The Breakdown: Montreal Impact at FC Dallas – March 7, 2020.

It’s weird this early in the season, but this game against Montreal Impact was pretty much a must-win game.  Why?  Take a look at the next 6 FCD games when you get a chance. 

So far in 2020, Montreal under new coach Thierry Henry is sitting deep and countering. They did the same thing against FCD and for 83 minutes it worked.  A late surge by FCD nabbed two goals and a tie.

FRISCO, TX – MARCH 07: Thiago Santos battles during the MLS game between FC Dallas and Montreal Impact on March 7, 2020, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

FC Dallas returns the same XI as opening day in the 4-3-3. I was a little surprised by that as Ryan Hollingshead missed training through Wednesday at least. Coach Luchi Gonzalez broke his own unofficial “no train Wednesday, no play” rule. Ryan’s important for Luchi-Ball so perhaps it’s no surprise.

FC Dallas starting XI against Montreal Impact, March 7, 2020. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Coach Gonzalez brought on Paxton Pomykal and Santi Mosquera in the 62nd minute in straight swaps for Fafa Picault and Tanner Tessmann.  Then in the 76th minute, Ricardo Pepi came on for Jesus Ferreira to play as a 2nd striker putting FCD into a sort of 4-2-4 look.

Montreal Impact in a 5-4-1 in a low block.  This wasn’t a 3-4-2-1 with wingbacks like they drew it on the MLS website (image below) but rather a legit back 5.

Montreal Impact starting XI by MLSSoccer.com. It’s not quite what we saw in reality.

Montreal brought on Ojri Okwonkwo for Anthony Jackson-Hamel in the 58th minute for some fresh legs up top to counter.  Trying to hold onto the lead they brought on Shamit Shome for Romell Quioto in the 86th minute and Amar Sejdic for Maxi Urruti in the 87th minute.

Goals

0-1 Montreal Impact Goal. 59th minute.  A lobbed cross to the back post is nodded onto the post and falls to Maxi Urruti who wasn’t tracked by Reto Ziegler as he drifted last into the box.  Urruti bangs in the point-blank chance.

0-2 Montreal Impact Goal. 68th minute.  Jesus Ferreira makes a bad flub in midfield that allows the Impact room down the run.  The cutback pass by Zachary Brault-Guillard bounces off Santi Mosquera and lands right at Maxi Urruti’s feet. Urruti being Urruti, he buries it.

1-2 FC Dallas Goal. 83rd minute.  Thiago Santos plays wide to Reggie Cannon. A lovely, bending cross by Cannon from the right finds a hard cutting Zdenek Ondrasek.  Kobra heads the ball toward the back post for the goal.  Classic wing play and cross, Cannon had a ton of space which is a surprise against a 5 man backline.

2-2 FC Dallas Goal. 96th minute. Montreal fails to clear and FCD swings the ball from left to right for Michael Barrios to bang back across the box.  Zdenek Ondrasek make a reflex, back-heal flick on to Ricardo Pepi who slams the ball home for his first career MLS goal.

Instant Reaction

This is a new bit I’m trying after each game. An instant reaction with 3 things to talk about.

El Bueno

Zdenek Ondrasek was Man of the Match for me. Mostly because of the goal and an assist. The man is being paid to score and he scored. He did what he is supposed to do. He also set up Pepi.  Kobra’s work rate, energy, and never say die attitude is what the team needed. He drove the bus on the comeback.  He was solid in build too with 71% passing, that’s great for a striker, and 3 key passes. Let’s be real though, only 2 of his 7 shots were on target. That needs to be better.

Michael Barrios also had a hell of a day, he was relentlessly attacking the wing.  6 key passes out of 28 total passes, that’s one in every 4 and a half passes. And 11 crosses to boot.  Everything at a 79% passing clip too. I’m not sure what more you can ask other than scoring an actual goal.  He too would have been a great Man of the Match choice.

Thiago Santos. Honestly. What an addition so far. 107 touches! 82% passing, 4 aerials won, 7 recoveries, 5 successful dribbles, 3 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 clearance.  Phenomenal. Only a somewhat high 5 fouls spoils it at all.  Dominating the middle of the park.

Thiago Santo passing chart against Montreal Impact.

Much love for my boy Ricardo Pepi. 6 touches, 2 shots, 1 goal. Boom. He now has 1 goal for 86 minutes played. That’s a pretty good strike rate. Hope he keeps its up.

I like that Maxi Urruti didn’t celebrate his brace against his old team. I think that’s a cool tradition in soccer.

This game was much more Luchi-Ball like.  Of course, that’s super easy when the opposition bunkers.  547 passes, close to that 600 we are used to, 84% passing, 59% possession, 39 crosses, 17 shots.  All the defenders passed at 83% and up rate (Cannon – 83%, Hedges – 92%, Ziegler – 91%, Hollingshead – 88%) so that’s good to see.  Jesse Gonzalez at 77% is a little head-scratching.

