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Scratching the Chalkboard: Where’s the love for Hollingshead?

Can we move past that he’s just a good utility player and accept that he’s just good?

MLS: FC Dallas at Los Angeles Galaxy Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas managed to take all the points again last night, against the LA Galaxy. An impressive feat considering the amount of travel, and the second string defense that the team had to roll out there. It did get really nervy towards the end (again), but Dallas rode their luck and grit to grinded out a very solid result.

Hollingshead the Underappreciated

It baffles me to no end how underappreciated a player like Ryan Hollingshead is to this fan base. In some circles, he’s known as a good utility player, but he’s far more than that. As it stands, and I’ve said this before, Hollingshead is the smartest player on this team. His ability to read the game, from various positions is unparalleled in this league.

Hollingshead’s passing and shot chart

Really think back to last night and think about when you remember Hollingshead overlapping Mauro Diaz. What happened? One decent cross, an assist, a shot on goal and a well taken goal too.

Hollingshead doesn’t just run up when space is available or when he can. He’s able to process information, positional awareness of where the ball is and where his teammates and opposition are, and also what the team is going for. Hollingshead knows when to up the tempo and press, and also when to stay back and slow things down. Once he does venture forward, he makes sure the run turns into a positive play, either by creating a scoring opportunity, maintaining possession, or winning a corner. Hollingshead doesn’t do the cheap giveaways and expose the team to a counter.

With all the expansion teams announced, I lamented on our Slack channel that this would be our last season to see Ryan Hollingshead in an FCD uniform. He is, to a certain degree, the most expendable during an expansion draft given his age, salary and experience.

But it would also be appropriate, that should he be taken by an expansion side, that he would have the chance at a starting left back spot. Up until Antonee Robinson dazzled us against Boliva, there wasn’t another player on the US roster that I thought would even come close to being an international caliber left back other than Hollingshead.

4-3-3 is Working (for now)

Oscar Pareja went with the 4-3-3 again, this time plugging in Carlos Gruezo, for Jacori Hayes, into the midfield to gum it up and give Dallas a chance to control the game on tired legs.

We’ve criticized the Victor Ulloa - Carlos Gruezo partnership, but somehow adding Kellyn Acosta into the mix seems to bring out the best in all three players.

Gruezo’s passing chart (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)
Ulloa’s passing chart (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)
Acosta’s passing chart (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

You can see that Ulloa was tasked to sit the deepest among the three, and to be the one who will offer himself and get the ball off the CB’s feet and into his. This is what Ulloa is best at, and letting him get on the ball to cycle it for Dallas puts this team on their best foot.

This frees Gruezo to focus on tackling, taking up lanes and then hitting the diagonal ball to switch the point of attack. And of course, set up then allows Kellyn Acosta to be more of a box-to-box midfielder, where he can link up with the attack and not be too concerned about getting back knowing both Ulloa and Gruezo are behind him.

This 4-3-3 has worked twice in a row now, and Pareja has even managed to get Diaz out there with such a formation too. The novelty of it will wear off, now that teams have two games to scout and dissect the weakness. But it’s good to see Oscar Pareja find other formations to work with to frustrate and confuse the opposition.