Things are starting to look very bleak for FC Dallas after yet another win-less match, that puts Dallas on their second four-game win-less streak of 2017. It was also the first time this year that Dallas has been held scoreless in two consecutive outings. At one point, this side was one of the best teams to watch offensively, but things have dried up in the goal scoring department. It’s not time to sound the alarms just yet, but that time will be here if Dallas does not take all three points in the Texas Derby on Wednesday.
Time for Reggie Cannon
Hernan Grana was a solid pickup for this club during the off-season. Grana is a seasoned veteran, with MLS experience (albeit very little) and an excellent motor to get up and overlap with Michael Barrios. Where he has failed to deliver is that final ball in the offensive end.
Grana has given two assists this season, but his inability to find a teammate in the penalty area is concerning. Grana has a tendency to over hit his crosses towards the far post. For whatever reason, none of his targets make that run. That could be due to player preference (Maximiliano Urruti and Cristian Colman feast off near post runs), coaching assignments (forwards crash the near post and let Roland Lamah sneak in from the back side), or simply Grana’s inability to pick his head up and read the play.
When you over hit a cross, and no one is on the far post, you’ve essentially given the defense a free turnover. Suddenly, both strikers and Grana are now completely out of play and the ball is now headed in the other direction with at least three players out of position. At best, the overlapping full back contributes to a goal and at worst, forces a corner and keeps the ball pinned in the opposition side. At this point, Dallas would be better served if Grana just hit the ball out of bounds for a goal kick. That at least gives the players time to get back in to position.
Grana puts in a good shift. He’s deceptive and clean on the ball. He combines well down the flank and does well to stretch defenses. But with the season more than half way done, Grana’s overlapping abilities are now becoming a liability and it’s time to give Homegrown Reggie Cannon a run of games.
Dallas is already in a four game win-less streak. What’s to lose at this point? It’s one thing to be winning with your veterans and entirely other thing to be losing with your kids. Cannon looked MLS ready even before the season started, with a few of us here predicting he would be the team’s starting right back before the season opener.
And what better time to give the homegrown his first league minutes and start than during a match where a literal cannon is on the line?
Something’s Wrong with The Midfield
Specifically Kellyn Acosta. Since his call up to the Gold Cup team, Acosta’s positional awareness has started creeping into “Jermaine Jones” territory. Creeping. He’s not at that level of positional and tactical insanity, but I’ve noticed Acosta has gone long stretches during the match without checking his shoulders and just aimlessly ball watching.
If you’re unfamiliar with what “shoulder checking” is, here’s a clip of Xavi doing it.
Of course, Xavi was a world class defender at Barcelona and nobody is expecting Acosta to be at this level. But, checking your shoulders isn’t a ball skill that requires 10,000 hours of practice for mastery. It’s an adjustment that can be taught in at the Academy level. During a match against Zaragoza a few years ago, Xavi was credited with 804 shoulder checks. 804.
Here’s a six second clip that illustrates Acosta’s shoulder check problem:
Yes, it’s only six seconds but notice how many times Acosta checked his shoulders? Zero. Notice what happened during this sequence? In one pass, SKC bypassed the entire midfield. When you’re playing defensive midfield, your primary purpose is to shield your defenders from situations like this:
You cannot rely on your defenders to communicate everything to you all the time. You have got to take the half second to swivel your head and see where your teammates are and where the opposition is and adjust your positioning accordingly.
Thankfully, Jesse Gonzalez was up for it and parried the shot away with a fantastic diving save. However, it was a pretty disappointing display from Acosta throughout the match overall. To be fair, there were stretches where Acosta did do his shoulder checks but oddly enough, I found him just checking one side of the field and not scanning the other side too to see who was behind him.
It’s not end of the world, and it’s a small adjustment that could really change the outcome of matches moving forward. But it’s a troubling sign that just makes me wonder why he’s abandoned one of his most fundamental skills as a midfielder.