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Scratching the Chalkboard: Is the 4-4-2 here to stay?

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FC Dallas performs well, but ultimately falls to NYCFC

MLS: FC Dallas at New York City FC Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas suffered their first lost of the season, falling 3-1 on the road to NYCFC. Dallas entered this match with the 4-4-2 formation with Maximiliano Urruti and Cristian Colman paired up top, and Mauro Diaz coming in from the bench.

Despite the scoreline, Dallas did not play horribly in this one. Dallas was undone by three mistakes that ended up gifting them three goals in the process, but remove those mistakes, and Oscar Pareja had his team well prepared for this tilt - things just didn’t go their way tonight.

Solid Defensive Shape

One of the things that worried me about tonight’s match was how Patrick Vieira has his NYCFC side play, especially at home on that shrunken pitch. Their commitment to playing out of the back has lured teams into chasing the ball too high up the field, and it ends up luring strikers and midfielders out of their defensive shape and opening the attack up for the Citizens.

Dallas did none of that and pressed as a unit and withdrew as a unit when necessary.

FC Dallas’ defensive actions vs NYCFC

In fact, you can see very clearly from the chart above just when Dallas was instructed to press to try to win the ball back. Neither Urruti, Colman or Santiago Mosquera were caught out of position in this one, and credit to Pareja for coaching and preparing this team well for a difficult fixture.

4-4-2 to stay?

At this point, the 4-4-2 has looked like the best formation for FC Dallas. It’s been solid for the team defensively, while allowing Cristian Colman to get a run of minutes to do his thing. The big question with that though has been, where does Mauro Diaz fit in that picture? Interestingly enough, Oscar Pareja had an answer for that tonight.

After Diaz entered the game, Dallas kept their 4-4-2 formation with Diaz taking one of the central mid spots with Victor Ulloa and then Carlo Gruezo. Once Gruezo entered the match, the formation shifted to more of a diamond midfield. The biggest concern with Diaz is whether he can be entrusted with any defensive responsibilities or not. Funny enough, Diaz showed that he could do more than hold his own:

Diaz’ defensive actions (Orange - recovery. Green - successful tackle. Blue - interception. Purple - clearance. Red - missed tackle.)

It’s certainly not the first choice to use Diaz for defense, but on a small field like tonight, it felt like the right place to try it. And moving forward, it certainly gives Pareja more options and looks with the lineup.