Luchi Gonzalez spoke of the need to make things happen way from home at the conclusion of Saturday’s game and a struggling LAFC side seemed to be Dallas’ best hope for a while. Bob Bradley’s star player gave a performance he described as little more than expected to resign FCD to a fourth defeat on the road and a continued run at the bottom of the West.
There were two competing stories as the lineups dropped an hour before the game. Luchi Gonzalez handed a debut to Justin Che after his return from Bayern Munich. The 17-year-old prepped to come into the game during Saturday’s draw with Minnesota after increased chatter regarding Bayern representatives traveling to Dallas to discuss the defender’s future.
Two of FC Dallas’ 2020 MLS SuperDraft picks were given the start but on opposing sides. Nkosi Tafari made his second start in a back three, while the 17th overall pick – Cal Jennings – would get a first start for LAFC having left Frisco without gaining a contract in 2020.
Dallas moved to a 5-3-2 with the returning Bressan joining Tafari and Jose Martinez in a back three flanked by the debuting Che on the right and Ryan Hollingshead back on the left.
Bryan Acosta and Facundo Quignon anchored the midfield with Jesus Ferreira in the somewhat-false 10 role. Ricardo Pepi and Jader Obrian up front.
Just a mere four minutes passed before Dallas fell behind, as Carlos Vela opened his account for the season. A run from Kim Moon-Hwan pulled Jose Martinez out of position, Carlos Vela identified the space to run into in the Dallas box as Eduard Atuesta played a ball centrally to the Mexican forward with his back to goal. Vela took a touch to take the ball out of reach of Martinez and tee up a left footed shot low past Maurer.
It wouldn’t take long for the former Arsenal man to threaten Maurer’s goal again after Facundo Quignon gave away a free kick for a rash challenge chasing a pass from Ryan Hollingshead. With only two men in the wall, Vela struck the base of Maurer’s nearside post.
Dallas had its first foray into the LAFC box in the 15th minute as Jader Obrian chased a sublime chipped pass from Jesus Ferreira. The Colombian took a heavy double touch while trying to set himself up to shoot, allowing Jesus Murillo to pressure and prevent a shot.
It looked like only a matter of time before the home side, in their ‘linen’ away kits, would increase their lead but another breakaway led to a short period of possession for Dallas. Jader Obrian broke down the left wing, playing a searching ball to the edge of the area seeking out Ricardo Pepi. The ball evaded Pepi, but Justin Che was able to race in and win a corner off the debuting LAFC keeper who had rushed out to claim the ball on the ground. Ryan Hollingshead saw a shot deflected away, and a Bryan Acosta cross was almost turned in the net by Murillo.
Jimmy Maurer came to Dallas’ rescue heading towards the break after a wayward pass from Jader Obrian gifted the ball to Jose Cifuentes 35 yards out. The LAFC midfielder advanced unopposed on goal unleashing a shot from outside the area that Maurer tipped around the post.
“LAFC transition well, so when we were recovering the ball I think we could have been a little bit more vertical. Maybe skip the first player, find the second line, the third line, and support it to get out of the transition. So maybe maybe too many short passes right after we won the ball that led to them again, recreating chances.”Luchi Gonzalez
FC Dallas held a slight advantage in possession at the half but the heatmap was completely non-existent in the attacking third. The team was struggling to maintain any grip in the central channel as the goal and Cifuentes chance took advantage of large gaps in the middle.
FC Dallas have been a second half team of late and it only took two minutes for Dallas to register a first shot on target. Nkosi Tafari played a looping cross from deep on the right with Ryan Hollingshead diving to head towards goal, but his effort was all too comfortable for Tomas Romero.
Los Angeles should have doubled their lead right around the hour mark but for another fantastic Maurer save. A cross came in from the Dallas left with Nkosi Burgess attempting to clear the ball away but it only fell to Cifuentes, central just beyond the six yard box. Maurer dove away from the ball but was able to make contact with his hip to prevent the goal.
With Dallas struggling to move forward, Gonzalez went to his bench shortly after to bring on Franco Jara in place of Burgess to move back to a 4-3-3. Paxton Pomykal soon followed for the ineffectual Obrian.
“We needed to change change something, so we went 4-3-3 to then match the numbers in the middle, and then continue to apply the three verses three against their center backs that they changed. That for me was going to be the solution but then they they scored the second goal, the one that we turned off.”Luchi Gonzalez
Maurer had kept LAFC to one goal with a string of impressive saves but the hosts would extend their advantage in strange circumstances. Latif Blessing broke out of the midfield threading a pass for Carlos Vela. Vela appeared offside at first, and the linesman duly flagged before Blessing tapped in off the return pass. Referee Rosendo Mendoza was called to the monitor, and soon awarded the goal much to the protestation of the FC Dallas players. The replays did show it was close but it was the correct decision.
With 15 minutes remaining and a two goal deficit, Gonzalez threw on three players in an effort to change everything about FC Dallas’ performance to that point. Freddy Vargas, Andres Ricaurte, and Johnny Nelson replaced Ricardo Pepi, Bryan Acosta, and Ryan Hollingshead. Strangely both the creator and executor of the team’s only effort on target were now out of the game, but Dallas’ best hope came with the withdrawal of Vela at the same time.
Vargas barely made it three minutes before picking up a yellow that really ought to have been red, going studs raised over the ankle of Eddie Segura.
“It’s reading each other’s movements, we’re just getting caught in the same lines too much. We’re moving into similar spaces and when the ball breaks free, we’re not balanced and we’re not covering the opposite side are giving given us the right depth and prevention. We’re getting on top of each other.”Jimmy Maurer
The latter stages weren’t a strong advertisement for Major League Soccer. Justin Che gave an encouraging performance in trying to move the ball upfield but the team couldn’t add to that sole shot on target from Hollingshead. Maurer kept the score line looking respectable but there were few positives to take back ahead of a weekend clash with Eastern Conference leaders, New England.
It’s a weird strategy for a coach to roll out a lineup and formation that cedes the midfield. Even stranger that he waits more than a half before fixing what was one of the obvious problems. Stranger yet that he basically admitted it.
Luchi is usually pretty blunt about what did and didn’t work. His answers just tend to be longer and wrapped in positivity that those points can get lost or be difficult to pull out of a full quote. The press conference is supposed to begin 15 mins after the final whistle but this was over 35 mins after so someone was getting chewed out, and he was slumped in the chair, not speaking with the usual enthusiasm. It just felt like a real low point to match the game.
I think our best lineup in away matches would be a 4-4-2 Diamond. Center Midfield seems to be our strength and we have plenty of depth there. Our wingers are complete trash at the moment. Jader has one of the worst first touches in the league.
you’re right about Obrian and at 25 it isn’t likely to improve. He needs to be exiled to the bench now. It’s useless to play a player you can’t rely upon to turn offensive opportunities into actual shots on goal.
That was a 5-0 drubbing. I think everyone at FC Dallas (save for Maurer) needs to treat it and be treated as such. I’m glad someone is getting chewed out. I hope it leads to a change of course because this boat is steaming up $hitts creek right now.
I would love, absolutely love, for Luchi to immediately sub-out Acosta the next time he shoots the ball into the stands from distance. That would give me so much viewing pleasure.