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Scratching the Chalkboard: 4-3-3 does the job, but what’s going on with Barrios?

It wasn’t pretty, but Dallas did what was necessary to win

MLS: FC Dallas at Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas bounced back from a disappointing draw last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps with a strong, savvy performance to take all the points in Toronto on Friday. Oscar Pareja ran out a 4-3-3 lineup, with three central midfielders to try to control the midfield. And thanks to Jesse “You Shall Not Pass” Gonzalez’ heroics, Dallas left our northern neighbors with all three points.

Congesting the Middle

One of the heavier criticisms against Pareja during the “Collapse of 2017”, was his reluctance to change the personnel or the lineup when things were going south. Pareja seems to have gotten his 2016 mojo back and has rotated his players and lineups with good results so far in 2018.

Dallas ran out with a three man midfield in Victor Ulloa, Jacori Hayes and Kellyn Acosta to try to force Toronto to play out wide.

Defensive actions from Ulloa, Hayes and Acosta (Orange - recovery. Green - successful tackle. Blue - interception. Purple - clearance. Red - unsuccessful tackle).

For the most part, the midfield did their job and stayed relatively central for most of the game. The three would play in a triangle, with Acosta playing at the peak and flanked by Ulloa on the right and Hayes on the left.

Toronto’s Passing Chart in 1st Half (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

The FCD midfield managed to force Toronto out wider than they had preferred in the first half, with the Reds opting to go down the right flank and targeting Maynor Figueroa. That was a mistake from TFC, as they should’ve targeted Reggie Cannon instead. With this lineup, Figueroa isn’t going to look to get into the attack but rather just stay back and connected with Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges. Cannon will be tasked to pick his spots to get forward. By overloading Figueroa’s side, that made Cannon’s job a lot simpler and he could afford to join the attack in certain spots.

Toronto’s Passing Chart in 2nd Half (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

Of course, Toronto made the adjustment to be more balanced in the second half to attack both flanks. Cannon was pinned back as evidence of his defensive actions below, but at this point Dallas wasn’t looking to get forward and were committed to keeping 11 behind the ball to squeak out a 1-0 win.

Cannon’s defensive actions in 1st half
Cannon’s defensive actions in 2nd half

But it wasn’t that great, of a performance all around. Barring Jesse’s insane play in goal, this would’ve been a completely different ball game.

Still a Bit Disconnected

Dallas got the result, and that’s really all that matters by the end of the day. However, Dallas can improve with this formation given that they afforded too much space for Sebastian Giovinco to exploit.

Giovinco’s passing chart (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

In fact, Giovinco got on the ball far too often and easily inside Zone 14 (graphic below). Giovinco is an excellent player and has thrived in finding space between the lines, but when you specifically use a three-man midfield to stop that, you’d hope to see something better than 22 action points.

Giovinco’s shots and passes inside Zone 14

But for a first time showing, the combination of Ulloa (shield the defense), Hayes (link and connect) and Acosta (join the attack) showed a good tactical formation that this team can build upon throughout the season. It also takes advantage of Dallas’ incredible depth and strength in the central midfield, while keeping 3 of the top 5 highest paid players on the bench to come on to close out the game (Mauro Diaz, Roland Lamah and Carlos Gruezo).

Mosquera is about to break out

With each passing game, you can see Santiago Mosquera’s confidence is continuing to grow. My wondered how committed would Mosquera be to defending in this one, and it turns out he’s quite the team player.

Mosquera’s defensive chart vs TOR (Orange - recovery. Green - successful tackle. Blue - interception. Purple - clearance.)

This is quite a lot of work coming from a winger, especially with how deep some of his actions were inside Dallas’ own half. It not only good to see him commit defensively, but also maintain very good discipline with his positioning and his timing to get forward.

Oscar Pareja has to be pleased with his new winger’s commitment to the team, and will be willing to give Mosquera more chances and opportunities. And as Mosquera continues to adapt to the league and his teammates, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll start lighting up the scoreboard too.

What’s wrong with Barrios?

But on the flip side, Michael Barrios has a full case of the yips.

Barrios’ shot chart

To his credit, Barrios did get into the right spots and exploited the TFC defense in great spots but his finishing has been woeful for the past season and a half. But until Barrios learns to vary his shooting technique beyond smashing it as hard as he can, his place as a starter or even in the 18 should be jeopardy.