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Scratching the Chalkboard: Horror Display Dooms Dallas

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Dallas rolled the dice on a new formation and it backfired badly

MLS: Conference Semifinals-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas walked out of the Pacific Northwest basically sitting in their worst case scenario. Down three goals in an aggregate series with no away goal as a tie-breaker. Dallas now returns back to Texas needing to score three goals just to force extra time and have 90 minutes to continue their double-winning 2016 season.

Tactical Errors

We touched on this last time Dallas faced off against Seattle where interim head coach Brian Schmetzer replicated a Real Salt Lake blue print and exposed this Dallas side’s greatest flaw: transition defense. The Dallas back line has held up well with the emergence of Walker Zimmerman having a breakout season in the place of injured Zach Loyd, but have yet to find a player who could duplicate one of Loyd’s best assets for this young side: scrambling defense.

On broken defensive plays, nobody closes down and puts out fires better than Loyd on this team. Of course, captain Matt Hedges and Zimmerman have done their fair share and are no slouches on that either, but Loyd’s speed is something that hasn’t been missed or exploited up until Sunday night.

Assists on Seattle’s goals

Aside from the first goal, which was a misread cross from Chris Seitz, the other two goals were courtesy of a transition defense that was caught flat footed, ill-prepared and lost assignments.

Part of this has to do with the three-man or five-man back. The fact that even after 12 hours after the game, I still can’t decide what the defensive line was, is also an indicator of the chaos and confusion from the defensive performance with everything breaking down at the wrong moment on these two heart-breaking goals:

Jordan Morris does an excellent job in transition, showing flashes of a vintage Landon Donovan in space. Had Dallas gone with the traditional back four to start, he would’ve been parallel with Hedges instead of trailing the play and leaving Maynor Figueroa to pick up a central runner.

The third goal was the fatal moment where the perfect combination of bad positioning, poor accountability and responsibility, lack of urgency and Seattle’s ruthlessness were on display.

You can see Matt Hedges is at the bottom of the screen, running back to get back into position after the turnover of possession. Notice that somehow, even with his back to the play, he’s still the closest Dallas player to make a defensive play. Zero pressure from Dallas on the ball carrier and what unfolds next is the stuff of nightmares.

The correct through ball was played and you can already see everyone is out of position; neither pressuring the ball or cover the space behind.

Then you see again, Walker trailing the play and trying to make a recovery run (a specialty of Zach Loyd’s) and is unable to catch up.

Also it should be noted the lack of effort to chase this one down from everyone except for Matt Hedges, who as you remember from the first screenshot, was so advanced up the field, yet somehow is the only one sprinting to track his runner to make a stop.

Now What?

While Dallas technically got off the same amount of shot attempts as Seattle, you can tell that there was a staggering difference in shot quality and the scoreline, at least for this one, proved it too.

FC Dallas Shots
Seattle Sounders Shots

The problem with the 3-0 scorelines, besides the obvious of being down three goals, is that Seattle can simply pack it in, just like they did against Dallas a few weeks ago, and hit Dallas on the counter (where Seattle excels and Dallas is weak).

Dallas will see most of the ball next Sunday, and it’ll be faced with a tall task of breaking down a defense that it’s been unable to do this year, even when they had the skills of Mauro Diaz at their disposal. Mauro Rosales will no doubt feature in this one, as will Carlos Ruiz. The question is whether Carlos Lizarazo has anything to provide an offensive spark and whether Paxton Pomykal will get a chance either.

The good news is Dallas has nothing to lose now and go all out attack for 90 minutes to in order to keep their season alive. For the fans in the stands, it’ll at least make for a thrilling home match. But, I suppose it is fitting that Dallas would lay out such a horrifying display for me to write about and you to read on this day.

Happy Halloween folks.