Fafa Picault has better positioning in this game with an average position up equal to Barrios.  FCD is enjoying formation balance for the first time since Fabian Castillo left. 4 dribbles, 89% passing, 4 crosses… that’s good. That’s progress.  Picault only had 28 touches, he’s not seeing enough of the ball. If he can make that final connection in the box with Kobra, it’ll really help this team.

Camino del Medio

Tanner Tessmann was a really calming influence in midfield with a staggering 96% passing, that’s only two missed passes one of which was an ambitious lead pass.  Ah-May-Zing.

But Tessmann’s not getting forward enough. He’s not playing box to box but rather box to 2/3s line.  Yes, It’ll come with time. There’s so much good here to build on, but the more he plays, the harsher critics (like us) will be, and the more he will be called on to contribute going forward. 1 shot, 0 key passes, 0 crosses, 0 aerials won isn’t enough.  He did make 3 tackles, that’s good, and was 4 for 5 on long balls. The dude is an amazing long passer. You can see from his chart he’s kind of working around Santos and is clearly not getting forward into the box. Let’s call it room to grow.

Tanner Tessmann’s passing chart. The goal is to be a box-to-box midfielder, not box-to-2/3 line.

17 shots, yeah!!  Much better.  But only 5 on goal, which is the same as last game when there were 9 shots. That’s not good.  82% of the shots came in the box though, that’s fantastic. Just need some cleaner shooting then… as they have needed for years.

FCD got really frustrated with the low block Montreal was playing. They tried some chips over the line but the Impact was sitting so deep there was no space so the chips had no… impact.  (Pun intended.)  FCD resorted to an old-school cross-fest that finally paid off in the final stages.

Muy Feo

The FCD defense got a little flat-footed as they didn’t do a lot most of the game… and thus got caught standing on both goals.  When you dominate possession and the other team is in a complete bunker it can be hard to stay on your toes.  FCD was lucky to get out of this one with a point after twice losing track of Maxi Urruti.

Paxton Pomykal is one of the most creative difference-makers FCD has. This point isn’t a negative on his play, which was good, but rather his positioning. I really didn’t like where he was deployed after coming on for Tessmann.  Playing as a deep 8 next to Santos, it’s very difficult for Pomykal to get into the box from that far away and make those splitting dribbles that put the opposition under stress.  He got higher than Tessmann did, but Paxton wasn’t consistently up as high as the attacked needed. Too often he was out near midfield (see heat map) where it’s almost impossible to attack zone 14 and the box.

Paxton Pomyka’s heat map against Montreal Impact, March 7, 2020. Too much action in his own half and right in front of midfield. (Courtesy WhoScored.com)

The elephant in the room right now is Jesus Ferreira who had a second poor game in a row. He’s super-valuable to Coach Gonzalez, but these numbers are tough to digest. 69% passing (team-low, except for Pepi who had 6 touches), 3 shots, 1 on target, 0 key passes, 0 dribbles, fouled 1 time, 1 cross, and 1 for 4 on long balls. His biggest midfield flub led pretty much directly to the 2nd Impact goal.

Edit: I meant to have Ryan Hollingshead in here and forgot. (Thanks Frits) Honestly, I don’t think he should have played. He looked off his game all night, frequently misplaying passes and touches. A very subpar game. With the hyper-extended knee and missing at least three days of training, Johnny Nelson should have started in his place. Statistically, Ryan was adequate, but via the eye test, it was one of his worst games in some time.

Next Game

FC Dallas begins a brutal stretch of games, all but one on the road against some really good teams. It all kicks off at NYCFC next weekend at 11:30 am CT.

in 2019, FCD stunk on the road (3-11-3) so there’s a legitimate chance FCD might not win again until May. Worst case scenario? 1-6-1 record to start.

But I don’t think it will be quite that bad. Or I hope it won’t be.

4 Comments

  1. Hoping that Jesus can pull it together, though I’m not sure how much help going off with the U-23s and playing as a 9 will be there.

  2. Love the new post-game thoughts video, great way to supplement the Breakdown. A couple additional comments:
    – Tessman had a good follow-up performance to his debut IMO. He baaaaaaaarely missed on that long pass to Barrios, which would have been a thing of beauty.
    – Speaking of Barrios, he really does not need to be playing on the left side at all. In the first half, Barrios streaks down the left to chase down a gorgeous long pass from Cobra. He’s got a step or two on his defender and what does he do? Brings it back to his right foot and allows two defenders to catch back up to him. He ended up sending in a cross to Jesus that should have been buried, but it really felt like FCD spent too much time looking for the extra pass in the box, especially in the first half.
    – I know there’s not a “Muy Muy Feo” section, but if there were, oof, Mosquera would be the feature. I really hope he is able to find his form, but that performance was a total dud.

  3. Two additions:
    -It wasn’t just Ferreira making mistakes in his own half at the beginning of the 2nd. Tessmann badly miscontrolled a ball, and got it taken away from him which led to the first goal. Santos lost a couple in that timeframe too.
    -H’Head wasn’t his normal marauding self this game. Both goals came from his side: he’s slow to close down the cross for the first, and gets dribbled by for the second (plus he had that horrible backpass in the first half). Hindsight’s always 20/20, but maybe Nelson doesn’t make those mistakes after a full week of training.

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