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Scratching the Chalkboard: The development of the Gruezo-Acosta partnership

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Have Gruezo and Acosta finally figured out how to play together?

MLS: FC Dallas at Los Angeles Galaxy Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas opened their 2017 MLS season campaign with an emphatic road win over the new look LA Galaxy. Despite rolling out a majority of the starters on Wednesday to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Finals, Oscar Pareja made it clear he wanted at least a point out of this one.

It was a job well done as Dallas secured all three points thanks to some well placed shots from Maxi Urruti and Kellyn Acosta. In this league, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is - away points is gold, especially in the tough Western Conference.

We’ll have lots of talking points regarding the game, and I’ll keep mine to these two observations.

Keep Things Wide

FCD started with the classic 4-4-2 formation. Without either Mauro Diaz and Javier Morales in the CAM role, Dallas opted to play their counter game and keep things where they’re strong: out wide.

1st Half Passing
2nd Half Passing

In the first half, Dallas basically ran the offense through Hernan Grana as he bombed up and down the right flank. It’s a bit unconventional to run your offense through a right back, but as we’ve seen from the preseason, Grana brings a lot to the attack and is extremely effective in the overlap.

Things died down in the second half, as Dallas switched things over and attacked down the left more. It was pretty indicative that the Galaxy marked Grana a lot better and limited his opportunities going forward.

Grana 1st Half Passing
Grana 2nd Half Passing

This is probably a good indicator of how Dallas will run things when there’s not a true #10 out there. Just keep things on the wings; get Grana the ball and let Roland Lamah and Michael Barrios take people on.

Central Midfield Progression

During the final regular season match, which coincidentally was at LA, I caught both Carlos Gruezo and Kellyn Acosta both making the same initial runs to close down space and apply pressure on the ball. Obviously, they both figured it out every time and one of them managed to stay back but there was a constant double checking over the shoulder to see what their partner was going to do.

That was troubling to me and a reason why I was never convinced that Gruezo-Acosta was the best CM pair for Dallas. The assignments and reads were a lot clearer when Victor Ulloa was out there.

That lack of understanding between Gruezo and Acosta seems to be a thing of the past now. As the folks over at the 19th Minute pointed out, the assignments were a lot clearer for the two and I did not see either them checking their shoulders to see what the other was going to do.

At this level, you cannot afford a second’s hesitation. If it takes you a second to think about what you need to do, then the opposition has already a second advantage. That’s all the time a decent player in this league needs to create a goal scoring opportunity, much less some kind of tactical advantage. If Gruezo and Acosta have truly figured out how to play together without the second guessing, then this is doing to be one truly fun midfield pairing to watch all year.