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Scratching the Chalkboard: How can Dallas rescue their spiraling season?

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Perhaps shifting a few players around will help

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Despite continuing their failures to pick up maximum points from their matches, FC Dallas did manage to correct their defensive gaffs from last week and hold the Seattle Sounders scoreless in a frustrating 0-0 draw. On one hand, the result was relatively positive and something for this team to build on, on the other, time is running out for this team that earlier this season was dubbed as potentially one of the best constructed MLS teams in quite some time.

During this 9 game winless streak, Dallas has shown pieces of getting it together but never able to translate that into a complete performance on both sides of the ball. First, they couldn’t defend and kept leaking goals (0-4 Vancouver, 1-3 Philadelphia, 0-4 Atlanta, and 3-3 Houston). Once the team collectively bought in to playing total defense, they neglected the offensive side of the game (0-0 Colorado, and 0-0 Seattle) and could not muster a solitary goal to take all three points.

What does Dallas do now? How can they rescue this season with six games to go?

Get in the box

2014: 7/9

2015: 4/5

2016: 5/5

2017: 1/1

Any ideas what these numbers represent?

Penalties.

Specifically, Dallas’ conversion versus attempts.

At some point during this stretch, I found myself thinking, Dallas needs to earn a penalty to give themselves a chance at a relatively easy goal. The psychological relief would give the team a boost, and once the confidence kicks in, we know just how dangerous this team can be.

But for this season, the well of penalties has been really dry for this team with only Maximiliano Urruti getting one penalty for this team for the entire year. I’m not certainly advocating that Michael Barrios and Urruti start diving, but at this point, it’s certainly worth an effort of taking an extra touch inside the box to see if they can win a foul inside the penalty area.

Shift Diaz out wide

I’ve been relatively vocal on Twitter that I’m convinced that Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Diaz can exist on the same team. It’s not that they are poor together, but there’s the tendency for them to occupy the same space on the offensive side of the ball. This means they crowd up the spots between the midfield and defensive lines of the opposition.

Acosta is at his best when he’s a box-to-box midfielder, with the freedom and license to roam forward. His read of the game has him spotting open spaces and he naturally will drift there to try to expose the defense. The problem is Diaz does the same thing, but from a more advanced position.

If you don’t believe me, check out their passing charts:

Diaz’s passing chart vs Seattle
Acosta’s passing chart vs Seattle

This is not to say two midfielders cannot occupy the same spaces at times. Some players can do that extremely well under some systems. I just haven’t seen it pulled off well enough to be utilized so much, especially when this team to devoid of offensive ideas.

One suggestion is to bench Acosta and replace him with a player who’s natural instincts is to stay back and give Diaz space. That player would be Victor Ulloa. However, if Acosta’s range and offensive abilities are still desired on the field, then I suggest shifting Diaz out wide.

Diaz already tends (and should) to drift towards the wings anyway. Wherever there is space to get on the ball, he’ll go there to try to exploit any kind of advantage Dallas has. This keeps both Diaz and Acosta on the field, and gives both players a chance to utilize their best assets without diminishing the other’s.

And in case you’re wondering if a non-pacey player can play on the wing, just look at USWNT winger Megan Rapinoe.

Bench Lamah

Roland Lamah’s been a very hot and cold player for this team. Right now, he’s not just cold, he’s freezing. To be brutally blunt about this, he shouldn’t even get on the plane for the next game against Minnesota.

All of Lamah’s touches vs Seattle

1 blocked shot attempt, 3 recoveries, 1 successful dribble, 2 interceptions, 14/17 passing.

At the 67’ minute, Lamah was subbed off for Javier Morales. Rather than rush off the field to get Morales on and restart the game, Lamah sulked his way off the field with a leisurely walk towards the sideline. It was selfish, arrogant and the team did not need that kind of attitude when they were trying to find a match winner.

At best, Lamah was “meh”. He offered little going forward, but was sort of OK defensively. To sulk off the field when you put in a sub-par performance is exactly the kind of thing that would have me fuming as a coach. I’m not the coach, and I’m sure Oscar Pareja will address this internally. But given how this team is desperate for goals, and Lamah’s unwillingness to put the team before himself, benching Lamah would make the most sense.

Pareja and FC Dallas are running out of time to get things right. At some point, Dallas has to put things together or risk watching the 2017 playoffs from an unfamiliar spot at home.