The Breakdown: Nashville SC at FC Dallas, makeup game 2

After Wednesday’s disappointing game against Nashville, Coach Luchi Gonzalez swapped back to his favored 4-3-3 formation to help bolster the Los Toros attack. But if he and the club were looking for improvement they will be greatly disappointed because in some respects the performance in this 0-0 draw was worse.

Big picture is we had two games and got one point, that’s not good enough. It’s positive that we got zero [goals] against us.

Luchi Gonzalez

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

As mentioned coach Gonzalez went back to the 4-2-3-1 – which is a more accurate description of the 4-3-3 used in this game (effectively they are the same formation with a small rotation in the midfield to a double-pivot).  

Franco Jara was deployed as the 10, playing it in an off-striker style (this graphic doesn’t do justice to how high he was playing). You could have even called the shape a 4-2-2-2.

Zdenek Ondrasek returned as the 9 and Paxton Pomykal got the left wing spot moving the third center back Bressan to the bench.

The FC Dallas XI (with crying Jordan joke after the terrible back line shape was made fun of) against Nashville SC, August 17, 2020. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

In the 56th minute, in a set of moves that to me seemed a minute restriction due to recent return from injury, Fafa Picault came on for Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira came on for Kobra.  With this move Jesus sat as the 10 and Jara moved high as the 9.

Then in the 73rd minutes, Ricardo Pepi came on for Jara.  This again seems like a fitness move as Jara is still working towards 90 minutes of play.

Finally, Santiago Mosquera came on for a tiring Michael Barrios in the 83rd minute.

Nashville rolled out another low block team, this time actually drawn up by MLS as the 4-4-2 we usually say it is.  It could easily flex to a 4-2-3-1 though.

Nashville SC XI at FC Dallas, August 17, 2020. (Courtesy MLS)

A double sub in the 66th minute saw Derrick Jones replace Randall Leal – who FCD kept fouling the crap out of for some reason – and Taylor Washington replace Alistair Johnston.

In the 73rd and 74th minutes, NSH made two more changes, Abu Danladi for Dominique Badji and David Accam for Hany Mukhtar. Both were offensive in nature to try and take the game, IMO.



El Bueno

Jimmy Maurer was outstanding. Ok, one bad outlet pass almost cost him, but he made 7 quality saves.  Is he the pure shot-stopper Jesse Gonzalez was? No. But he’s more experienced and a better organizer. The two-save sequence (below) was the play of the game and he got FCD a point.

Thiago Santos is a defensive beast. 88% passing, 2 dribbles, 2 key passes, and 4 fouls drawn, that’s solid offense for a 6. But it’s the defense that dominates: 5 tackles, 2 clearances, 1 block, and 4 aerials won. Even more so, he’s frequently in the right place to kill the play.  Let the man single-pivot. He’s built for it. And he got forward plenty, he’s not supposed to be the linking mid.

Congratulations to Matt Hedges for tying Jason Kreis’ record for regular-season games played.  Hedges is an FCD legend, I hope he plays his whole career here.

It’s a great honor to be with this club for such a long time. They took a chance drafting me and I’m glad to be able to repay them with a lot of great years and hopefully, there’s many more to come. 

Matt Hedges

Reggie Cannon looked pretty good in what might be his last FC Dallas game.  90% passing, up and down, putting in the fight, showing emotion, battling for his team.  Everything that has made him a fan favorite here for the last few years. Best of luck to him, if this is it. Au revoir, my man, it’s been a pleasure.

Dax McCarty is a straight baller.

Camino del Medio

Johnny Nelson wasn’t bad. About what I would expect with not playing for a year.  He was the weak link passing from the back at 77% – compared to 90%, 89%, and 90% for the other three – but that’s to be expected without playing time.  Kid’s got a future, just not yet.

For the first 30 minutes I liked Franco Jara as an off-striker, then he vanished. Did he tire or just get marked out of the game?  And when I say I like him, it was just him, not how it worked – or didn’t – in the team concept.  Point being, it’s clear he knows how to play as an off-striker. My problem with this is, why not play a formation that actually has an off-striker instead of trying to shoehorn this weird high-10 into your 4-2-3-1 turning it into a 4-2-2-2 with a big hole in it?

Muy Feo

Mostly because of how high Jara was playing, there was a big gap and disconnect in midfield back to the double-pivot holding mids.  FCD had gobs of possession (64%) and passes (539)… but they didn’t do anything with it. Just one shot on goal generated. ONE!  At home, you want something like 20 plus shots and 10 on target. Not one.

So why so little chance creation? The mentioned disconnect in midfield.  For example, Ondrasek had 12 touches before he was subbed out. Just 12 and none of them were in the box or even the final third.  As much as we like Kobra these days, he can’t create his own chances, he needs service in the final third and in the box.  By comparison, in that same 56 minutes, Ziegler and Hedges had 73 touches each.  Jara the connecting #10?  18 touches in those 56 minutes, one inside the box and one just outside. 

Total disconnect.

Amazingly, Paxton Pomykal had 41 touches in that same 56 minutes span, pretty much double Michael Barrios’ 22.  The team clearly knows who the creator is and tried to go through him.  Yet Paxton had no luck either as he had only two passes connected into the final third, one of which was the gorgeous sequence early to Jara in the box.   So for me, Pomykal out wide wasn’t a great choice, although he clearly tried to play inside tight as a false-wing.  FCD should play that man in the middle as the 10 (or Free-8) and let him go to work.

Pomykal passing chart against Nashville, August 17, 2020.

So again, what’s amazing about all the FCD possession (look back at the earlier possession comment) is how infrequently it connected into the final third again in this one.  Last game there were four successful passes into the box. This time? Two – the aforementioned Pomykal pass and a long pass from Bryan Acosta. This is not what FCD wants and multiple teams might choose to play a lot block against this club till FCD figures it out.

