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Post-game: Problems all over the field in 2-0 loss to Columbus

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COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 01:  Andres Mendoza #10 of the Columbus Crew scores a goal on a penalty kick against FC Dallas at Crew Stadium on April 1, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 01: Andres Mendoza #10 of the Columbus Crew scores a goal on a penalty kick against FC Dallas at Crew Stadium on April 1, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
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What a disaster that was last night was. A bevy of changes to the lineup saw Ugo Ihemelu at right back, Brek Shea at center back, Jackson at linking mid, Fabian Castillo at left mid and Ruben Luna at forward. It didn't work to say the least as FCD stumbled to their second straight 2-0 loss. 

Observations:

The problems started even before kickoff. I trust Schellas, but he got the team sheet wrong last night. Ugo Ihemelu has never played right back with this team, Jackson has never played the linking mid role, Castillo has never started, Luna has never started. I can understand each of the moves individually, but making all of these moves in the same game without much time to practice was bound to backfire, especially on the road.  This farce was highlighted by Zach Loyd coming on in the 78th and it taking Dallas five tries to figure out who was coming off the field.

Lineup changes lead to poor passing. When you make so many changes like this, you have a bunch of players who aren't familiar with each other in the places they're at and it leads to turnovers all over the field. I realize it's going to be tough to string a bunch of passes together down to ten men, but the poor passing was there well before that. In the first half, Dallas completed just 62% of their passes compared to 74% for Columbus. Perhaps Eric Alexander was doing better in the linking mid position than a lot of us thought. 

Keep reading as I've got a ton more to say about this game

Back four is not on the same page, it's time to get back to basics. While Columbus' chances were limited in the game, the Crew are one of the worst offensive teams in the league so that should be expected. I just can't understand why Schellas tinked with the back four so much. While some of the offensive problems can be understood as there's been changes, the only person gone from last season in the back is Heath Pearce. Benitez-John-Ugo-Loyd....it's not that hard. 

Two more problems with Brek Shea at center back. George John simply doesn't pair very well with Shea...it's not always something that can be explained other than the eye test, but there was just something about John-Ugo last year that worked so well.

The other problem is that there's no size in the attack going forward. Last season, you had Brek Shea on one wing with Atiba Harris on the other wing. That size presented huge problems for defenses in the box and on the outsides and it's just not there this year. What's wrong is, Dallas is still insisting on attacking the same way as last season....with just Luna or Milton presenting any danger in the box at all, corners and set pieces are a waste of time because no one is getting their head to anything and playing down the wings looking to cross into the box is useless. 

No one has Ferreira's back. Granted this was a bigger problem last night because the linking mid got sent off, but Dallas is missing Dax McCarty so bad. As I mentioned, Dallas needs to change their style of attack and how it works most effectively with small, quick players on the wing is to get someone in the center of the midfield going forward with the ball while Castillo and Chavez cut in. Right now, DF10 is getting the ball with his back to goal and either gets fouled or has to pass backward because no one is making any runs behind him. Dax was perfect at that and right now I'm not sure Dallas has any players that can do that from linking mid besides Eric Avila or maybe Bruno Guarda. 

Inconsistent refereeing. Listen, I understand Jackson was stupid and put himself in a ridiculously dumb situation, but Dejan Rusmir was every bit the equal of Jackson's thuggery last night. Less than five minutes into the game, Rusmir put in a hard foul on Ferreira and wasn't told a thing by the Jair Marrufo. He put in an awful, extremely late challenge on George John about five minute before the end of the first half that should have been booked and then another kick out at Ugo Ihemelu that finally earned him a yellow card. I can think of four fouls by Rusmir that were every bit as bad as Jackson's two yellow cards...credit to Robert Warzycha who smartly subbed Rusmir at halftime, that guy is going to get a few red cards this season. 

Still need to be patient. Now that I've gotten all my lumps in, here's the bright side: Dallas is going to figure out things and be fine. Right now the sum of the parts is strong, but they don't fit together. Dallas has one of the best square pegs, but currently they're still trying to play the round hole style(if that makes any sense). 

Once Dallas can finally stick with one lineup and build some cohesion, I really do think they'll be one of the strongest teams in the league. We all know it's not how you start but how you finish.....Dallas had better figure things out soon though as they have just four games in April but seven in May. 

Final observations. At the end of the day, it's just three games and Dallas has spent 1/3 of the time at 10 men. It's a rough start, no doubt, but this team is too talented to not figure things out and I feel very confident that when the first win comes, many more will follow. They just need to figure out how to mold their style to fit that square peg. 

Links

Craig Merz writes for the Dallas Morning News that playing with ten men is leading to frustration for FC Dallas...Sure does sound like Jackson is heading into the dog house. Seems very likely next week that we see Alexander back in the midfield and if Loyd is put into right back and plays well, we might not see Jackson starting again for awhile.

“We need to finish the game with 11 people on the field,” he said. “That would certainly be beneficial to our cause. It’s very, very difficult to get a bead on the team’s performance level when you play short-handed so often.”

For the second time in three games this season, FCD (0-2-1) played a man short after an ejection. Friday, midfielder Jackson Goncalves took two reckless challenges a minute apart for yellow cards to draw the red in the 33rd minute.

“The word I use is emotional intelligence,” coach Schellas Hyndman said. “Jackson had two yellow cards within a minute. That’s not the way you want it to be. He really made it difficult on the rest of the team. I was happy with the way the game was going up to that time.”

Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch writes that Jackson did everything he could to help Columbus get the win

 Rogers said he intends to make a move to Europe after the season, but he would be happy being traded or playing out his contract with the Crew.

"Maybe I get traded and maybe I don't," Rogers said. "I'm just going to work my butt off every day. That's a good mentality, and it works for me. It can be a difficult situation, but I'm happier. I'm here and I'm going to be myself."

Peter Welpton of 3rd Degree gives us his game grades saying that yesterday was the first time Dallas has been outplayed this season

In Columbus though, Dallas was not the better side before or after the Jackson meltdown. Dallas struggled to gain much possession in the first 30 minutes and were relegated mostly to defending and counters. Again the midfield struggled, although there was some attempt to play through the middle and not the exclusive lengthy play seen in weeks one and two. 

Joe Lombardi of The Lantern(Ohio State Student Paper) has a gamer with a nice photo slideshow

 

"We tried to put a little bit more pressure on the defenders, especially on the crosses," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said of his team's change in game plan after gaining a man advantage.