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Scratching the Chalkboard: FC Dallas dismantles Arabe Unido in opening leg

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Debutants help secure four goal advantage in CCL QF

MLS: Arabe Unido at FC Dallas Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of the 2016 campaign, FC Dallas was scrambling to adjust to life without their Magical Little Unicorn, Mauro Diaz. Now armed with the knowledge of not having their midfield maestro for at least another four months, Fernando Clavijo and the club got to work to properly restructure the roster during the offseason. The result was adding more speed on the wings and bringing in a couple of key offensive weapons in Javier Morales and Cristian Colman to reload the roster for the upcoming season.

The fans finally got to see how this newly constructed team would play out on the field on Thursday and the results were glorious.

Grana is the real deal

FC Dallas hasn’t had a true rightback since the days of Zach Loyd. Je-Vaughn Watson, Atiba Harris and Ryan Hollingshead have taken shifts there in recent years, and have all done incredibly well as converted midfielders and with the exception of Hollingshead, they struggled at times with knowing precisely when to join the attack and overlap.

That is no longer an issue with the signing of Hernan Grana and with Homegrown Reggie Cannon providing depth. Dallas now has the luxury of an offensive minded fullback to give the offense a little extra help in the absence of Diaz.

The result was seeing wing play like this:

(Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass.)

It doesn’t show up in the chalkboard, but even against a team that was bunkering down and looking to expose FCD on the counter like Arabe Unido, Grana never left his backline exposed when he bombed forward to join the attack.

Grana is going to be one of the best and most underrated signings for the club this year.

Versatile Wing Play

Roland Lamah was brought in to fill the void left by the departed Fabian Castillo. While he’s not on the same level of breakneck, “highlight-reel” speed that Castillo possessed, Lamah’s strength, balance and patience on the ball gives the Dallas attack a little more balance going forward.

Those attributes were most evident in the build up towards Kellyn Acosta’s golazo:

Lamah immediately had a better first touch inside the box and rather than hurry to get off an ill-advised shot with no angle, Lamah wisely pulled back and looked for options while calming side stepping a couple of defenders in the process before finding an open Acosta. This kind of patience was lacking last year and while it resulted in some breath taking moments, it also led to some exasperating decision making which we’ll less likely to see this year.

But it wasn’t just the patience that made the attack more balanced, both Lamah and Michael Barrios took their turns on both flanks throughout the match to give the opposition a more complicated match up.

The result afforded both wingers a chance to combine with Grana going forward and creating opportunities inside the penalty area.

The Wealth of Depth

It’s going to take a few weeks to get used to the fact that Dallas now has the option of bringing on someone like Javier Morales off the bench. Morales and Tesho Akindele came on the second half and took them no time to be impact subs that altered the flow of the game.

Looking strictly just at their passing charts, you can see right away that both JaviMo and Tesho were very active around the penalty area, combining for two assists and three key passes.

The Morales sub allowed FCD to add another body into the midfield to control and close off the game, while providing the offensive flexibility to capitalize on any goal scoring opportunities that might open up. Morales, like Mauro Rosales last year, gives Dallas the chance to create tactical advantages and clog up the midfield when the game state requires it.

While he didn’t put the ball in the back of the net, Tesho’s performance drew rave reviews among the BigD staff with his two assist performance. Despite playing out on the wing again, Tesho found ways to cut inside to his preferred right foot and create opportunities for his teammates.

His second assist to Michael Barrios was particularly impressive given the patience it required from Tesho to hold onto the ball before release it to Barrios at the right moment.

Thanks to the new reinforcements, Dallas is stacked this year with game-changing players across the starting XI and even on the bench. On top of which, Dallas added a lot more speed to the side that’ll enable them to weather the next few months without Mauro Diaz if they choose to go with a countering 4-4-2. And that’s the luxury of having such a diverse cast this time around, as Oscar Pareja can now choose to go 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-3-3 whenever he deems it fit.

I know it’s just one game, but it’s hard not to be excited about what this team can do this year.