The Breakdown – FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps, March 2024

Well, that sucked.

“We have our stadium packed with our fans and we just want to win for them. This is why we work every single week. We work every single week to get a win for our fans. We put a lot of effort there. We had a bad moment last year during the season, and this year the bad moment is coming early in the season. We will regroup and get this right to give wins to our supporters.”

Coach Nico Estevez

FCD 2024 is now, at 1-3-0 for 3 points, tied for the 3rd worst start in club history. Having three games at home out of four makes it feel even worse.

In case you are curious, 2009 is the worst start in club history (1 point) followed by 2003 (2 points, the Southlake Debacle). This year is tied with 1997 (Leo Alvarez season away) and 2010 (Hyndman’s MLS Cup run).

Lineups and Tactics

Coach Nico Estevez rolled out a 4-2-3-1, but don’t think of this as abandoning the 3-4-3. Coach told me midweek this was a specific adaptation to Vancouver’s shape and not a paradigm shift.

The graphic isn’t 100% on point – it wasn’t a 4-2-2 – just drop Jesus Ferreira into the hole for the real thing.

“Yeah there could be tactical issues. After the break we’ll regroup and really sit down and look at each other and speak to guys on the backline, the midfield, to see what way we want to go forward and stick with it and get comfortable with it. Because something has to change.”

Sebastian Lletget

Down 3-1, Coach Nico brought on Bernard Kamungo in the 63rd minute for Sam Junqua moving Dante Sealy to left back.

Tsiki Ntsabeleng came on for Patrickson Delgado in the 73rd minutes.

And finally, an FCD double sub as Herbert Endeley came on for Ema Twumasi in the 83rd minute at the same time Vancouver also made a double sub. It took so long that it wasn’t officially til the 84th minute that Eugene Ansah replaced Sebastian Lletget. As a consequence, Jesus Ferreira played as a 6… something like this.

FC Dallas' late game XI vs Vancouver Whitecaps on March 16 2024. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
FC Dallas’ late game XI vs Vancouver Whitecaps on March 16 2024. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Vancouver was in a 3-4-3 but they don’t have their wingbacks sit deep. Instead, they rely on their CBs to cover wide and central mids drop-in.

Up 3-1, Montreal brought on Luis Martins and Sebastian Berhalter came on for Alessandro Schöpf and Pedro Vite.

Ali Ahmed replaced Fafa Picault in the 73rd minute.

Finally, a double sub at the 83rd with Damir Kreilach and Javain Brown coming on for (The phenomenal Ryans!) Ryan Gauld and Ryan Raposo.


Dan Crooke has started breaking down goals in his game stories. So I am going to leave that to him for the most part but will include some thoughts on specific goals if I feel the need.

Lo Bueno

My Man of the Match was Sebastian Lletget. Mostly cause he wasn’t straight trash and had the most consistent performance on the night playing a bit out of position. And he scored. After his fairly lame first half, he moved higher in the 2nd half and was more effective. 88 touches, 92% passing, progressive passes, 3 shot-creating actions, 9 passes into the final third.

“Yeah it’s not one you want to celebrate, you just want to get back to the halfway line and just get the next one. But we conceded too early right after we scored and then it’s very tough to get back into the game. This is a tough one, not gonna lie. This one hurts because losing three in a row, with this team, we know we’re better than this.”

Sebastian Lletget

We don’t deserve Maarten Paes. Even if he did have 0 saves.

Camino del Medio

Petar Musa didn’t have a good game finishing. But compared to Jesus Jimenez and Franco Jara, he is at least moving well, shows range, presses, and puts himself in good scoring positions. On other nights he hasn’t gotten the ball. On this night, his finishing was off. 8 shots just 2 on target. But 8 shots on 39 touches is pretty good. I felt he should have had 3 goals even with an xG of just 0.6.

This wasn’t a terrible offensive performance. Paul Arriola 4 key passes and Dante Sealy 2. Sealy was 3 for 6 on take-ons. Nkosi Tafari had 7 progressive passes and 8 passes into the final third. 67% of shots were in the box. But the shooting boots were left at home with just 3 of 12 on target.

It can’t possibly be the case that Coach Estevez wants Jesus Ferreira wandering all over the field, spending time yelling at the 4th official, and playing the final 10 minutes as a 6. Is Ferreira mad and acting out? Has he given up? Does he really think his whole team sucks and he has to do everything including winning all the balls and playing them into the box?

