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What we learned against LA Galaxy: Texas is bigger than Zlatan

A strong team performance carries Dallas over LAG.

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In perhaps the most anticipated game yet this season, Dallas held onto a strong first half to beat the LA Galaxy. After the Front Office raised ticket prices for the game once they knew Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be coming to town, this game felt more important than usual. It bared the expectations and added pressure of thousands of new fans that were just watching for the spectacle that is Ibrahimovic. It felt like we were having company over and praying we wouldn’t embarrass ourselves (because this team is very capable of doing that). A strong performance by the team against LAG offered the chance to show European fans and Galaxy bandwagon fans in Dallas that came out to Frisco or tuned into Univision for Zlatan that FC Dallas games are worth coming out to and MLS games are more fun than you would have thought. Thankfully, the players kept up their side of the bargain and comfortably controlled most of the game.

Cannon continues to impress

Reggie Cannon’s development this season seems to be happening exponentially. In each game he’s looked more comfortable on the ball and in defense, and this week was not an exception.

He was tasked with shutting down Ola Kamara playing left wing. This match up presents a few hypothetical problems. First is that Ola Kamara is no slouch. He scored 18 goals last year for the Crew and is enjoying a productive season in LA from his new home on the wing. Kamara is not the quality of player that you want your rookie (well not technically) right back matching up against, but Cannon rose to the ocassion. The second reason this match up was so scary is that Kamara is a striker playing left wing. That means he drifted inside and ocassionally played up top and supported Zlatan as a second striker. This movement is hard to track and it wouldn’t have been surprising at all if Reggie struggled to mark his untraditional movement, but again Cannon rose to the ocassion.

The embedded tweet above is even more reason to be excited about Cannon. While, if you’ve ever watched an interview of him you should have expected him to be a professional player, it’s encouraging to see and hear that he has the on-field mindset to match.

Fluidity

Santiago Mosquera and Roland Lamah switched wings, Carlos Gruezo dropped deep and at times was Dallas’ deepest player, and Maxi Urruti drifted out wide to create space in the middle of the field. It’s really beginning to feel like Oscar Pareja has built a team with the tactical fluidity he prefers.

I love the freedom that Pareja allows Mosquera and Lamah. Both of their tendencies to drift inside, mixed with Urruti’s unpredictable movement makes Dallas’ strikers and wingers a headache to mark. Urruti, Mosquera, and Lamah have found ways to create space for themselves and then add a number 10 like Diaz that can work the ball into those tight spaces to give them opportunities, and you have one of the league’s best attacks.

While I appreciate tactical fluidity in the attack, seeing Gruezo drop into the back line scares me. Despite the impressive defensive record, the Matt Hedges/Reto Ziegler partnership hasn’t ever filled me with confidence. All year the back line has had a tendency to look disorganized, now throw Gruezo dropping into the back line into that equation and it’s just going to be messier. There are more moving pieces when Gruezo drops deep and I worry that it may create more problems than it solves.

Diaz and Acosta return

After being sparsely used in the last few weeks, Mauro Diaz made his return to the starting lineup to great effect. He recorded three assists and had “he’s back” moments.

While so far this season the 4-4-2 had looked like Dallas’ best formation, this game proved why Pareja can’t fully let go of the 4-2-3-1. When Diaz is playing well, he must start. As much as I love what Mosquera and Colman have to offer, Diaz provides an entire offense worth of production when he’s on his game. Even if Dallas plays the 4-4-2 well as a team, I still feel like the 4-2-3-1 when Mauro is on his game has a higher ceiling.

Kellyn Acosta was another Dallas player that returned to action this week. He really impressed in his return last week so it was exciting to see him back in the starting line up, but he failed to build on last week’s sub appearance. He was invisible for most of the game, and while that’s going to happen when Mauro steals the show, he wasn’t involved defensively as Gruezo was. I wasn’t surprised when Pareja subbed Kellyn off so early because he needs to be eased back, and because he was having a poor showing and the game called for more defensive help which Jacori Hayes provides.


It was an exciting game that should solidify that Dallas needs to be taken seriously this year. More importantly, it should quiet down the Zlatan love for at least another week.