Last September, FC Dallas went to New York City and walked away with a 2-2 tie. Back then, Dallas was challenging for the Supporter’s Shield late in the season, and it was often looked back upon as “the match” that Dallas would rue if they did not walk away with the Shield. Dallas gave up a late tying goal in the 78th minute to Khiry Shelton, and Tesho had two point blank chances in the 90th minute to put Dallas ahead. Tesho did not convert and FCD shared the spoiled with NYC.
Flash forward to last night, where basically the same scenario unfolded. Dallas gave up a second half goal to Thomas McMamara in the 68th minute, and Cristian Colman had a point blank chance, very similar to Tesho’s back in September, but was denied by a great finger tip save from Sean Johnson. Again, Dallas shared the points with New York and again, if Dallas is to challenge for the Shield again - and it looks like they have every intention to - this might be “the match” (again) that Dallas will look back and wonder what if.
Because Dallas has already taken two road victories against Western Conference teams (even if they’re against the lowly Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles Galaxy), that kind of cushioning gives Dallas the cushion to absorb some dropped points at home and still be in contention for the Shield.
Tesho Keeping Colman Benched
Despite his lack of finishing, Colman’s off ball movement and ability to find chances gives Dallas a good attacking dimension to their repertoire. You would suspect that Oscar Pareja is dying to get Colman scoring and get that monkey off his back and give the kid confidence.
Unfortunately for Colman, and fortunately for Dallas, Tesho Akindele has different ideas.
It’s believed that Tesho’s best position is to be used as a second striker in a classic 4-4-2 formation. With his current form and production, there’s no way Maximiliano Urruti is getting benched, so the second forward position has to be shared between the Canadian international and Dallas’ new DP signing.
For now, Dallas does not have any concerns about possession. Instead, they are relying on the team’s defensive organization and speed to exploit the opposition defenses to create their chances. To execute this plan, Pareja requires defensive fortitude from his strikers and that’s exactly what Tesho and Urruti is giving their coach.
It’s not so much the quantity of defensive actions that has to be impressing Pareja but the position of where they are occurring. Between the pair, Dallas regained possession of the ball 13 times inside NYCFC’s half which gives Dallas favorable “starting position” to relaunch their attack.
What doesn’t show up on these charts is the understanding between Tesho and Urruti with their defensive assignments and positioning. When New York had possession, Dallas would press with one striker, and the other would drop a few yards into the midfield, effectively putting their defensive position in a 4-2-3-1. In the opening minutes, it was Tesho who applied the initial pressure and Urruti dropping back, but as the game wore on, the two swapped out seamlessly depending on where the ball was and where their striker partner was.
There were no second guessing moments or taking a second to process the information. Both strikers moved effortlessly into the right positions and complimented one another defensively as if they had been playing together since childhood.
As much as Colman needs minutes to get things going for himself, for now, there’s no way Pareja will bench Tesho with the way he’s producing with Urruti.
Unleash the Barrios
Life without Mauro Diaz has been the toughest for Michael Barrios. Since Diaz’s Achilles injury back in October, Barrios has gone 595 minutes in the regular season (759 if you include the playoffs) with just one goal and one assist (one goal and two assists if you include the playoffs). His goals per 90 ratio during that stretch is a disappointing 0.15 and even worse when you factor in the playoffs (0.12).
Not all of this is Barrios’ fault. His skill set is getting the ball in behind the defense, something that Dallas has failed to provide for him. Some of it, of course, has also been the defense adjusting and making sure Barrios isn’t free to make those runs in behind and forcing Barrios to receive the ball at his feet. Last night, we saw the Barrios of old. With Ben Sweat taking his chances going forward to try to expose an aggressive, overlapping Hernan Grana, there was vacated space in the NYC backline that Barrios was able to exploit.
The speedy Colombian winger got himself into fantastic positions and made the most of his chances out wide, creating 5 key passes (passes that lead to a shot attempt) on the night.
Dallas will need to see more of this from Barrios, because as much as Dallas needs Colman to start scoring, Pareja also needs to get some kind offensive output from the wings too.
Speaking of the wings....
Time to Bench Lamah
In 606 minutes, Roland Lamah has given Dallas 0 goals, 1 assist, 4 shots on goal on 11 shot attempts. Only in the season opener did Lamah go the full 90 and has been one of the first players for Pareja to sub off routinely. It was understandable with Ryan Hollingshead and Anibal Chala still recovering from injuries, but Lamah has had his chances to prove he’s a starter but with Hollingshead back from injury and with Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira emerging, it’s time to give others a chance at the left wing position.
This is all of Lamah’s touches in 70 minutes of action last night. There’s just not enough there to warrant him a starting position. He’s had nearly 7 games’ worth of minutes to acclimate himself to the team and the league and has too little to show for it.
I wouldn’t write him off yet, adjusting to a new team and league and Pareja’s system takes months, and he’s shown glimpses of what he’s capable of. But with a consistent performer in Hollingshead ready to go and promising players (Pomykal and Ferreira) behind him itching for their chance, it’s time to make an adjustment.