The Breakdown: FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps, July 4, 2021

It’s been a while since my schedule has given me room to do a breakdown, so I’ll scrape off some rust and see if I can knock this one out.

The season isn’t going like FC Dallas anticipated and results are hard to come by.  The new grind-it-out formation and tactics allowed to get a win against the best team in the East but it was a different story against the last-place team in the West.

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

When you win against a first place team you keep the same team… so it was no surprise Coach Luchi Gonzalez opted to keep the same personnel in the 4-4-1-1.

FC Dallas starting XI vs Vancouver Whitecaps, July 4, 2021. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Luchi pulled a double sub in the 63rd minute, bringing on Paxton Pomykal for Johnny Nelson (Shifting Ryan Hollingshead to left back) and Dante Sealy for Jader Obrian.

In the 75th minute, Frano Jara replaced Facundo Quignón. Jara played as the off-striker and shifted Jesus Ferreira deep to an 8-spot next to Bryan Acosta.

Then Luchi used his last sub opportunity to bring on Andres Ricaurte for Ferreira.

Vancouver in a 4-1-4-1.

Vancouver’s starting XI at FC Dallas, July 4, 2021. (Courtesy Vancouver Whitecaps)

Leading 2-1, Marc Dos Santos went to his bench in the 71st minute bringing on Ryan Raposo for Cristian Dájome.

Further attempting to protect the lead, Brian White replaced Lucas Cavallini and Patrick Metcalfe replaced Caio Alexandre

Then in injury time, it was another double sub with Jake Nerwinski and Ranko Veselinovic coming on for Javain Brown and Déiber Caicedo


1-0 FC Dallas goal. 22ndminute.  For a couple of minutes, it looked like FCD was off and racing as Jesus Ferreira played a wonderful swearing cross to that Ricardo Pepi headed home. Bryan Acosta was credited with a secondary assist.

1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps goal. 30th minute. Bressan completely miffs a cross and gifts Lucas Cavalli the easiest goal of his career.

1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps goal. 47th minute. Andy Rose beats Ryan Hollingshead on a corner and heads home the goal.

2-2 FC Dallas goal. 94th minute.  A hopeful ball in from the right wing by Paxton Pomkyal finds the head of… Whitecaps defender Ranko Veselinovic who heads the ball into his own net.  There wasn’t really a Dallas player close.

Lo Bueno

Bryan Acosta was, once again, my Man of the Match.  He’s playing some fantastic soccer well above his teammates and, frankly, well above what he has done here in his previous seasons. It’s a shame it’s going to waste.  106 touches! 3 shots, 2 on target, 2 key passes, 85% passing, 4 interceptions, 6 crosses, and 11 for 14 on long passes. 

Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira are both playing really well the last couple of games but it’s not just their individual performance, it’s how they are working in combination.  Pepi playing as the 9 and Ferreira as the off-striker is reminiscent Ariel Graziani and Jason Kreis back in 1999-2001. This is a golden-looking pair and the franchise should move forward building around this combo.  Pepi had 6 shots, 4 on target, and 4 key passes. Wow. Jesus’ 86% passing playing as an off-striker is impressive. 2 key passes by him and 1 shot.   

Don’t be distracted by Johnny Nelson being subbed out as Luchi chased the game. Nelson played a really solid two-way game in this one. It was a balanced showing and one of the best by him this year contributing on both ends.  5 crosses on just 35 touches. 1 key pass and 2 dribbles. Defensively: 2 tackles, 3 intercepts, and 1 clear.

Johnny Nelson pass, D, and possession chart vs Vancouver, July 4, 2021. (Courtesy MLS)

Nkosi Tafari continues to improve each game and is improving at a rapid rate. I think he pretty much didn’t put a foot wrong all day. If Hedges or Martinez was ready I would start Tafari with either on Wednesday and sit Bressan. 89% passing, 2 aerials won, 2 clears, and an impressive 12 for 15 on long passes.

Given the state of things, FCD could have folded shop and quit. But – for the most part – FC Dallas kept fighting. They kept pushing for the late goal and continued to play. That’s a positive sign that I really hope we will still see in two months.

Camino del Medio

The 4-4-1-1 formation is basically a variation of the 4-2-3-1. The high wings sit deep in a flatter shape in a mid or low block – thus helping the outside backs defend and allowing more defensive-minded outside backs like Nelson and Justin Che. It also allows Jesus to play as more of an off-striker than a 10.  It’s not a wonderful shape but it help cover some roster deficiencies and it’s allowing FCD to grind some points. Here’s to it working on the road.

I would like to see Jesus Ferreira get in the box just a bit more. He was coming back too far looking for the ball after Vancouver scored. And of course, they shifted him back into the double-pivot late. But you can see on his chart, I’d like to see some more in-the-box action here.

Jesus Ferreira passing and possession chart vs Vancouver, July 4, 2021. (Courtesy MLS)

Muy Feo

Bressan had a rough day.  He’s had a better season and early on was playing some terrific soccer but I think he’s regressed of late.  With Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez out FCD needs more from Bressan and they aren’t getting it.  He tried to redeem himself late on by going upfield for the barrage of balls into the box – shifting Acosta to center back – but was unable to get the winner.

Individual responsibility matters.  This team has a lot of blame to go around but when Luchi found a way to grind out some points he was let down by individuals.  Both Caps’ goals came from an individual mistake.  That’s not gonna get a team out of the cellar.

Jader Obrian is also in a big rut. I said it after the last game, but it’s time for him to sit. He only retained 53% of the passes to him. That’s not good enough.

I still hate the 5 subs rule. I really do.  A coach can literally change has his team… and thus effectively change his whole team if he screws it up.

Next Game

Unfortunately, FC Dallas now begins their brutal stretch of 11 of the next 16 games on the road as they head face LA Galaxy this Wednesday out in Hollywood.

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