2014 was a wildly successful campaign for FC Dallas. After a two year absence from the playoffs, the Hoops made their way into the Western Conference Semifinals and were knocked out by the Seattle Sounders by the away goals tie breaker. Dallas also set a franchise record with 54 points and also reached the US Open Cup semifinals, falling just short of reaching the finals by being knocked out rather cruely by penalties. On top of which Dallas saw Mauro Diaz play at an MVP caliber level in the first couple of months of the season, the coming out party of Fabian Castillo and Matt Hedges play at the USMNT level too.
Oh, and did I mention that Dallas also
stole brought back Oscar Pareja to guide this young team? Needless to say, 2014 was a season with plenty of positives. The question now though is whether Dallas can build on their success last year and make a serious run for some silverware in 2015? Here are my findings that Dallas could improve in to better those chances for trophies tihs year.
Quick disclaimer that there won't be any actual chalkboards on this post, but most of the data here has been pulled from it. Just wanted to set the expectations and now that we're on the same page, let's dive in.
I hope this didn't come as a surpise to anyone, but Dallas was the most red carded team in the league for 2014. For some context, Chivas USA were second with 9, and Toronto and Columbus each had 7 a piece for third most. It's already hard enough to win with 11 men on the field, but it's a whole lot harder when you're down one or two men.
Last season Blas Perez, Je-Vaughn Watson and Moises Hernandez picked up a couple of reds each, while Hendry Thomas, Adam Moffat, Michel and Zach Loyd each contribued one to the count. I tried digging up the game stats, to get more accurate data but I couldn't locate the data on Moffat, and Thomas as FC Dallas and MLS removed their player profiles from their respective sites so I'll just present the limited data available at the moment.
The first set of known dropped points was back in April, that game at DC United where Loyd picked up a red in the 39th minute, which coincidentally was also the game that Mauro Diaz injured his meniscus. Dallas ended up conceding four goals after that red from a winning position, and dropped 3 points. Michel's red also came at this game in the 89th minute, so his red didn't alter the outcome of the match any.
Je-Vaughn's red came in the 10th minute when he decided to kick a Red Bull in the nuts, putting Dallas at an extreme disadvantage with 80 minutes to play. Dallas ended up losing 1-0 in this one, although this was also the same game that Blas Perez missed on his penalty.
Finally that Portland debable back in June, where Dallas was up 2-0 before condeding 2 late goals and two late reds too. Blas Perez and Moises Hernandez both were carded for their tackles and the game ended with Dallas giving up a last second equalizer, thus dropping two points.
So at the very least, Dallas gave up 6 points from these avoidable cards. I didn't even take into account how those suspensions affected the team in the following game either. Bottom line, red cards are avoidable and Dallas would do well if they could avoid shooting themselves in the foot.
While I was combing through the data, I found it surprsing that Dallas was tied for second most in conceding headed goals in the league. Dallas was tied with Houston, Philadelphia and Vancouver with giving up 10 headed goals in 2014. Given how strong this team was at scoring set pieces, I would expect the defensive side to be stronger in the air, but that didn't seem to be the case. Those 10 headed goals accounted for 21% of the teams total goals conceded.
Above is the image of where goals were scored against Raul Fernandez and Chris Seitz last year. I haven't the slightest clue as to why Dallas was scored on so much from the bottom right, but I thought it was at least interesting to note.
That graphic did tell me that Dallas shipped 1.27 goals per game (including playoffs), which isn't terrible but it's not great either. For context, let's look at the past MLS Cup Winners.
2014: LA Galaxy - 1.03
2013: Kansas City - 0.90
And now the Runners Up:
2014: NE Revolution - 1.38
2013: RSL - 1.22
If this team is about the hardware and getting the MLS Cup and based on the past two winners, Dallas will need to tighten up that defense some more and realistically give up 7-8 goals fewer than last year to bring that average down closer to 1.05. Winning more of those aerial challenges will help immensely in this area.
The other area that could help reach another level defensively is working their way to concede fewer shots per game. It's simple logic really, if your opponent can't shoot the ball the chances of them scoring drop drastically. Dallas was actually abysmal in this department in 2014, giving up an average of 14.4 shots per game. which only the San Jose Earthquakes were worse (16.1). For some greater context, the Western Conference average was 13.1 shots conceded per game. Assuming those averages hold and Dallas can get down to at least the Western Conference average of 13.1, Dallas could look to leak 4 fewer goals in 2015.
And finally, just for fun, I did find that FCD was first in the league in terms of defensive erros leading to a goal (only 1) and Houstank was the worst in the league with a staggering 9. If you take away nothing from this, just remember that Houston sucks.
Despite the great offensive showing that Dallas had in 2014, I am concerned if they are able to replicated or not. The first problem that I encountered was that Dallas was second worst in the league in terms of chances created per game at 7.70. Chivas USA was dead last with 6.35 and the league's best were the LA Galaxy with a staggering 12.59 per game. Dallas did average 1.57 goals per game out of those 7.70 chances for a 20% conversion rate whereas the Galaxy averaged 2.0 goals per game, thus making their conversion rate at 15%. This just makes me wonder if Dallas was lucky in 2014 or were they really good at finishing? Usually in this case it means that a team is somewhere in the middle, but I'd still like to see Dallas create more chances and reduce the need for them to be as clinical in front of goal. It also comes down to simple logic, if Dallas can create more goal scoring opportunities, the better chances it has at scoring goals and more goals equals a higher chance of winning and winning makes people happy.
The final piece of interesting data that I found was that Dallas was 12-4-1 when they scored at least one goal in the first half for 2014. This of course doesn't take into account to game states or what the opposition does or anything else. I should also remind the readers at this point that correlation does not equal causation but it was an interesting piece of triva that I found.
- Stop getting red cards
- Give up at least 1.3 fewer shots per game
- Create more goal scoring opportunities