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Scratching the Chalkboard: Diaz Shines, Defense Rising

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Exactly why is Gerrard even in this league?

MLS: LA Galaxy at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas walked away from last night’s victory ever so closer to winning yet another trophy in their darling 2016 campaign. A 38th minute goal from Walker Zimmerman was enough to keep all the points in Dallas and send the visiting LA Galaxy home with no parting gifts. Despite the scoreline, Dallas actually had a myriad of opportunities in this one, and much like Wednesday night, the finishing product was still wanting but the chances were there. Here are some key looks at how Dallas took down the Galaxy.

Gerrard Doesn’t Belong in MLS

Many scoffed and laughed when the Galaxy brought in Steven Gerrard, but very few would’ve seen him completely unhinged and ineffective like this. Put in the middle of the park with Jeff Larentowicz, the former Liverpool legend was tasked to be the “runner” of the two and help keep the Dallas offense from running freely into the LA defense. In other words, Gerrard was tasked to do something that he simply could not do.

Hence leading to the fans being treated to a night of this:

When you trot out a midfield pairing of traffic cones, you let one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS do things like this:

The key thing to notice is how central Diaz was for most of the night, especially in that coveted Zone 14 where he picked apart the LA defense time and time again with his trademark passes, scoops, through balls and chips. It’s incredibly damning to let a number 10 do this to you as it means you weren’t challenging him when he had the ball in dangerous spots, it’s horrific when you fail to track him and prevent him from getting the ball at all:

Above is a chart where Mauro Diaz received his passes. Again, look how centrally he was and how many times he got the ball to his feet inside Zone 14. It’s hard to beat Dallas when Mauro is on the field, but it’s practically impossible when he gets this kind of space and room to do such damage to you.

Which again, leads me to ask, “Why is Gerrard here?”

Defense Getting Strong

As I said last week with the 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake, the defensive showing from this unit is starting to really come together at a right time. They haven’t peaked yet, as they’re still prone to a nervy couple of moments here and there, but with yet another clean sheet for Chris Seitz, things are looking good with two consecutive clean sheets (three if you count CCL too). This is particularly encouraging as I pointed out before the RSL match that Dallas had not held an opponent scoreless for six consecutive matches.

The Dallas defense came up big keeping LA to just 7 shots on the evening, with one on target.

Though to be fair, LA did force Atiba Harris into making a heroic blocked shot in the 86th minute on Robbie Keane, who had an open net to shoot at. And despite a few chances on the break here and there, LA didn’t really find any kind of rhythm to apply sustained pressure on the Dallas defense.

(Orange - recovery. Purple - clearance. Yellow - block. Blue - interceptions. Green - tackle. Red - unsuccessful tackle.)

The backline of Atiba Harris, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman and Maynor Figueroa had a very solid outing. They weren’t called into action too often, and made the right decisions of when to hold their line, when to step, when to concede and just generally read the game extremely well. Dallas kept their defensive lines pretty deep in the first half, and LA couldn’t find a solution for that. The defense stepped their lines up just a bit in the second half to keep the field of play small, and LA couldn’t adjust in time to find any answers there.

While the defenders were taking care of business at the back, they also found a way to contribute on the offensive end too with Walker Zimmerman finding the winner off a corner (again).

The one challenge for this team now is finding that finishing touch that has alluded them in the past three games. Dallas will have next week off before hosting the Seattle Sounders for their final regular season home match on Oct 16th. Here’s to hope that the strikers will get in a few extra shooting sessions over the next 14 days.