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Scratching The Chalkboard: Strange Game for FC Dallas, Even Stranger Result

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FC Dallas never looked up for this one.

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps it was the schedule. Or something in the air. A 2:30pm kick off is incredibly strange for Dallas in March, and so was the humidity that saw temperatures rise up to 89 by the time the game was over. Such oddities put this match as the earliest in league history to schedule a water break. It just felt weird all around. And it showed painfully for everyone with the club.

Lethargic Offense

For the fifth game in a row (counting CCL), this offense has looked uninspired and disjointed. It took a late own goal against RSL to salvage a tie at the home opener and an early red against a beat up Seattle to give this team some points on the table. Portland really didn’t have to do much to expose the lack of nuance in the FCD attack.

Outside of Jacori Hayes’ nifty cut and lay off to Roland Lamah for the opening goal, Portland basically neutered the Dallas attack inside the final third, and especially in Zone 14.

FCD passing chart before Olum’s red card. (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass. Blue - assist.)

Quick look and the first thing that sticks out to you is, “This is an awful lot of red” and that’s not a good sign. For this match, Portland figured to concede the wings and invite crosses into the box for their defenders to clean up. This is basic, we’re the team on the road and we just need one point, kind of defending. All MLS teams will approach road matches like this as a starting template. If they fall behind, they’ll adjust. If they take the lead, they’ll clamp down more and keep their lines tighter and the middle of the field more compact. Portland never had to get out of that stance, not even after the red card.

FCD’s passing chart after Olum’s red. Roughly 25 minutes of play being a man up.

(Or insert whatever eye roll, ugh, no gif you want here.)

I don’t know how to say this in any other way, but that’s just straight up awful. That is nothing. That’s not a team with any idea of what to do with the ball while up a man - which you would think given they had 53+ minutes to practice that kind of scenario against Seattle last week.

For a home match, you expect the team to go after the three points with some semblance of urgency and conviction. What we got was this disaster of a chart:

FCD’s shot chart after Olum’s red card.

Two shots. Neither of them on target. Timbers’ keeper Jake Gleeson was forced into making zero saves in the final 25 or so minutes. Oh, and the Timbers managed two shots as well during that same time frame.

What’s going on with Oscar Pareja?

Anton Nedyalkov was gingerly moving around the field by about the 18-20th minute, and he certainly tweaked his back towards the end of the first half. His movement was labored and he was nowhere near 100%.

Which brings to us to the confusing aspect regarding Oscar Pareja as a head coach. For all his great abilities in developing players, getting them bought into a system and culture and instilling a winning belief in them, one of Pareja’s greatest weakness is how he uses his bench. Pareja has been far too slow to make player changes and his inability to take off Nedyalkov at halftime was costly.

But it’s not just his substitutions that’s been troubling as Dallas has two DPs on the bench to start their games. Santiago Mosquera and Cristian Colman made no impact in this game. In fact, they were practically invisible in the last game versus Seattle too - but the game was already won and it wasn’t as alarming.

When you bring on two DPs, at home, with the score tied, you expect them to inject some kind of life into the offense. Or at least they would be handed some tactical instructions to tip the scales and capitalize on the man advantage. Instead, we got this:

All of Colmán’s touches vs POR

I wish this were a joke, but this is really it. Colmán managed just two touches in his 25 minute cameo.

Yes, the defense is basically new at this point. Four out of the five primary defenders (four defenders plus the keeper) are new this year, so there’s bound to be some rough patches that need to be smoothed out. But this offensive unit is mostly the same from 2017 and 2016 and rather than progressing as a unit, they’ve managed to regress and be completely devoid of any ideas in the attack. That one also falls on Pareja.

And that’s really confusing given his track record as a head coach.

FC Dallas will have another bye week to sort this out, but they cannot continue on this trajectory. Dallas was gifted with five out of the first six games at home, and all of them were winnable. FCD have picked up five points out of nine, and should pick up at least six points in the next three matches otherwise, it may signal that collapse of 2017 is here for the long haul.