Jesus Ferreira vs Vancouver, heat map left, touches right. (
Jesus Ferreira vs Vancouver, heat map left, touches right. (

Here’s why Jesus Ferreira was perhaps right to be upset. It ain’t him that’s the problem. 61 touches and an astounding 11 progressive passes. 4 shot-creating actions and 1 goal-creating action. 7 passes into the final third. The dude balled even if he was wandering all over the field. (It’s not right for him to act out, but I can understand his frustration.)

Muy Feo

“When you have a problem in your family, you stick together, and you overcome that. And this is how we’re going to do it. It’s easy to blame, to blame players, it’s easy to blame the coach. It’s very easy, we can all blame someone. Pick on me if there’s someone that you have to blame. I’m the leader of this group and we’re not doing well.”

Coach Nico Estevez

FCD has now conceded first in four straight games to start the season. That’s not good. Most clubs have a terrible record when conceding first and FCD is the same.

“I’ve been in all sorts of games but I think maybe it’s concentration. We’re a team that knows it’s good with the ball, we know what we want to do, we have a system and identity but we’re falling short defensively–as a whole. It’s not to blame anyone, it’s everyone.”

Sebastian Lletget

“There’s just a severe lack of intensity from the start, and then you’re gonna punch first or get hit. And we keep getting punched first.”

Nkosi Tafari

Fafa Picault still hates Dallas. He’s now scored 5 times against his former club since leaving and has relished the celebration each and every time. Maybe FCD should think about marking that dude.

Since game 1 when FC Dallas had 23 shots against SJ, the shots have fallen to an average of 12 per game. Is San Jose poor? Could be. But the bigger factor for me is the missing Asier Illarramendi. He played just one half since game one, and it was a bit limited with the knock he was carrying. Without his connective ability, FCD is having a harder time getting their players into good positions to score. If FCD is going to be poor at finishing they are going to need that high volume in shots.

I am concerned by the sudden FCD fragility in the back. For a defensive first coach, this is amazing. Multiple goals are coming off crosses and set plays. Looking back at the tape, crosses were unchallenged, players weren’t tracked or marked tightly, defenders were out of position, or defenders were just beaten to the ball. Overall it’s just poor defense. Van had 6 total shots, but 3 of them were on target and in the net. That’s a 50% goal-per-shot ratio. Unreal.

“The players are going to step up. I know their mentality, I know how hungry they are, I know how much they love this club and the fans. And we are going to get there, I have no doubt.”

Coach Nico Estevez

Instant Reaction – 3 Things


  1. This is when you have to be seriously considering the future of this coach. If I’m running this club, I go to the coach and tell him he needs at least 7 points out of the next 5 matches or he’s out. That’s only asking for a .500 record.

    Hunts don’t have the balls to drop a head coach this early in the season. I’d bet good money they don’t even have a plan in place to replace him.

    1. That’s not the Hunt way though.
      09 was worst start ever & that’s Coach Hyndman’s 2nd season. (Hired mid-2008)
      10 also a bad start under Hyndman, T-3rd worst, & that’s the MLS Cup run.
      SH didn’t leave until end of ’13.

      ’03 was Southlake & not Jeffries fault (2nd worst). The Hunts had taken over,
      there was no coach change till late in the season.
      They even let Jeffries make some really aggresive trades to try and rebound.

      ’97 was under Dir (Alvarez left, came back in ’98) and Coach Dir he stayed
      thru ’00 when Andy Swift fired him and hired Mike Jeffries. (Not a Hunt team at that point)

      TL,DR: history says Hunts don’t panic fire.
      Maybe it’s cause of the money, but they don’t change coaches early.
      They wait and give them time.

  2. Man all the videos I saw from the preseason had me thinking we would be a top -3-4 team in the west. The defense and midfield are lost at the moment. Ibeaga looked lost all game.

  3. They look so disjointed and incoherent on defense. No one seems to know where and when to rotate and help. They definitely need a better CB, but the coaching has to help these guys know where they’re expected to be and who has what responsibilities.

    One a brighter note, I did like how we looked once we’d pushed the ball into the final third. There were a few dumb giveaways but for the most part I thought they did well creating chances.

    I hope as the season goes on they’ll get better at playing of Musa when he gets those long direct passes in the middle. He did good at boxing out his defender, getting those balls and getting control quickly, but no one is making runs in the channels for him to lay it off to. If they start doing that I think it’s gonna be a dangerous weapon for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *