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Scratching the Chalkboard: How bad is Dallas’ offense right now?

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Should the fans be concerned with Dallas’ inability to finish?

MLS: Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously the big talking point from FC Dallas vs Colorado Rapids is VAR and all the good and warts that come from it. We’ll touch on those later this week as there are no doubt, lots of hot takes and varied opinions on it. Just wanted to put that disclaimer out there before you start wondering why I’m not touching on it at all.

Where’s the Offense?

Dallas is now on a three game winless streak, their second longest of the season and have managed only one goal in the 240 minutes of action. “Finishing” has been a problem for this side with only Maximiliano Urruti finding the back of the net with any consistently this season. Roland Lamah has returned a decent clip of eight goals, but seven of those goals came in three matches. Michael Barrios has only netted two goals this season. And after a fast start of scoring three goals in the first nine games, Kellyn Acosta has cooled off and hasn’t scored since May 14th (though he’s missed a handful of games for international duty). Finally, Cristian Colman’s struggles have been well documented.

Is Dallas in trouble and if so, what do they need to do to fix this spell?

To be honest, nothing really.

FCD’s key passes vs COL

I took out corners for this graphic just to show a clearer picture. Dallas generated an impressive 28 shots against the Rapids (a season high for FCD), putting eight on frame. Barring the heroics of two goal line clearances from Rapids defender Kortne Ford and at least a couple of Tim Howard-esque saves, Dallas surely would’ve found the back of the net.

Truth be told, Dallas has just been unlucky.

It would be far more problematic if Dallas failed to create chances or lacked any kind of variety to their chance creation. If you add the corners, that’s an additional four key passes to the chalkboard above. You can see from the numbers that the chance creation is coming from various players; Victor Ulloa, Barrios, Urruti, and Hernan Grana. It’s coming from crosses, from wing play, from patience and intricate passing, from turnovers, from countering with speed and now from corners.

I would be far more troubled if Dallas were held scoreless and only managed 5 shots on target. But because the chances are coming, the goals will too. (Remember we talked about this regarding Roland Lamah and Cristian Colman earlier this season.) The chances are there. The goals will come.

What’s the Deal with Acosta?

There were some observations last night that Acosta had been taken off set piece duty and were wondering why Victor Ulloa had taken over. Without asking Pareja, it’s hard to say. It could have been Acosta “wasn’t feeling it” or Ulloa had stepped it up in practice or it could’ve been a tactical shift to get Acosta (who is stronger in the air than Ulloa) closer to goal.

My hunch, which is based off Jack Rouse’ practice report, is that the team practiced with Ulloa taking set pieces this week to give Acosta a break. The results were incredibly promising:

Ulloa’s successful corners and key passes

As Jack reported on earlier this week, the focus for Dallas’ training was set pieces. This team was once devastating on set pieces (thanks to a free kick specialist in Michel) back in 2013 and 2014 but have moved away from relying on that for their goals as the delivery had become inconsistent. However, a good team doesn’t shy away from their weaknesses but works at limiting and improving them.

Ulloa delivered great service into the penalty area all evening, either finding his intended target or forcing a Rapids defender into a clearance. (The worst thing is over hitting the ball to where the defender doesn’t have to do anything.)

As long as Ulloa keeps delivering better service into the area, I wouldn’t read much into Acosta removed from set piece duty for now.

Speaking of Which

It’s certainly a good sign for Ulloa as he’s had a couple of rough outings and needed to show he still has a place on this team.

Ulloa’s defensive actions

2 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 clearances, 11 recoveries.

I’m an Ulloa truther, I think when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as an FCD legend and be remembered in the same way Pareja was as a player. After two poor outings where his defensive rotations were too slow and he was caught ball watching too much, Ulloa played like the midfielder that we’ve expected from the heir apparent to Pareja’s #8.

Ulloa was quick off his blocks to win second balls and kept his positioning in tact. More performances like this will certainly make Pareja wonder if Ulloa should start more in place of Acosta or Gruezo moving forward.