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Scratching the Chalkboard: Cannon Fired

Reggie Cannon is unleashed

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Two mistakes, two goals and FC Dallas found themselves throwing away two points to the Vancouver Whitecaps yesterday afternoon. My colleagues will no doubt break down the errors and I’ll, instead, focus on the bright spots of the game and where this team can build on, despite the hugely disappointing result.

Pareja Unleashes the Cannon

For much of 2017, many of us were begging for head coach Oscar Pareja to give Reggie Cannon a look at right back. After a promising show in the Open Cup, Hernan Grana really struggling to connect with the offense, and the team in a deep spiral, it felt like a “nothing to lose” scenario to put the Homegrown into a game to see how he’d fair.

That never materialized until 2018, and despite Cannon being the starter at right back for 2018, Pareja has kept things very simple for Cannon as he wet his feet in MLS. FC Dallas has preferred to go down the left channel with Anton Nedyalkov, restricting Cannon’s responsibilities to simply playing defense. That changed yesterday as we saw Cannon burst forth into the attack, marauding up and down the right flank like we haven’t seen before.

Up until this point, Cannon’s been solid defensively. Not great, but reliable. He’s missed a few tackles here and there, but nothing alarming or unexpected for a 19 year old. Here he is basically putting former FCD player, Brek Shea in his pocket in a quick sequence:

But the real reason why many of us were clamoring for Reggie last year was for what he could bring offensively.

Cannon’s passing chart vs VAN (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

Cannon was perfect with this passing in the attacking half - something that Dallas really needed in this one. Vancouver set up shop to counter FCD when they could, so being patient and careful with the ball was paramount to not letting the opposition hit on the counter. Cannon was patient on the ball, combined well, made himself available and timed his runs well.

Then of course, you know, he had this rocket of a shot to open his MLS account.

Cannon has a great attacking sense, and can catch defenses flat footed with his timed shots forward. Pareja has tried to keep things simple for Cannon as he acclimates to the league, but we’re now starting to see that Cannon is now ready to take on more responsibilities with this team.

Better Balance

After a midweek game, and then travelling, everyone expected the Whitecaps to show up and sit back in this one. Combine that with the scoring heat, it made sense for Carl Robinson to instruct his team to conserve energy and only expend it when they find chances to surge forward.

This is also a pretty common tactic used by opponents who visit Frisco as teams realize that Dallas is most lethal when they’re the ones running. By conceding possession and forcing Dallas to play with 9-10 men behind the ball, most teams are finding this to be the most effective way to try to steal a point at Toyota Stadium.

One problem that plagued Dallas early on this season was that Dallas opened themselves to the counter far too often because of this. Dallas grew impatient in the attack, played hopeful passes and resulted in a change of possession and Dallas was suddenly caught on the counter and typically out numbered.

This is where Pareja and his team have adjusted well. They were more patient with the ball, and were not forcing the issue. If possession was lost, they were much quicker to identify where the counter was going to come from. One adjustment was making sure Carlos Gruezo kept the play in front of him at all times and positioning himself in areas where he could react quickly to get the ball back.

Gruezo’s defensive actions in the midfield.

These quick recoveries by Gruezo kept Vancouver from launching their counters and kept the Whitecaps offense at bay for most of the match. These are small adjustments, and while the end result didn’t match the on field performance, Dallas and Pareja are continuing to identify their weak spots and make the proper corrections.