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Scratching the Chalkboard: Petke’s gamble proves fatal

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Attempts to stop Barrios fails badly

MLS: Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas got back to their winning ways by absolutely demolishing Real Salt Lake 6-2 on Saturday night. The victory ends a 4 game win-less run and at least for now, sets aside the fears of “when will this team score again?”

There’s a lot to unpack from last night’s match, including the second fastest hat trick (from kick off) in league history, the make shift CB pairing of Maynor Figueroa and Atiba Harris, Aaron Guillen getting another start at LB, Victor Ulloa getting the start and the captain’s armband, Mauro Diaz getting 30 minutes and of course, the league and scoring debut from Jesus Ferreira.

We’ll touch on most of those throughout the week here, but for now, I’ll try to hit on more of the under the radar stuff that enabled the goal fest.

Mike Petke Rolled the Dice, Pays the Price

RSL head coach surprised quite a few people when he rolled out his formation with Tony Beltran and Chris Wingert inverted from their usual fullback positions. The logic there was after a 5-1 beat down from Houston, RSL needed to stop hemorrhaging goals and try to get out of Frisco with at least a point. To do so, Petke attempted flipping his fullbacks to try to match and slow down Michael Barrios.

It didn’t work.

Michael Barrio’s passing chart

The end product provided Barrios ample of opportunities as the team’s chance creator, as he was able to get behind Beltran on multiple occasions. Thankfully, on the opposite end, Roland Lamah took his chances well. Though he didn’t see much of the ball, he made quick work and capitalized on his opportunities in front of goal, especially on the opening goal where Barrios slid the ball across the face of goal for Lamah to calmly place in the back of an open net.

Roland Lamah’s passing and shooting chart.

Would RSL been better off if Wingert and Beltran were in their natural positions? Hard to tell. It was pretty obvious from the opening kick off that Oscar Pareja wasn’t going to deviate from his tactics regardless of who lined up where. In truth, the scoreline could’ve been even more disastrous had Barrios had Wingert lined up against him.

You can’t really pin this Petke completely, but when you tinker with the lineup and the end result is being the first team in league history to give up five goals in a half, it raises a lot of questions.

Victor Ulloa Needs to Start

But I have no idea where to line him up or who to sit. Just look at the captain’s passing chart from last night:

Victor Ulloa passing: 49/54 passing. 1 assist.

Ulloa doesn’t destroy defenders in the tackle like Carlos Gruezo or have the dynamic athleticism to run the midfield like Kellyn Acosta. What Ulloa does do extremely well is show for the ball, get the ball moving to get defenses moving side to side and shielding his back four. Of course, he has the occasional long range bomb and now he has this vision to add this his arsenal:

In two touches, he negated five Real Salt Lake defenders, splitting the midfield and the two centerbacks in the process. If gives Dallas another wrinkle in the offense where the deep lying midfielder can casually just roll a ball from the half line into a scoring opportunity.

This is dangerous and Ulloa needs to get on the field more. I just have no idea how.

What lack of CB depth?

It was a home game and it was against RSL, so I wouldn’t read too much into it. But when you saw the Dallas back line, you know that you have a chance to get some points out of this if you can force the make shift centerback pairing of Harris and Figueroa into plays.

Figueroa and Harris are prone to making 1-2 mistakes per game that’ll turn into a goal scoring chance, and now you’re looking at them for 90 minutes. What do you think your offense tactic should be? Target them? Right?

Atiba Harris’ defensive actions

Credit to Harris for his positioning and for Figueroa and Ulloa for covering well, but I have not seen a centerback log only four defensive actions in an entire game before.

(This would be a good time to remind you that more actions doesn’t mean better defender.)

RSL’s offense was just out of ideas and surprisingly, didn’t attack Harris as much as I thought they should have. But credit to Harris as well, who’s positioning was spot on that negated RSL’s chances to get the ball into Harris’ areas.

For a player who’s spent much of his international and professional career as an attacker, Harris’ transformation into a defender has been solid. Yes, he looks a little green at times and occasionally is out of position, but those are looking less and less as he’s settling in well as a very reliable defender for FC Dallas.