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Scratching the Chalkboard: Is Hollingshead key to 2018?

How badly did this team miss Hollingshead in 2017?

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas finished their 2017 campaign on a mixed note - a 5-1 thrashing of the Wooden Spoon (worst team in MLS) winners LA Galaxy in front of the home crowd. However, such a dominant display also punctuates the frustration that many fans feel as to why this team can play the part of post-season contenders one week and look like a PDL side the next.

Now that we have some time on our hands, the staff will comb through the season and look at all the oddities that occurred during this season and evaluate what went wrong and what to look forward to. For now, let’s dissect how FC Dallas made good work of the LA Galaxy to end their season.

Return of Ryan Hollingshead

For the last two-three seasons, me and a small handful of “pundits” have called for Ryan Hollingshead to be called up to the USMNT. There’s a firm belief among us that not only does he deserve a call up, but he might actually be the best leftback in the male American pool right now.

Of course, his pre-season injury where he was struck by a car, has derailed those expectations and it seems to have taken him a full season to recapture his 2015-2016 form.

Hollingshead passing chart vs LAG

The thing about Hollingshead is that he’s a very intelligent player. He knows when to move forward and how to time his runs with Mauro Diaz without exposing the defense unnecessarily. And as you can note from the passing chart above, once Hollingshead gets into the final third, he is the anti-Grana, and does not waste his chance.

Hollingshead gives this team a lot more balance on both sides of the ball. Maynor Figueroa is not an overlapping fullback, and shouldn’t be expected to add much to the attack. But it does play into a sense of predictability for FC Dallas that they’ll push down the right flank and nowhere else. It’s probable that teams zeroed in on this and took advantage of Dallas’ lack of versatility down this wretched stretch to end 2017.

Our staff debated a bit about where Hollingshead fits on this team. I proposed that as long as Ryan can still play multiple positions (LB, RB, CDM, CAM, LW, RW and GK), he has a spot on this team. However, if this is Hollingshead’s true form, then not only does he warrant a spot on this roster, but certainly the starting role at the leftback position and maybe a call up to USMNT.

Flipping Gruezo-Acosta

I’ve debated here and on Tweeter that I’m not certain the Kellyn Acosta-Mauro Diaz midfield combination is best suited for both players. I’m still not convinced they can. However, against LAG on Sunday, we saw something that we hadn’t seen before: Acosta as a #6 and Gruezo as a #8 with Diaz playing as the #10.

Acosta played a little deeper and did more of the dirty work, while Gruezo sat a bit higher and roamed forward with a little more ease.

Gruezo passing chart vs LAG
Acosta passing chart vs LAG
Gruezo defensive chart vs LAG
Acosta defensive chart vs LAG

For this one, it seemed to work extremely well. Acosta didn’t hesitate or check his shoulders as much to see where Gruezo and Diaz were and it was nice to see Gruezo pushed higher and take his chances offensively.

The big question, of course, is whether either of them will be with this team in 2018. If not, let’s enjoy the fact that they have finally figured out a working partnership but lament that it took them this long to do so.