MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 14: Xabi Alonso (R) of Real Madrid tackles Dani Alves of Barcelona during the Super Cup first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 14, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
The prototypical Schellas Hyndman team at FCD has been one built on blazing speed down the wings complemented by overlapping runs from the outside backs to create havoc in the wide areas of the pitch, opening up huge gaps in the middle of the park for David Ferreira to exploit(Watch the goals from 2010 and notice how many are coming from crosses and wingers cutting inside to score). In 2010 and 2011, you were forced to pick your poison, give Shea, Loyd, Benitez and Chavez free crosses or double team the wings and give Ferreira room to operate. The team nature of the goals showed in 2010 as there were 38 assists on the 32 non-PK goals scored compared to just 7 assists on the 15 goals scored this season.
Partly due to injury and partly due to inexperienced players not doing exactly what Schellas wants from the position, the wing play just hasn't be there for FC Dallas this season. Fabian Castillo and Brian Leyva, thrust into the spotlight with the injury to Brek Shea, have showed flashes of amazing stuff, but their speed and skillset of nearly 100% offense are probably more suited to a substitute role at the moment. However, with Brek Shea returning from injury soon, the left side of the pitch is pretty well locked up with an MLS Best XI player.
The right side of the pitch, however, could prove to be a problem. Jackson, the incumbent at the position, tends to wander around the field and take on three defenders at a time which has proved to be extremely ineffective at building a cohesive team attack. Perhaps the biggest problem has been his extreme inability to hold possession and get crosses into the box, rather focusing on trying to create goals off his dribble or passing on the ground centrally to a player with two defenders draped on them . According to OPTA stats, in eight games this year Jackson has sent in 3 successful crosses and 16 unsuccessful crosses. That's an average of just over two crosses sent in, successful or not, each game. This is where Dani Alves comes into play.
Back in April, the great Sid Lowe wrote a fantastic and fascinating profile of Dani Alves, the Barcelona "right back" and one of my favorite players in world football. In the piece, Sid talks about Alves' move from Sevilla to Barcelona, a match made in footballing heaven.
Alves found the perfect home at Barcelona when he arrived in 2008. They, in turn, found the perfect player: right-back, right-midfielder, right-winger, centre-forward, central midfielder, support striker, tackler and playmaker, all wrapped into one, hyperactive ball.
Does that remind of a particular Brazilian on FC Dallas?
At this point, you have to kind of just accept that Jackson is what he is and it's a lot like the above description. The Brazilian is immensely talented and capable of the spectacular more than almost any other player on the roster, but I haven't seen much evidence that he's suited to effectively play the right midfield position in Schellas Hyndman's system. This got me to wondering, could the jumpstart that the FCD right wing needs be achieved by moving Jackson to right back and bringing Zach Loyd up the pitch a bit?
The Brazilian came to Dallas as a right back and has played probably a dozen games there since 2010 while Loyd, perhaps the most cerebral and disciplined player of the Schellas Hyndman era has right-sided heat maps to die for. Rarely does the Oklahoman roam over to the left side of the pitch as he accomplishes the exact responsibilities of his position while sending in nearly the same amount of crosses through the same 8 games that Jackson has played.
Loyd's defensive game would keep him completely aware of the need to drop back when Jackson came forward as well as vastly improving the chance of potentially stealing the ball off a defender and launching a counterattack as his ability of tackling the ball off the opposition is far ahead of Jacksons. Loyd's composure on the ball would also likely create more opportunity for keeping possession in the midfield rather than the offensive turnovers that have plagued the team lately.
I can hear your arguments now, "But how could you want a guy that tends to roam all over the field and push forward with reckless abandon play on the back line?" Let Dani Alves answer that one for me.
"People automatically think that because you attack, you can't defend. Not true." Again, the question of concepts and of adaptability. Besides, he says, he can defend. "What we cannot do is play with 11 men behind the ball. Defend? Defend what? You can't 'defend', in the traditional sense, a team that does not attack you. And we defend by stopping them attacking us. Against Madrid I hardly attacked because they counter so well. We needed control; if not, they steamroller you. If I am asked to defend, it's tough because I like attacking, I like to participate, but I will do it.
He recalls Guardiola's message before the 2011 final, a dominant 3-1 victory over Manchester United at Wembley. "The only thing he asked us to do is attack – it's the only way to win, especially against physically strong teams with devastating counterattacks. You can't let them have the ball: if they have the ball you have to get it back. Quickly."
I highlighted that particular sentence because I think it has some major relevance in flipping the defensive switch in Jackson's head. While the Brazilian may not understand why Schellas Hyndman asks him to play so much defense when he feels that he's a right midfielder who is there to score and create goals, perhaps moving him to right back where he is demanded to play defense and held accountable to do it by Schellas and Ugo could create success, bringing a little piece of Brazilian flair to Frisco.