nobody was passing to him even when he was in very good positions and while being unmarked.
    4. Do you think that when korca is healthy again he will be ahead of gonzalez in the CB rotation?
    5. It seemed to me that there were a fewplayers for us that were quiet even though they started. Like Asier(probably because of the knock) and dante.

  3. I thought it was odd that Junqua was pushing so far up field. He was sometimes more in a line with Frasier and Delgado/Illara than Omar and Tafari. It probably was intentional and maybe they were trying to flex into a 4-4-2, but it seems like an odd choice when the defense is struggling and the wingbacks aren’t exactly getting back in a timely manner. Two of the three goals this year have been getting past Junqua down the line. Now, maybe it’s partially or more fault to Sealy not busting it back, but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell Junqua to stay back more to compensate.

  4. What was the thinking behind the Jesus sub? Farrington out instead Paul seems a odd choice for Nico. Based on how Paul was playing and youth, would have thought Logan was a better choice to leave out there. Was it just me are did Paul have a rough game.

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