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Scratching the Chalkboard: Mental mistakes continue to haunt FCD

Is it time for a small shake up?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Another game, another lost opportunity. FC Dallas is now enduring their longest stretch without a win and panic is starting to sink in. On one hand, the offense finally got some goals on the board, but the defense has continued to look a bit shaky. After starting the season with four clean sheets in the opening eight games (giving up 0.63 goals per game), the Dallas defense has struggled in to keep the opposition from scoring at have only two shut outs in the next 16 games. Their goals against during that 16 game span has ballooned to 1.5.

Mental Break Downs

At this stage, nobody that’s made the starting XI is a “young” player anymore. Matt Hedges is the reigning MLS Defender of the Year. Walker Zimmerman has received international call ups. Hernan Grana, Atiba Harris and Maynor Figueora are all in their 30’s. This is not like having kids out there who are too inexperienced to stay switched on all the time. These are seasoned veterans with international experience.

The break downs are currently coming at really inopportune times. Grana missed his assignment last week and Sporting Kansas City takes the lead. Hedges had a very poor touch and his mishandling of a pass led to Houston’s opener. These are the small things that unfortunately have resulted in the worst possible outcome.

A significant cause to these problems is the fact Dallas has been playing too many players out of their natural position due to injuries. I feel for guys like Atiba Harris who lined up as a left back last night. It was a tall order to ask for someone who’s played across the entire defense this season. Dallas tried addressing that issue by signing Anibal Chala, who was sent on loan and it looks like his FCD career is already over. Ryan Hollingshead is a solid leftback, but he got injured during the off-season and hasn’t fully regained his form.

You can only plan so much for injuries. Unfortunately, it’s hitting Dallas where it hurts and though admirable that the players are stepping up and playing out of position, those minor mistakes are currently costing Dallas goals. It is time to bench some of them - not all at once, but some - and let the rookies have a turn. The kids may not do any better, but a benching may just be the wake up call some of the players need.

Back to Basics

Our managing editor, Drew Epperly, was commenting at how this team seemed to be getting more action playing on the wings and the stats prove it to be true:

FCD 1st half passing chart of Harris, Grana, Barrios, Lamah, Urruti and Tesho
FCD 2nd half passing chart of Harris, Grana, Barrios, Lamah, Urruti and Tesho

The new formation seemed to force Dallas into going back to their bread and butter of getting the ball wide to the team’s playmakers. Get the wingers isolated in 1v1 situations and let them beat their defender on the dribble.

Dallas was flying, especially in the first half when they needed a strong response after giving up the opening goal in the opening minute of the game. Wing play slowed down a bit in the second half as the team was trying to hang on to their lead, but getting the ball out wide quickly has done well for this team in the past. And although the personnel has changed, the ideology hasn’t. “Get the ball wide and let the playmakers do their thing.”