In a wild game that no-one could’ve predicted, FC Dallas rolled into Foxboro and took all three points from the New England Revolution. The game began with a bang as Michael Barrios was wiped out by Bobby Shuttleworth in the box in the third minute and Tesho Akindele converted the penalty kick. New England then dominated for a stretch, bagging two goals. Finally, FC Dallas scored three unanswered goals and closed out the game.
Barrios touched the ball only twice before being removed with an injury but had a huge effect on the outcome. One of those touches came two minutes in, when he made the run and touch that led to Shuttleworth whiffing on the ball and clobbering him for a penalty kick.
Gruezo's recovery and pass leading to Barrios creating a PK.
With FC Dallas lacking Mauro Diaz's distribution in the middle of the field, it was clear from the time lineups were announced that Dallas was going to look to launch long balls to Fabian Castillo and Barrios to run onto and for Tesho Akindele to knock down and lay off to a teammate. Carlos Gruezo's recovery of the ball, quick look up, and vertical long pass was a harbinger of things to come.
By the fifth minute, Zach Loyd already had three interceptions and Gruezo two recoveries.
All I do is create chances, even when I don't Nguyen
Lee Nguyen was once again the focal point of the New England attack. This was his first game of the year with multiple points as he contributed a goal and an assist. On average, he contributes 3.3 Key Passes per game, which are passes that lead to a shot. He was right on cue this game with 3 key passes. However, he usually attempts 45 passes a game, whereas in this one he only attempted 25, which leads me to my next point.
FC Dallas' tight defense dominated this game. You might say, "But Phil, we gave up two goals!" Yes, for a brief time, the Revs were in the ascendancy and took advantage. On the first New England goal, Juan Agudelo was well covered and Nguyen delivered a pin-point pass to his head. On the second, it was an individual error from Ulloa to kick Nguyen, leading to the PK.
Other than that short time period in the middle of the first half, FC Dallas was not allowing New England into dangerous areas. They repeatedly stole the ball, with seven tackles from Maynor Figueroa, four from Gruezo, and three each from Castillo, Atiba Harris, Ulloa, and Acosta. Figueroa, Harris, and Loyd each intercepted the ball a whopping eight times! Truly a team effort.
Green - successful tackle. Purple - clearance. Blue - interception. Orange - recovery.
Kei Kamara, the league's best heading forward, was well bracketed by Walker Zimmerman and Loyd, who limited him to only one header on target. Chris Tierney, possibly the league's best crossing fullback, only connected on one cross which was headed off target by Kamara. Our old buddy Je-Vaughn Watson had zero successful crosses. Zimmerman cleared the ball an impressive nine times!
New England mixed short and long balls but the focus was to get the ball to Kei Kamara's head with 19 crosses. Unfortunately for Coach Jay Heaps, they were rarely successful.
Green - successful cross from open play. Red - unsuccessful cross from open play.
After eight minutes, Barrios hobbled off the field. By inserting Kellyn Acosta, Oscar Pareja now had 3 defensive midfielders in Acosta, Gruezo, and Victor Ulloa with a defensive winger in Ryan Hollingshead in his midfield. Papi pulled out his whiteboard to give Kellyn tactical instructions and we saw this:
A-ha! A switch to a 4-1-2-2-1. This would mean Ulloa would be the most defensive midfielder, with Gruezo and Acosta in front of him. Hollingshead would be on one wing. Either Castillo or Tesho would be on the opposite wing and the other player at forward.
But this is not what actually played out. FC Dallas remained in the 4-4-2. I'm confused as to what Papi was showing here. It wasn't the opposition's lineup, as New England was clearly in a 4-2-3-1. Anyway, Hollingshead went out to the left as Acosta played right mid. Tesho sat in the hole as a target man while Castillo was the most advanced forward.
Name location depicts the average player position and size of name depicts player influence.
I mentioned that Lee Nguyen had three passes that led to shots. The only other player to manage such a feat in this game was Kellyn Acosta, and two of those were assists! Who knew that Acosta was such a good crosser of the ball? All six of his corner kicks were put into the dangerous area around the six yard box and penalty spot, with two leading to shots on goal including the one Atiba Harris tucked away. His assist on Tesho's second goal was the play of the game.
Make Samba dance
24% of FC Dallas' passes were long balls (the MLS average in 2015 was 16.2%), with no through balls played all game. Pareja admitted after the game that he was targeting Samba who was making his MLS debut. Castillo made him pay in the 70th minute when Samba misplayed the ball and Fabi scored the game-winning goal. Just like the opening goal, it was a Gruezo long ball that caused the Revs backline problems. It doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but Gruezo set up two goals.
Oscar Pareja employed a direct passing style that moved the ball up the field quickly. This led to three out of the four Dallas goals. In addition, the defense recovered the ball repeatedly and denied dangerous crosses from reaching Kamara.
With the victory, FC Dallas joins NYCFC and Toronto FC as the only teams with three wins on the road. Even more importantly, FCD sits in second place in the MLS Western Conference after winning three in a row.