The Breakdown: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas – May 22, 2021

This game was in every way but the one that really matters a better game by FC Dallas. So some progress is there to be built on. But the bottom line is a tie at home and dropped points.

FC Dallas sits on 6 points, last in the Western Conference, and 24th overall in MLS.

Let’s break it down.

Lineups and Tactics

Somehow the narrative developed that this was a 4-1-4-1 from FCD… but it wasn’t. It’s Luchi’s same 4-3-3 as always, it was just the single-pivot version, the pure 4-3-3, and not a 4-2-3-1.  The wings were not playing as wide mids on top of the outside backs – which is what a 4-1-4-1 is – as the Luchi system is built on attacking outside backs creating the width. Semantics, I suppose, but it matters to me.

Colin Shutler on an emergency loan from North Texas SC.

The FC Dallas starting XI vs RSL, May 22, 2021. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Paxton Pomykal for Freddy Vargas in the 72nd minute and Szabolcs Schon for Jader Obrian in the 87th minute were both straightforward swaps.

RSL in their nominal 4-2-3-1.

RSL’s starting XI vs FC Dallas, May 22, 2021. (Courtesy MLS)

Justin Meram replaced Anderson Julio in the 79th minute and Douglas Martinez came on for Rubio Rubin in the 81st minute.  Then a double sub in the 88th minute, with Donny Toia coming on for Andrew Brody and Erik Holt replacing Pablo Ruiz.


0-1 RSL Goal. 20th minute.  A bad giveaway in the back by Matt Hedges – who had two chances to clear it – gives Rubio Rubin an easy goal.

1-1 FC Dallas goal. 43rd minute.  Franco Jara converts the PK.

2-1 FC Dallas goal. 84th minute. Paxton Pomykal with the assist on a prototypical Ryan Hollingshead goal. One small lucky bounce but that’s how it goes sometimes and the rest is all classic Hollingshead.

2-2 RSL goal. 86th minute. Rapid response by RSL as the defense is caught stagnant. Matt Hedges doesn’t track, Eddie Munjoma doesn’t help, and Jimmy Maurer could maybe have done a little better. Damir Kreilach is a tough mark in the box even when you track him.

Lo Bueno

Andres Ricaurte was my Man of the Match with 8 – yes EIGHT – key passes.  Yes, half of them were from corners but good corners are a good thing. But even with half, four key passes from the run of play is an exceptional game.  26 pressures, 83 touches, 78% passing, 7 for 11 on long balls, and 11 crosses.

Bryan Acosta has been excellent all season and continued to be so in this game.  His positioning was one of the main tactical changes of the week. Early during the week’s training Acosta was still the main 6 but at some point Coach Luchi changed his mind and moved Acosta up the field into a double-8 look. This move paid off and changed the way the team plays.  4 shots, 2 shots on goal, 3 key passes

Due to the previous two points – and one more I’ll get to in a bit – FCD created a lot of chances which results in a season-high 29 shots and a season-high 10 shots on goal. David Ochoa had to make 8 saves and was probably the real man of the match as he kept RSL from getting blown out.

Statistically, I know the game was one that we showed proactiveness and going for it getting numbers forward, getting numbers in the box and getting shots.

Luchi Gonzalez

This was peak form Ryan Hollingshead. He was having a field day down the left. 68 touches, 3 shots, 1 goal, 1 key pass, 4 aerials won, 1 dribble, and 3 tackles.

At some point though, you just have to have a little bit more conviction in the final third. We had plenty of chances to put them away and weren’t able to do so. Some of that is just not getting the right bounce and some balls skidding under the goalie’s arm and somehow popping over the net and little things like that.

Ryan Hollingshead

Credit to Tanner Tesssmann who was asked to play as a 6 which is out of his comfort zone. Yes, he’s done it at the pro level, – against San Jose which wasn’t pretty, if you recall they swapped out of it right quick. Tanner isn’t a natural tackler but his positioning is strong, he’s got lots of power to push people around, and his passing vision exceptional. Thankfully RSL didn’t play through the middle much so it wasn’t a heavy burden on Tanner.  A team-leading 29 pressures but only 2 successful tackles on 5 attempts. His big contribution was on offense which was great from that deep spot with 84 touches, 88% passing, 2 shots, 1 key pass, and 4 for 6 on long passes.

We’ve been pretty hard on Eddie Munjoma of late – I think with reason – and while he’s not there yet this game was a first step forward.  Not great, but progress. He had 20 touches in the attacking third, that’s much better (see the passing chart).  0 dribbles though, take some guys on Eddie!

Munjoma vs RSL
Eddie Munjoma pass chart against RSL, May 22, 2021.

Every time I watch Albert Rusnák play I like his game. There’s just something about him that speaks to me in soccer terms. We aren’t often concerned with the opposition players in this space, but man would I love to see this guy play for FC Dallas.

This was the first time I’ve watching Paxton Pomykal in 2021 and thought, “oh heck yes, Paxton’s back.” He looks in 100% form to me. Time to start pushing for a start.

Pomykal vs RSL
Paxton Pomykal shields off a defender against Real Salt Lake, May 22, 2021. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Camino del Medio

Since I ripped the last two Szabolcs Schon subs I will mention that this one was fine. It was a reasonable sub to be made. I don’t think he added anything to the game but at least it made sense.

On Wednesday of last week, Coach Gonzalez told me they were making an adjustment to Franco Jara’s positioning. They wanted him to play higher and less as a false-9. That seemed to pay off in this game. Ignore the PK and try to ignore the salary, please.  With 7 shots in this game and 4 shots on target, literally half of Jara’s shots this season came in this one game. His xG was actually 1.74. This is a better performance.  Jara had 20 touches in the attacking third and 9 touches in the box – in both cases that’s roughly ¼ of his season totals.

I felt happy to score my first goal today. It felt great to get that confidence and I want to keep going on a streak. I want to help the team pick ourselves up and give them confidence to keep on fighting. We will take it a game at a time.

Frano Jara

No, Jara’s not worth the money he’s getting. I’m merely talking about his performance in the context of the season. This was a better game by him. That’s it. Go complain to Dan Hunt, I didn’t sign the guy.

Muy Feo

Matt Hedges had a tough day. The usually rock-steady core of this team’s D for the last decade lost focus twice. That’s very unusual.  I doubt it’s something to worry about in the big picture. Let’s just hope it’s an off day.

The bottom line is that FC Dallas should have won this game and did not. These dropped points at home when they clearly outplayed RSL is a gut punch.  Hopefully they can take this as a positive game and build on it. 

It’s just heartbreaking and it’s painful because this is a game we were wining with ten minutes left and we don’t find within each other the savvy, the game management, the street smarts to hold the result and to win the game.

Luchi Gonzalez

Instant Reaction – 3 Things

Next Game

FC Dallas hits the road to takes on the Rapids in Denver. The mile-high kickoff is at 8 pm CT on TXA21.


  1. If Jara played every half like the first half of this game, I’d have no qualms about paying him $3 million of Dan Hunt’s money.

    Any sense about how long Phelipe will be out? Jimmy really didn’t look 100% when he had to move sideways.

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