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Quality service and why FC Dallas needs more of it

The struggle was real on Saturday night against New England from the midfield.

MLS: New England Revolution at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Creating chances is something that FC Dallas does quite well, and with the amount of attacking talent on the roster, this is to be expected. Counter-attacking play has contributed to several goals and even more chances and opportunities. Wide play has been a source of many chances, but Dallas is sorely lacking quality service from the outside, especially with the number of crosses that the team puts in on a game-to-game basis. Here we will take a look at some data and see what it says about Dallas and their service. We are going to look at run of play only, so we will be ignoring set pieces and corners. For comparison sake we have the stats from Portland Timbers, Atlanta United, Toronto FC, Houston Dynamo, Colorado Rapids, and the New York Red Bulls – quality teams that have attacking prowess or are considered top teams.

The Culprits

Michael Barrios, for all of his pace and ability to take players on, really struggles to provide quality service. More often than not, it appears as though he gets past a defender and spots a runner in the box only to sail the ball over their head or play it miserably far away from an accurate run.

Roland Lamah provides something very different than Barrios or last year’s Castillo with his ability to hold players off, involve other players and contribute more so to the build-up, but his service has struggled as well.

Hernan Grana has been an attacking force up from the right back position but his service has been lacking, even though he seems like a welcome addition compared to the service we have come to expect from Barrios. That’s not meant to criticize any of these players too harshly – they contribute to the greatness that is FC Dallas.

The Numbers

Let’s take a look at the actual data – how often does any Dallas player serve a ball into the middle from wide that is successful (i.e. gets to an FC Dallas player). Through three Champions League matches and three MLS matches, we see that Dallas has a grand total of five “successful” crosses out of 65. That is one out of every thirteen that hits its mark.

Now this can come down to a number of things, but getting numbers forward is generally not something we have to worry about with our beloved (former) hoops.

The lack of a real aerial threat in a true number #9 – we are still waiting to see on Cristian Colman – likely negatively contributes to this as well. Nonetheless if we look at the stats for other teams in Major League Soccer we see that Dallas barely has half the percentage of successful crosses as Atlanta and Portland. Both of those teams come in right around 14% (ATL: 5 of 34, PT: 5 of 35), while Toronto sits at 9% (2 of 22) and NYRB and Colorado sit at just above 8% (RB: 2 of 24, CR: 3 of 37).

It should be no surprise that Atlanta and Portland are the two high scorers in the league when they are able to connect on one in six crosses. Of course we also take into account that both teams have played the expansion Minnesota United team that has struggled to defend, but even against an expansion side one must have quality service to get on the end of said crosses.

FCD vs Arabe Unido Leg 1 (home)
FCD vs Arabe Unido Leg 2 (away)
FCD vs LA Galaxy (away)
FCD vs Pachuca Leg 1 (home)
FCD vs New England (home)

What does it mean?

What this does show us is that Dallas is willing to serve the ball into the box. If you are wondering where the Sporting Kansas City game data is – then you may be surprised to know that Dallas did not have a single cross in the game, at least officially. So with 65 crosses in six games and only five successful crosses that puts Dallas in a tough spot.

Clearly getting the ball wide and serving it into the box is a priority. What the graphics do not show is where the other FC Dallas players were when the ball was played, how many players we had in the box, etc. We can see that Dallas places importance on wide play and the lack of quality crossing is not helping things. Hernan Grana and Barrios are the two leading crossers for the team but have really struggled to find anyone in the box.

As I said before, there are myriad other factors that could contribute to this, but it is something we should continue to watch as the season goes on. If Colman can get himself to be the number 9 we all hope he can be, Dallas could be even more dangerous than they are now.

To make it to MLS Cup, Dallas will need both better service and more players getting on the end of crosses. We can look at a team like Portland to see how having a powerful player like Fanendo Adi can change things, not just for himself but allowing others to make runs into the box unopposed. Hopefully this is a point of emphasis in training moving forward and we will can see some more dynamic play and quality service from our wide players.