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

Oh man, is it good to be back watching soccer and writing “The Breakdown.” Unfortunately, for my enjoyment at least, FC Dallas didn’t play very well.  Nashville grabbed the 1-0 win for the franchise’s first-ever victory making FC Dallas into a bad trivia question for them.

One loss is not the end of the season, particularly when it’s the third game of the season. Yes, there are some problems. But it’s not desperation time by any means.

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Coach Luchi Gonzalez rolled the dice on a new shape, well sort of new.  FCD has used it before under Gonzalez and they went with it again after working on it in their Covid-enforced down time.  They were going to use it at NYCFC way back before the season derailed from Covid.

The FC Dallas staring XI versus Nashville SC, August 12, 2020.

Paxton Pomykal was going to start at the 10, but Jesus Ferreira gets the nod after Pomykal had a flare-up in the hip/groin area.  As a precaution, the Sundance Kid sat, perhaps with an eye on the upcoming workload.  Zdenek Ondrasek – who is just coming back from an injury himself – also made way for Franco Jara.

Franco Jara pulls the trigger against Nashville SC, August 8, 2020. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

In an attempt to enliven his team, Pomykal came on for Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi came on for Jara in the 59th minute.  A plan that worked for the most part even if it didn’t produce a goal.

In a desperation shift in the 74th minute – basically back to the 4-3-3 – Kobra came in for Reto Ziegler leaving two at the back really.  Tanner Tessmann also came on at that time for Thigao Santos, shifting up to the 8 with Bryan Acosta dropping to the 6. 

Finally in the 87th minute, Fafa Picault came on for Michael Barrios.

Nashville, missing their head coach Gary Smith after a false positive Covid test result, used their expected 4-2-3-1… that really plays more like a 4-4-2 or 4-1-1-1.

The Nashville SC starting XI at FC Dallas, August 12, 2020.

The 67th minute subs of Alistair Johnston for Brayan Beckeles and Abu Danladi for Daniel Ríos seemed pretty straight forward and mostly about keeping their team fresh.

Dom Badji for Derrick Jones (75th), David Accam for Randall Leal (82nd), and Matt LaGrassa for Hany Mukhtar (82nd) were all in – in my eye anyway – the “go for it” mold to play even more counter attack and try to bear FCD with pace.


Nashville Goal 1-0. 86th minute. Dax McCarty makes the wonderful outlet pass to David Accam.  Bressan, stupidly, tried to tackle “backward” and Matt Hedges only gets a deflection on the shot that finds its way to the net.

El Bueno

Paxton Pomykal was my Man of the Match mostly because the team elevated when he came in. Pomykal brought the attack to life.  But I’m not married to this pick. You could probably convince me of someone else pretty easily. 19 of 23 passing, 1 key pass… that’s ok. Although none of his passes into the box connected. We’ll come back to that.

Nashville Captain Dax McCarty I thought was fantastic.  2 key passes and the one-touch assist. 2 fouls won in his own end, only 1 foul committed and it was in the offensive end. 10 recoveries, 2 intercepts, although he did miss 2 of his 3 tackles.

Matt Hedges looked pretty damn good passing from the back.  He only had 3 incomplete passes out of a bazillion.

Camino del Medio

Jimmy Maurer looked solid.  Would Jesse Gonzalez with his lateral quickness have gotten to the goal? Possible, I suppose. But Jimmy came up with a couple of solid saves. I don’t think he’s the reason FCD lost.

The 3-5-2 in general I thought did what it was supposed to, give Reto and Hedges an extra body to battle the pace through the gaps.  But FCD is still poor at pulling out and breaking down a patient low block and this formation didn’t help much.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Barrios as an off-striker Barrios is so much better making attacking runs from wide. (Side note: Barrios wasn’t a false-9, a false-9 is when someone playing as a lone striker who isn’t a high-9 so they sit deep and attack… Say if Barrios played as the 9 in a 4-3-3.) 

It was still full Luchi-Ball: 636 passes to 357, 90% to 82%, 64% possession to 36%.  For what it’s worth.

Don’t be too harsh on Zdenek Ondrasek not starting. He missed some training time recently with an injury and was back in training last minute.  It’s too bad FC Dallas doesn’t bother to publicize these things so that their coach won’t get ripped when people don’t know.

Kobra was injured for over two weeks. He was only able to train for a few days. He wasn’t in his rhythm and physically he wasn’t ready for this game to play 90 minutes. He has worked hard to recover, and he is back but not 100%.

Luchi Gonzalez

Muy Feo

This was one of the poorer games by Ryan Hollingshead. 3 tackles, 2 clears, 2 recoveries is just ok… but 12 incomplete passes isn’t good and I can only find one pass going forward in the final third.  Too much inside and under when in a 3-5-2 he needs to be working the wide line as both the strikers are narrow.

Honestly this formation revolves around the fullbacks: They’ve got to do the most, run the most and be the most active. We take that on our shoulders and try to be better on Sunday.

Reggie Cannon

Bressan, I will admit up front, I’m not high on. And it seemed Nashville targeted him or at least the gap between him and Hedges (or so the stats indicate).  He had 1 tackle, 5 recoveries, 4 intercepts, and 0 blocks.  Bressan was also fouled 4 times, meaning NSC might have been trying to catch him in possession.  Compare that to Reto, who had 2 (missed) tackles, 1 recovery, and 1 clearance.  Hedges had 4 recoveries, 2 clears, and 2 intercepts.  Neither Reto nor Hedges was fouled.

Luchi said FCD needed to create more chances, but 15 shots to 7 isn’t horrible. Sure, you want to see 20 plus at home, but it’s the kind of chances that are key.  Only 5 shots on target and 9 of the 15 total shots were from outside the box. Of the on-target shots, 3 came from long range.  Of the starters, I was only able to find 4 successful passes into the box, of the substitutes, none.  In fact, 3 of the key passes in the game by FCD were layoffs from just inside the 18 or on the line to a player deeper. An open player? Sure. Good-percentage opportunity? Not really.  It’s not just more chances, it’s better chances.

We need to score goals at home. We need to generate more crosses and more shots. We want to have higher numbers in those two areas so that way we can have the opportunity to score more goals. 

Luchi Gonzalez

Thiago Santos came crashing back to earth.  10 incomplete passes, 8 of them from his own half. Ouch. 2 key passes is good, but this isn’t what we saw in the first two games back in March.  Hot and cold, let’s call it.

Man, do I ever hate the 5 subs. It’s literally half the field players. It greatly reduces fitness importance and specifically lowers the value of the FCD’s home advantage. It also disrupts the game flow of the game, which is even more annoying when you combine it with water breaks; which I, of course, also hate.

I guess I’m an old fuddy-duddy. When the hell did that happen?

I’m “disgusted,” to use Reggie Cannon’s term, that someone threw a bottle at the players in the pre-game.  This isn’t about politics, boo who you want, protest who you want, I don’t care. As George John would tell you, don’t throw bottles – plastic or otherwise – at people.  

13 April 2013 – FC Dallas defender George John (#14) gets cleaned up after being hit by a beer bottle in the head after scoring a goal during the MLS regular season game between FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won the game 1-0.

Next Game

Sunday, against… *checks notes* Oh… Nashville SC.  7:30 pm.

Well… FCD better win that one, I guess.

This is just getting started, on Sunday we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves. We need to be in our best game possible.

Franco Jara

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