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Scratching the Chalkboard: Is it time to bench Lamah or change tactics?

Does Pareja have the right guys?

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Before Friday night’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes, Kevin Minkus with American Soccer Analysis did a quick and quirky statistical recap of all 22 teams one month into the season. Though early and the sample size was small, Minkus did point out that Dallas has fully adopted into the counter attacking team in light of Mauro Diaz’ absence. Prior to the Friday’s match, Dallas was enjoying the ball only 44.9% of all regular season matches. That number is even lower now (42.6%) as Dallas walked out of the Bay Area with just 32.3% of possession.

Possession isn’t an indicator of a team’s strengths or talents, but rather their intent and approach to the game. Counter attacking soccer is beautiful and fun to watch. Remember that last minute winner by Landon Donovan in the 2010 World Cup? Counter attacking soccer.

But after Friday night’s match, I’m starting to wonder if Dallas has the right personnel to pull it off as effective as they hope to.

Wrong Type of Wingers

Michael Barrios is a fabulous winger. Good pace, a nose for goal and a decent passer. What Barrios does not have is the skill set to take players on the dribble. He’s the type of winger that excels at making runs behind the defense and chasing down through balls. Of course, without a certain magical #10 to deliver those types of passes, Barrios’ overall effectiveness has taken a small hit in his offensive production with only one league goal so far.

Then on the other side is the off-season acquisition in Roland Lamah. Like Barrios, Lamah has good pace and is a decent passer. He’s also stronger and more patient on the ball and does well to combine with his teammates. Where he has struggled so far has been the area that we’ve known Barrios to be weak for: taking on defenders.

Collectively, Dallas wasn’t bad with their 1v1 situations going 10/17 with their take-ons. The trouble is that Lamah went 0/1 and Barrios went 13 with his take-on attempts. When you play the 4-4-2 on the counter, the formation and tactic is designed to isolate your attackers in 1v1 situations AND give the attacker space to operate too.

The formation and tactic has been a little problematic as it hasn’t produced those 1v1 situations at a high enough rate nor have Lamah and Barrios been able to exploit them.

It is still early and Lamah is new to the team and league, so this may be more of an adjustment period needing to take place than a personnel issue. But Oscar Pareja and Dallas will need to tinker a bit to get this working soon before the rest of the league catches up.

If Not Lamah, Then Who?

The Ryan Hollingshead neck injury from the off-season was an unexpected hit to the team entering the season. Though not as fast, Hollingshead is actually one of the better players on this team at taking players on as he possesses a great first and second touch on the dribble. If Hollingshead can go, he would make a fantastic left-winger in this formation and tactic as he could deceptively take players on to stretch the defense for Dallas.

The other option would be getting Anibal Chala on the field. Chala made the bench on Friday and we should expect to see him get on the field soon. He is a bit of an unknown quantity at this level, but we do know he is fast and likes to overlap. If Pareja insists on Lamah on the left, then the least he can do is provide an overlapping full back behind him to work the wings better.

Show Urruti Some Love

On a night where the offense was struggling, the grit and determination of Maximiliano Urruti should be lauded. Plaudits went to Kellyn Acosta for his goal and for taking his chance well, but it was Urruti who single-handily created that chance for Acosta put Dallas ahead.

Urruti’s industry and work rate is second to none in this league, and when the rest of the team struggled, Urruti put the burden on his shoulders to spearhead the Dallas offense.

And of course, no Urruti write up is complete without mentioning his defensive contribution with 9 recoveries, 3 successful tackles and 1 interception for the evening.

One thing is for sure, regardless of how Dallas lines up whether it’s the 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, Urruti’s place as a starter is a lock.