The start for FC Dallas this season has been as good as any fan might have expected. The pace of the games has been fantastic, as the Hoops have made the most out of their speed en route to 13 goals in five MLS matches. Their record stands at 4-0-1 giving them 13 points and putting them atop the Western Conference.
I was told this week that only five of the 13 goals FC Dallas has scored this year were from the run of play. Should FC Dallas fans be pleased with this apparent imbalance? Should it make them nervous? Is the sample size of five games even big enough to start making wide generalities about how the rest of this season will go?
Here are some answers.
The run of play
It all starts with Dallas' attacking mentality that is surely an extension of Oscar Pareja. With a 4-2-3-1 formation, there are four attacking players at any given time. First of all, this compromises FC Dallas' defense. Center backs Matt Hedges and Stephen Keel have controlled the back line well enough for wing players and Mauro Diaz to push forward consistently.
In last Saturday's game against Houston, keeper Chris Seitz made two early saves on shots that could have easily gone in. While Dallas' attacking players were feeling the game out, their defenders were taking Houston's best shots early. The confidence to stay with the offensive game plan and trust that they'll break-through eventually is a good sign for a team that wants to play up-tempo. Pareja's team trusts that if another team plays with them at their high-tempo, they'll come out on-top after 90 minutes.
Getting to the set pieces
Let's not forget how FC Dallas gets to their set-pieces. Other teams don't just give them away for free. Dallas has to win them somehow.
Usually set-pieces are won when pressure is put on the opposing defense. Speed, skill, and numbers are all factors here and FC Dallas has all three. It's one of the reasons their style of play is so much fun thus far. Defending teams could choose to consciously not foul and let the run of play go on, but Dallas puts so much pressure on opponents, they're forced into making bad decisions.
Last week, when Mauro Diaz drew the penalty leading to the first goal of the game, there were at least four blue jerseys in the penalty area -- all poised to strike and all during the run of play. Diaz used world-class ball skills to get one extra touch and spin, forcing the Houston defender to pull him down. (1:45 of the video below)
Had Diaz not been pulled down, he'd have had the equivalent of a left-footed penalty shot off of the run of play.
Skills to serve
Whether Michel, Diaz, or someone else are taking the set pieces, you don't see a lot of wasted opportunities so far. It's one thing to draw a foul. It's another to be able to do something about it. Credit FC Dallas for having built a balanced roster of players with speed, ball skills, and finishing, all of which have contributed to success both through the run of play and once they draw set pieces.
Set pieces aren't just about having greatly skilled ball-strikers. I think set-piece success this early in the season is a sign of having prepared and intelligent footballers and a coach who has a great plan.
A high-pressure style that pushes attackers forward might backfire sometimes, but it's damn fun to watch. As teams scout FC Dallas more, there will be some games that get out of hand -- when the other team is a little sharper and Seitz isn't able to make the great early saves he made on Saturday.
It will be then that the resolve of FC Dallas to continue to play their attacking style will be tested. With their collective skills and early team play, they shouldn't have a problem continuing to score overall.
Whether it's from the run of play or from set pieces shouldn't be a concern, though. Goals are goals, skills are skills, and pressure is pressure. Most importantly, wins are wins.