The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers

FC Dallas hosted Portland Timbers this weekend and came away with a 1-1 draw. Not a loss but also not the result anyone wanted coming in. The Timbers are likely ecstatic about the point given their track record here.

“Yeah, it sucks but it happens and we have to respond now. I feel like last year we did a really good job of responding when things like this happened.”

Paxton Pomykal

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Sebastian Lletget and Paxton Pomykal both returned to Coach Nico Estevez‘s XI. With Ema Twumasi out, Geovane Jesus was in.

One note about the XI made by FC Dallas: Nkosi Tafari and Sebastien Ibeagha were flipped. Tafari played left center back and Ibby right. Same in the midfield, Lletget and Pomykal were flipped.

FC Dallas XI vs Portland Timbers, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
FC Dallas XI vs Portland Timbers, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

At the 65th minute, Jesus Jiminez and Facundo Quignon came on for Lleget and Edwin Cerrillo. Jesus Ferreira dropped into the hole and the formation shifted to 4-2-3-1 with Paxton Pomkyal in a double-pivot with Facu. More on this on 3rd Degree the Podcast this week.

In the 85th minute, Coach Estevez rolled the dice on going three at the back (really 5-4-1) to kill the game off by bringing on Jose Martinez for Alan Velasco.

Portland Timbers played their usual 4-3-3 and, for the most part, used a mid-block. It looked a lot like a 4-5-1 for big parts of the game.

Portland Timbers XI at FC Dallas, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)

In the 61st, the Timbers brought on Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Dairon Asprilla for Nathan Fogaca and Diego Gutiérrez.

In the 80th, Coach Giovanni Savarese brought on an extra forward Tega Ikoba for Juan Mosquera.

Finally, in the 86th, Franck Boli and Larrys Mabiala replaced Santiago Moreno and Eric Miller.


FC Dallas 1-0. 74th minute.

The Timbers fail to clear the (pretty good) corner and a second possession builds toward Facundo Quignon scoring a big goal, as he does.

Portland Timbers 1-1. 92nd minute.

A pretty simple layoff (if it was intended) by Dairon Asprilla to Franck Boli (Timbers debut) who beats Paxton Pomykal (not a 6) to the ball and scores in his Timbers debut. Facundo Quignon also seems a bit adrift and not tracking instead of clogging zone 14.

Franck Boli MLS career: 1 game, 4 minutes, 1 goal. 1 Team of the Week Bench.

Lo Bueno

Man of the Match: Nkosi Tafari. This is his third nod in the last four games. What a season he’s having. I predicted this was going to be the “Season of Tafari” and he’s even exceeding those lofty expectations. Dude has turned into a top-tier baller of a CB. He tried to extend Portland with balls over the top and was partially successful with 8 of 17 connecting, but it dropped his possession stat to 70%.

My pre-game prediction of Jose Martinez over Sebastian Ibeagha would have been a disaster. The Timbers stayed in their mid-block and played a bunch of long balls. Martinez would have gotten scorched. Ibeagha did a great job running with the Portland strikers. I’m starting to lean toward the Tafari left, Ibby right camp as the better combo this year.

“I think they all three are very capable in how they do it. Even with a defense of three like how we sometimes come out; it’s actually great to play with them. Nkosi today, Man of the Match, he’s developed himself really well. Seba (Ibeagha) is new to the team and he’s developed also really well and of course, Jose, a lot of experience. Nice to have them in front of me.”

Maarten Paes

Geovane Jesus played pretty dang well. The thing I was worried about coming in, occasional stray/blind passes that become turnovers when building out (a mistake he makes in training) just didn’t happen. Even with Ema Twumasi‘s suspension being over, this showing by Geovane might just keep him in the lineup.

“Geo’s (Jesus) has been preparing for this moment for the past months and he did a great job. It is not easy to have your first start against a team like Portland, but he had a successful game. He contributed a lot and was very dangerous, he had two goal opportunities and made some very good crosses that we unfortunately could not finish but overall I really liked his performance”.

Coach Nico Estevez

I like the way the space opened up after Jesus Jiminez came on with Jesus Ferreira underneath. We’re going to talk about this more on the pod this week but I quite liked how this tactical shift worked.

Five of Jesus Ferreira‘s six key passes came on corners. FCD was having a really good day on set pieces.

“We had a really good game on our set pieces, we could’ve scored two more goals because we had a few chances from them.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Camino del Medio

17 shots for FC Dallas is more of the volume we like to see at home so the reality is the offense was there. 6 shots on target out of 17 is roughly a third, that’s also not bad. (Again we’d like to see 50% from this team.) Portland’s keeper Aljaz Ivacic had 5 saves. That’s a really strong performance and basically, he’s why the Timbers were in it.

Sebastian Lletget basically had to abandon the middle to find any of the ball. That’s not great. When you run a double 8, one core of the idea is to be breaking lines through the middle as your outside backs step high into MF for width. Instead – almost certainly to try and break the block – Lletget spent the game in Geovane’s space. Yes, one way past a block is to go around it and this is as clear as day an attempt to do that, but I think that’s what the winger and outside back are for, I don’t want my 8 camping on the touchline. Variety is good.

Sebastian Lletget pass chart vs Portland Timbers, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)
Sebastian Lletget pass chart vs Portland Timbers, April 1, 2023. (Courtesy MLS)

Muy Feo

I didn’t like the change of shape sub with Jose Martinez that late in the game. I think it put FCD into a passive mental state of “sit deep and kill the game.” That passive mind-state contributed to Pomykal and Facu reacting late to the threat from Franck Boli in zone 14 on the layoff.

“It’s tough especially because we hold ourselves to a high standard when closing out games here at home. It was just such a simple and easy goal to give up.”

Marco Farfan

I talked about this in my 3 Things (see below). We all like possession in general, but for this team, it’s really bad when the other team only has 40% (and it was below 40% for most of the game). Dallas is at their best in rapid transition off a turnover or recovery. When a transition team dominates the ball it can be really hard for them to get the offense flowing. Instead, you are left breaking a block, which FCD stinks at. So FCD played a higher number of long balls (61% – season avg including this game: 54%) as a consequence.

“Our ideas were clear in what we wanted to do, we secured it with patience and being detailed. We told the players that depending where they (FC Dallas) decided to press, we would find areas to attack.

Giovanni Savarese, Timbers Head Coach

FC Dallas has now gone 12 games giving up at least a goal. That’s the longest active streak in MLS. FCD remains pretty good defensively, they are tied on 7 goals allowed, that’s middle of the pack in MLS ’23. But that’s not elite like last year. At some point you gotta pitch shutouts, particularly at home, to get more wins. 1+ goal a game allowed will get you a lot of ties.

“It’s about trying to regain form. We know that we’re capable of doing that stuff, we have the players to do it. So we have to keep practicing to make sure we’re able to regain it.”

Marco Farfan on the lack of shutouts.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. “season of Tafari”
    He makes some good plays, but he also makes some horrible mistakes each game. I don’t think he’s elite, and not even sure he’s that good yet. Too many simple mistakes that have led to dangerous chances and goals so far this season.

  2. nkosi was holding court in the post game walk off. if you watched, he was hearing none of any explanations being made. I loved it. I haven’t researched the goal yet because I was disgusted by the decision to sit back and welcome pressure they weren’t really able to provide without us giving it to them. I just don’t understand the tactic for that particular game. Like it was predetermined…if we get a lead let’s do this. it was unnecessary IMO.

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