You need to play quick combos to break it down. I think we’re moving the ball too slowly once we pin them in the low back. We’re too slow and there’s not a whole lot of ideas. 

Matt Hedges

As further evidence, the Nashvillians had almost the same amount of passes targeted into the final third as Dallas.

Passes by zone. (Courtesy

We are lacking creativity, combinations, and that killer instinct to score goals. We could have almost 600 passes, but it is pointless if we can put the ball in the back of the net. 

Luchi Gonzalez

Speaking of Bryan Acosta… I’m souring on him. Acosta was playing so deep and static – which might be on Coach Gonzalez – that there was no linking to the front line.  I don’t think it’s all on him but he is the linking-8. Pomykal tried to check back and link but with Nelson behind him, it wasn’t clinking. Acosta lacked that get forward dangerous play and passing into the final third you want to see in an 8.  I’m ready for Brandon Servania to get a shot here now that he’s back training. He was tremendous over the back half of last season.

FCD had virtually no speed in the game, no change of pace. Well, none except for Barrios.  It’s not that the team is slow, only Reto Ziegler falls in that slow category and his game reading makes up for it. But everyone else is just average in terms of pace in MLS.  There was no other gear to shift into, no acceleration available beyond Barrios.  The Nashville outside backs stayed home and doubled anyone making a run into the box. FCD perhaps could have used another player who can run past a defender.

FCD also seems to be tired or burnt out, lethargic.  It’s not a lack of desire or effort, they are trying and it was better than the last game, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they have overtrained? After the storm, the temp wasn’t bad but it’s been brutal for a couple of weeks now. Or is this just “early” season still getting fitness? This is the third time they have gone through a “preseason” this year. Perhaps this is the annual FCD Texas heat summer swoon already?  Man, that would suck.

Next Game

FC Dallas travels to Houston to take on arch-rival Dynamo this Friday in a big 6-pointer.  Kickoff is at 7 pm on TXA 21.  With a game in hand, FCD is still 2 points up on the Dirty Southies.

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

This is a feature I’m doing this year that hits twitter and facebook right after the game, then when I get home I stick a couple of graphics on it for youtube.


  1. Ok so first point of business. Does anyone else watch on espn+? I really don’t know if I can continue to watch football like this. That was the worst footballing broadcast I’ve ever seen except for USL. I get access to some of the youth academy games out of Italy and even they get a better broadcast. Is this ESPN’s doing or are they just relaying FCD’s broadcast? Way too many replays and close-ups. That’s a big no-no in football. Very amateurish. At times it felt like I was was just watching a series of replays and close-ups interspersed with occasional bits of actual football being played. I literally had to stop watching after about 10 mins into the 2nd half. I know ESPN can get it right because I watch Europa League broadcasts on espn and they don’t do that. Part of the beauty of the game is seeing an uninterrupted/continuous run of play. I wonder how much of the actual match I missed just watching these infuriating close ups. Can we all start a letter writing campaign to espn and/or FCD asking them to hire a professional footballing broadcaster? Or at least make the current broadcast team watch some actual real football broadcasts so that they know how to do it? Embarrassing for FCD, the MLS, and football in America in general.

      1. Ah, I see. Ok I’m new to espn+ so I’m still getting familiar with it. Very glad that wasn’t FCD’s doing.

  2. Second point of business: FCD looked really bad. They were poorly organized and completely inept. The team just doesn’t have the right personnel to play Luchi’s brand of Pep Guardiola ball.
    Reggie Cannon: didn’t have the best game but showed flashes of quality
    Reto: looked ok at best
    Matt Hedges: I know FCD’s fan base love him but I just don’t think he’s very good. Has good positioning in general but it very poor technically. Doesn’t have a very good touch on the ball not a very accurate passer. Seems to panic when pressed and looses the ball in bad places. Kind of slow and can’t deal with change of direction/quick players
    Johnny Nelson: didn’t look good enough to be on the pitch
    Thiago Santos: was hands down the worst player on the pitch. Even worse than Johnny Nelson. Lost the ball so many times and in really dangerous places. Poor touch. Poor passing. Poor dribbling. Just really embarrassed himself last night
    Bryan Acosta: horrible, can’t seem to not foul every time he gets close to the ball
    Paxton Pomykal: best player for FCD last night. Was calm and collected on the ball. Best passer on the pitch. One of the few players who showed he understands and has the right skillset to play technical/possession football. Had a brilliant little chip into the box that was perfectly played for Jara(who missed). Really excited about this kid
    Barrios: one of the best players for FCD but is not right for possession football. Would be better in a counter attacking system.
    Jara: looked really bad although showed a few flashes of quality. Obviously still getting match fit. Combined well with Pomykal. Generally he was really bad though. Should have been sent off instead of being cautioned. That tackle was dangerous and unacceptable
    Kobra: was he even on the pitch? Just seemed to be invisible. Maybe he has a knock or something

  3. Love the breakdown as always, that was a really tough couple games to swallow. Hopefully something lights a fire under these guys down in Houston. If two consecutive home games against an expansion side with the benefit of a couple months of training and the ability to silence the Twellmans of the world who have been ridiculing you doesn’t do it….well, I’m not sure what will.

    Speaking of Cannon, do you think he has a lot TOULOUSE by going to Europe, or would it be a NICE move? This might be something that ANGERS the fanbase, but I would be LYON if I said I wasn’t more that a LILLE excited about him getting the opportunity to grow in the game. Hopefully Reggie has a Pretty Sweet Gig (a PSG, if I may) lined up for himself in the near future.

Leave a Reply

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