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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting LA Galaxy

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Will an emergent Jonathan Dos Santos sink FCD’s playoff hopes?

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Los Angeles Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

MLS decision day is this weekend and FC Dallas have taken this season down to the wire. Dallas do not control their own playoff hopes. It’s going to come down to San Jose’s result against Minnesota United. Dallas and SJ are currently tied at 43 points and SJ has the tiebreaker. Normally, you would feel confident about your team’s ability to beat the worst team in MLS to play their way into the post-season, maybe because this team has never inspired confidence this season, or because it’s the Galaxy, but I cannot help but have a sense of fear about this game. LAG have a lot of good pieces and with Dallas’ luck this will be the game that they put them all together.

Jonathan Dos Santos is improving

Each game he is becoming more and more a part of the LAG team. After an initial adjustment period he appears to be hitting his stride. Like I said earlier, this is incredibly poor timing for FC Dallas. A prime Jonathan Dos Santos in the midfield could really cause a mess. Kellyn doesn’t have the quality to compete (plus he’s a right winger now anyway) and Gruezo has hardly looked himself since the Summer.

Lineup

LA got their third home win of the season against Minnesota United last week with this XI:

Clement Diop; Bradley Diallo, Dave Romney, Michael Ciani, Ashley Cole; Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos, Jermaine Jones ©, Emmanuel Boateng (Baggio Husidic 76’); Bradford Jamieson IV (Ariel Lassiter HT), Giovani dos Santos (Jack McBean 90’)

I wouldn’t expect major deviations from their usual 4-2-3-1.

Key Matchup

Maxi vs himself

Maxi Urruti has one goal since 7/22. FC Dallas are undefeated when he scores. Dallas have been crap since 7/22. It’s not a coincidence. If Maxi isn’t going to score, which it looks like he isn’t then Oscar showed last week that they are willing to find someone that will, even if that means throwing Barrios up top. Maxi is playing for spot on the roster at this point. If there is (there may not be any now with how poor he’s been lately) any interest in Maxi over the offseason, it feels like he’s gone. A goal to put Dallas into the playoffs could make it a little bit harder to let him go in the winter.

He’s going to have to be up to his old tricks again. When he first came to Dallas he was a one-dimensional poacher that relied on his work rate, speed, and positioning to grab goals, but now he fancies himself more of a creative player. It’s great to see that he has the confidence to take players on and cross, but in a 4-2-3-1 when the striker isn’t in position there really aren’t any goal scoring threats. Sure, he can lay it off to Barrios on a counter, but there aren’t any other options in a more slowly developing attack. Diaz likes to set up outside the box and create a chance for someone else, Barrios can’t compete for a cross, and Lamah, credit where credit is due, has shown his ability to pop up back post in crossing opportunities, but it just isn’t consistent enough to rely on. Maxi has to be more positionally disciplined if Dallas want to win this game.

Key to Victory

Dallas have started playing a more possession oriented brand of soccer, and that isn’t a bad thing, but holding on to the ball just to blast it up field as a hopeful through ball, is. Dallas have to have a game plan for creating chances. They’ve had success this season attacking through the wings and they’ve had success in past seasons attacking through Diaz (if Diaz is on his game this is my preferred choice), but either way Dallas cannot keep hoping for the best. If they want a playoff spot they’re going to have to come out and take it.