I have been getting this question a lot lately. With each passing game during this winless streak for FC Dallas, the thought continues to grow and multiply.
Last night’s 3-3 draw against the Houston Dynamo felt like more of the same too. One minute into the match, the Dynamo jump all over a bad pass by Maynor Figueroa and a bad touch by Matt Hedges to get on the board early. Then with a two goal lead, this group gives up two relatively easy goals to Erick Torres.
Is it time to hit the panic button on this season for FC Dallas? It certainly feels that way.
How did a team that was 9-3-7 (34 points, 1.79 ppg) take such a nose dive in a matter of five games? How did a team give up only 19 goals in that first 19 games to turn around and give up 10 in just five?
Defense in shambles
One thing has been obvious in this recent spell is that the defense has not looked the part. This isn’t just the group that sits in front of Jesse Gonzalez or Chris Seitz. No, this is really an entire team issue.
I look back at games like the Vancouver loss, or even last night to Houston. When this group is chasing a game, the defense tends to get exposed even more. Last night, FCD may have not been chasing the game nearly as much as they have been in recent weeks but they certainly pressed more, which allowed Houston to counter. When wingers fail to track back on those counters, the defense is exposed and before you know it a lead is gone.
But I would also say that the actual defensive line is struggling big time these days. Walker Zimmerman doesn’t look like the player that he was before his injury earlier this season. Matt Hedges hasn’t really looked the part since returning from national team duty in the Gold Cup. As much as I like what Hernan Grana, Atiba Harris, Ryan Hollingshead and Maynor Figueroa bring to the table, all four have had their head scratching moments as of late.
Maybe it was the constant rotation of players in the back this season that has been the issue. Maybe it was the injuries and international call-ups. Or maybe, this group just wasn’t as good as we all thought they were. As much as we like the leadership on the field with this defensive group, no one seems to be stepping up nearly enough to take ownership in the fact that they just haven’t been good lately.
Bread and butter abandoned
When things were clicking in the spring and early part of the summer in the attack, it wasn’t due to how well or healthy Mauro Diaz was. In fact, I would say that when the attack was really at its peak this season, Diaz wasn’t even apart of it.
Last night against Houston we saw moments of the attack come alive again. The simple explanation in my mind was not necessarily because of the formation switch (which was smart on Oscar Pareja’s part) but more so because this group found that getting wide again in the attack was how they found their scoring ways again.
Houston sat back with more defenders last night which forced Dallas to shot from distance. Dallas did that on two of their goals but when they looked most dangerous on the night it was because they got wide first in the attack and then brought it into the mouth of the goal. Dallas easily could have had two or three more goals on the night (and by all accounts Tesho Akindele should have had a hat trick with the chances he was given).
Lately the attack has abandoned the get wide mentality that works best for this group. Too many times we’ve seen the long ball played out of the back or through the midfield without any thought as to why it needs to be played. We know this team is dangerous from the wings, after all, Michael Barrios wouldn’t be near the top of the league in assists if it weren’t for the wide play.
The last couple weeks have been all about getting past the previous result as quickly as possible and we’ll have to do so again with Columbus coming up on Saturday. If for some reason we get through that game with another draw or loss, the bigger question may have to be asked: “Is this team really a playoff contender or not?”
Personally on Saturday I would love to see Pareja stick with this current formation but make some obvious changes. The defense has to get some life added to it and having someone like Reggie Cannon would do just that. The same goes for the midfield with having someone like Paxton Pomykal or Coy Craft start over Akindele.
Will this complete change in lineup and formation actually happen on Saturday? I’m not holding my breath at the moment for it. Pareja knows that there are times when you just have to let a group of players play out of their funk. Last night was a solid step forward in doing so.