The Breakdown: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas – October 31, 2020

Since I didn’t watch the FC Dallas game until Sunday, you’re getting The Breakdown on Monday. Years ago this piece was called “The Monday Morning Gaffer” so this one is kind of a throwback.

It was a pretty convincing win on Saturday against the hated Dynamo so FC Dallas keeps El Capitan for 2020.  FC Dallas clinched a playoff spot and they eliminated Houston. So that’s a win-win-win.

Let’s break it down…

Lineups and Tactics

While it was the 4-3-3 for Coach Luchi Gonzalez again, there was a positional shift that can’t be called anything but the final step of a transition.

Since his arrival, Andre Ricaurte has been playing deeper and deeper tactically and for this one, he lined up in a double pivot as the linking 8. A deep-lying playmaker if you will. Jesus Ferreira took up the higher 10-position.  We’ll get back to both of these things.

FC Dallas XI vs Houston Dynamo, October 31, 2020.

Bryan Reynolds got kicked in the head and was removed as part of the concussion protocols, Johnny Nelson replaced came on for him and played left back with Ryan Hollingshead shifting to right back.  

At roughly the 60th-minute mark (59th minute specifically), Jesus Ferreira was lifted for Tanner Tessmann. Tessmann went to the deep 8-position and Ricaurte shifted up toward a more 10 like stance.

Lastly in the 75th minute, a double sub allowed FCD shift to their game-killing 5-4-1 as Santiago Mosquera and Reto Ziegler came on for Franco Jara and Michael Barrios. There is probably a fitness management element to this too. Ricaurte ended up being the high 9.

Late game-killing XI vs Houston Dynamo, October 31, 2020.

Houston continues with their 4-2-3-1 base shape.

Houston Dynamo XI at FC Dallas, October 31, 2020.

Houston – down two early – went to the bench to try and ignite their play as Memo Rodriguez came on for Niko Hansen in the 35th minute.

Still searching, it was a triple sub in the 62nd minutes: Tomás Martínez for Ariel Lassiter, Mauro Manotas for Christian Ramirez, and Óscar Boniek García for Wilfried Zahibo.  Finally in the 87th minute, Marcelo Palomino came on for Darwin Cerén.


1-0 FC Dallas goal. 19th minute. Andres Ricaurte turns and plays wide for Fafa Picault. The cross from Picault into the box finds three players waiting; Michael Barrios heads it back across; Jesus Ferreira has drawn away one center back, gets clobbered, and could have earned a PK; and Franco Jara beats his man to the ball.

2-0 FC Dallas goal. 27th minute. Ferreira to Bryan Reynolds, who cycles it back to Ricaurte.  Ricaurte hits a sweet back post cross for Fafa Picault. Picault has beaten the outside back and slots it home.

3-0 FC Dallas goal. 93rd minute. FCD is low block defending, Fafa Picault pressures the attacker who muffs the ball and Picault is off to the races. Picault beats one man and after his 80 yard run puts it by the keeper.  All this in the 93rd minute of the game.

El Bueno

Fafa Picault was clearly the Man of the Match. It wasn’t just the two goals and the assist. To me, he looked sharper, quicker, and more dynamic than he has in a while. Has he been fighting a knock?  He was so good, Luchi left him for the full 90+.  6 for 7 on dribbles. SIX for SEVEN!  Amazing. 68 touches, 77% passing (by a wing!), 2 shots both on goal, 1 key pass, 2 tackles (what?), 4 crosses… fantastic game.

Fafa (Picault) is always full of energy. He needed time to adapt, learn, and get used to the team. In the past few games, I had a feeling he would finally get his name on the score sheet. 

Luchi Gonzalez

I loved, loved, loved Andres Ricaurte as a deep playmaking 8 in the double-pivot. I think this is the way forward for FCD. 95 touches, 86% passing, 4 shots with 2 on goal, 3 key passes, drew 3 fouls, 2 tackles, 1 intercept, 1 block, 3 crosses, and 8 for 9 on long balls.  Sitting deep puts the whole game in front of him and allows his long passing to really elevate and break the opposition.

Andres Ricaurte passing chart vs Houston Dynamo, October 31, 2020. (Courtesy MLS)

Our wingers have fast traits, so they can easily get behind the defenders all the time. In those situations, we try and take advantage of them as much as we can.

Andres Ricaurte

Johnny Nelson has shown an improvement in his build play the last few appearances and that continued in this one. His passing from the back is improving and his movement to space is helping. He even had a successful dribble in the defensive third. That’s the continued progression for him, being able to beat a man when needed and becoming more adventurous in the offensive end. Ricarute owes Nelson a lunch for costing him an assist.

Johnny Nelson’s passing chart vs Houston Dynamo, October 31, 2020. (Courtesy MLS)

FCD continues to show a higher quality of shot selection this year. 64% in the box in this game. Yes, just 14 shots is a little lower at home that one might like but 9 on target is excellent. That’s well over 50% on target. Possession earning quality chances. More of this, please.

Santiago Mosquera was 4 for 5 in dribbles in just 15 minutes of play. He pretty much had half as many successful dribbles (4) as passes (7).  That’s remarkable.

Jesus Ferreira took up a higher, off-striker type positioning in this game. By making high movements into the box he forced the center backs to pay attention to him and help create more touches and better chances for Franco Jara (see Jara’s goal which doesn’t happen without Jesus’ run).  Even though Jesus didn’t do a ton himself, his improved positioning and runs had a big impact on the game.

Camino del Medio

Houston sure seemed to target Thiago Santos physically. He was fouled 4 times and was hit a great many more times than that. Perhaps they thought he was ripe for turnovers?  He was disposed 2 times but that doesn’t seem like it really paid off, if it was the goal. Santos usually keeps things simple and he moved the ball at an 80% rate.

Muy Feo

While I feel a late game-killing 5-4-1 can be useful, I don’t like to see it all the time.  There are times it’s just better to keep playing the way you have been. Stay on the front foot, stay the protagonist. It worked, so it’s hard to complain.  Maybe Luchi is just looking to practice is a bunch? But I feel like we’re seeing it more than we should.

Jimmy Maurer has been fantastic but I found one small thing he needs to be better at and that’s long passes. 9 for 21 on long balls led to 60% passing. Check the chart, something for him to work on this winter.

Jimmy Maurer passing chart vs Houston Dynamo, October 31, 2020. (Courtesy MLS)

I am very concerned that Jesus Ferreira is only 60 minutes fit. He falls apart after that and is now being lifted at that time every game. It’s worrisome this late in the season.

Next Game

FC Dallas has two games to play after clinching, the first in Nashville on Wednesday.   Kickoff is at 7:30 pm CT on Fox Sports Southwest.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas.

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