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FC Dallas midseason review: Defense

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The defensive side of things have been both good and bad in 2016.

MLS: FC Dallas at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Almost half of the season has come and gone and it’s time to discuss how the team is doing. What has gone right and wrong and how the team can improve. Let’s start by discussing the defensive side of things for FC Dallas.

Goalkeeping

At the end of last year Jesse Gonzalez had won himself a spot in the starting line-up and looked like the future of this team between the sticks for years to come. However, several shaky performances, injury, and national team duty have kept Jesse from continuing where he left off.

When he has played this season, he has not performed to the standard he set last year. In just 5 starts this season he has conceded 10 goals, including the embarrassments in Houston and New York. Gonzalez is still the future of this team, but there is a lot to work on. His ability to communicate with his back four needs work. A run of games might see him gather some consistency and I expect we will see him again soon.

Seitz has started the majority of the games for the Hoops this season and has performed admirably. Seitz has three clean sheets and has conceded 12 goals in 11 starts. He has at time saved us points with his saves, for example, against Columbus, and at times, has looked inconsistent himself. Seitz has brought a measure of stability to the team despite his individual performances on any given night. Goalkeeping is one of this defenses smaller concerns this season.

Right-back

One of the biggest weaknesses in this team is at fullback and the loss of Je-Vaughn Watson is still being felt. It has been a bit of a merry go round, especially at right-back. Ryan Hollingshead has done a good job in that position, but it is often obvious that he is not a natural there. His defending is getting better, but he is inconsistent in that spot. One week he will be the team’s best performer and the next week he is the worst. Hollingshead may yet be the answer in that position. Watson took a lot of time to become a solid right-back. For months people on this site questioned his position in the team, but by the time he left, Watson was a solid player for Dallas.

The same can be said of Atiba Harris. He has played less often, having a more limited sub role on the team. He has performed well at times and appallingly bad at others. That said, Harris is a good back-up. He does a job in that spot when needed and is good for the occasional goal or assist.

The biggest problem with this team’s defense is the lack of a natural starter at right-back. Zach Loyd recently returned to that spot and I hope to see more of him there. Pareja seems set on using him as a center-back, if that continues then Dallas needs to consider bringing in a natural player at right-back.

Left-back

There is a lot less to say in the left-back position. Maynor Figueroa has come into the side and done a good job in that position. Left-back was a spot of weakness for Dallas last season, but Figueroa has been the answer there. That is not to say Figueroa has been without fault. He is absolutely lost at defending corners and has been personally responsible for a couple goals conceded by this team, but Dallas is better with him, than without him. He is also still new to the side and has gotten better throughout the season. His performances are consistent. He has a good range of passing, often switching the play across field to Michael Barrios, or playing in Fabian Castillo. Figueroa is a very good player, who will get better as he continues to mesh with this squad.

Center-back

Dallas central defense has been problematic this season. Part of the problem has been a few major issues that the players do not have control over. First is the injury to Matt Hedges which saw him out for about 6 weeks. Matt Hedges is the soul of Dallas defense and without him the team were forced to play Loyd and Walker Zimmerman together, a partnership that took time to form. The second issue is a lack of depth, a problem the coaches should have sorted out prior to the season. Dallas does not have the defensive depth to overcome injuries or national team call-ups. One injury sees the entire back line shifted around, as was the case with the loss of Hedges.

Hedges, prior to the injury, had a few bad games this season. He was partially responsible for several of the blowouts this team has suffered on the road. Aside from those games, which form a worrying trend, he has essentially been himself when fit. Hedges is reliable defensively and has done well to try to cope with the ever-changing back line.

Loyd has played center-back on numerous occasions this year and has had good games and bad games like everyone else. On the occasions where he has had a bad game, he has been a part a defense that has been desperately patched in the absence of players, almost excusing his hand in those defeats. Loyd has been paired with 3 other players at center-back, Hedges, Zimmerman, and Figueroa. It is no surprise that it has not always worked. Loyd is the least at fault for the defensive problems this year. Center-back is not his natural position, he is quite short to be playing there and despite that, he still manages to do a good job.

Finally, Zimmerman. Many people have expressed a dislike for Zimmerman starting at center-back, saying he is not good enough for this team, but I disagree. Zimmerman is a quality center-back with huge potential. He has been almost unbeatable in the air this year. Zimmerman has been great at heading long balls back into our midfield, and has made stellar forward passes on many occasions. He is still young, often making stupid mistakes, a reason many are down on him, but he is learning from all the experience he has gotten this year. He has grown tremendously just from the beginning of the season to now. He is also the most passionate player on this team, a trait this team has lacked since the loss of Blas Perez.

Conclusion

Dallas has had a lot of problems on defense this year and it is one of the things holding this team back. It is not all to blame on the players, extenuating circumstances have forced Dallas into some bad positions, but compared to last season, the defending has often been shocking.

Hopefully, the break will give the defense a much needed rest, to hit the ground running in the second half of the season.

What are y’alls thoughts? What has gone wrong? What does Dallas need to do to remedy its defensive issues?