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Scratching the Chalkboard: Big Game Maxi

Our favorite ‘archer’ was on target at Utah last night

MLS: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas continued their unbeaten run to the 2017 campaign by dispatching Real Salt Lake 3-0. Dallas was gifted with a penalty in the third minute, and Maximiliano Urruti made no mistake in burying his chance to give FCD an early lead. From there, Dallas never looked back. The scoreline was flattering in the end, but the game itself played out really tight and contested as RSL looked dangerous but ultimately could not find the back of the net. After weathering 10 minute spurts of offensive pressure from RSL here and there, and Dallas managed to do enough to walk out of Rio Tinto with all three points.

Here are some observations from the match last night:

Big Game Maxi

There’s a reason why Portland fans revered Maxi Urruti and while his departure from the Timbers was understandable, it still left a little pain in the Timber faithful to lose a player of Urruti’s caliber.

In a brief interview with FC Dallas Technical Director Fernando Clavijo, he described Urruti as “a big player”. Implying that Maxi’s contribution to this team is in no ways diminished because of the lack of name recognition he might have compared to other overseas talents. Last night, Maxi vindicated Clavijo’s comments... again.

Urruti’s 1st half passing, defense and shot chart

As you can see above, the penalty aside, Urruti had a relatively quiet opening 45 minutes. He was 8/9 passing, but oddly enough didn’t register a single defensive action. In other words, the affect of Maxi was minimal during the opening stages of the match.

Urruti’s 2nd half passing, defense and shot chart

But as you can see above, things changed tremendously for Urruti when the team needed him the most. Some of this was due to the tactical formation shift out of the 4-4-2 to the 4-3-3, but what you like to see is the team’s leading talisman get on the ball and find ways to dictate the game. One of the best moments from Urruti was simply when he realized he needed to carry the ball from deep inside his own half and take it up field as far as he could to serve as a relief valve and buy the defense some time to recover. .

It’s a small move and it it took all but 5-6 seconds, but that kind of effort comes at the expense of yourself and energy. It’s easier to just hook the ball and launch it as far as you can. But when there are no options forward, sometimes you just need to take it on yourself to provide some relief for your team.

Of course, finding the back of the net twice elevates your “big game” status too. But when you are willing to expend yourself for the good of the team, that effort doesn’t go unnoticed by coaches and their trust for you.

More Tesho Please

Speaking of expending yourself for the good of the team... the work of Tesho Akindele shouldn’t go unmentioned either. The biggest knock against Tesho is that he’s a bit of a tweener. He’s not a out and out striker, in the traditional sense, nor is he a pure winger either. He’s a bit of both and a hybrid type of attacking player.

This “problem” means he gets shuffled around a lot and not just in terms of starting minutes, but also where he lines up on the field. Tesho’s flexibility to play across the attacking front line gives Oscar Pareja a lot of options, but ultimately it asks Tesho to give up the glory of a goalscorer to do less “glamorous” work for the betterment of the club.

Tesho’s 1st half passing, defense and shots chart

Tesho was most active in the 1st half, going wide to get the ball before moving more central to help facilitate the attack in the final third.

Once the second half started and Akindele was pushed from the 2nd striker role to out wide, it became evident to him that he would need to drop a lot deeper to help Dallas hold onto the 1-0 lead. It’s also why when it was time to bring Cristian Colman on, it was Barrios who was subbed off as Tesho was performing admirably in his role.

Just like Urruti, when Tesho does the little things that forsakes his personal glory for the glory of the team, it makes it easier for Pareja to keep calling his number for more minutes and starts moving forward.