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Scratching the Chalkboard: Pareja continues to excel tactically as head coach

Oscar Pareja continues to impress as head coach for FC Dallas

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas stole an excellent point on the road against LAFC on Saturday afternoon, battling them to a 1-1 draw. Much like the game against NYCFC, Oscar Pareja had his team extremely well prepared. But unlike last week, things fell in the right place for Dallas this time and they managed to pick up a huge road point from a Western Conference team.

Pareja getting the tactics right

Though Dallas has under performed several times this year at home, the tactics from this team on the road have been stellar. It’s becoming evident that Pareja’s abilities as a tactician has grown and he’s figuring out how to get the best out of his under functioning team.

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

Pareja has wisely continued with the 4-4-2 formation, putting Maximiliano Urruti up top with Santiago Mosquera and two holding midfielders in Carlos Gruez and Victor Ulloa. It was basically a throwback to Bob Bradley’s 2010 World Cup team, that featured the Empty Bucket formation.

From the chart above, you can see where Pareja instructed his men to engage LAFC - right when they get to the halfway line. This invites LAFC to push men forward, leaving a lot of space behind them for the Dallas attack to run in behind. It’s not the prettiest soccer, but with the current make up of the squad, it’s certainly the most effective.

It takes a lot of guts to bench your best player, Mauro Diaz for consecutive games but when that shiny piece doesn’t fit the rest of the puzzle right now, you gotta go with what works.

But.... Pareja did use the wrong midfield pairing

For whatever reason, the pairing of Victor Ulloa and Carlos Gruezo just doesn’t work.

Like Diaz, individually they’re both fine players and have things to offer. But somehow when paired together, they go together like water and oil. Their games do not complement one another and it may have been the injury, but Pareja didn’t waste too much time in pulling Ulloa in favor of Jacori Hayes in the first half.

The tweet/graphic above was near the end of the first half. Below is the second half for LAFC in Zone 14.

LAFC still got into those spaces, but they were chasing the winner and Dallas was conceding more space. But the upside is Dallas’ defense did not concede a key pass or an assist, nor did they allow anyone to complete a box inside the penalty area. Hayes did well with Gruezo to settle things down a bit.

Mosquera is finding his feet

Last week I praised Mosquera for showing up well against NYCFC. It was good to see him get another run and for him to do well too.

It’s still early, and Santi is young, but he’s starting to show flashes of what his full potential could be.

Santi’s dribbling attempts. (Green - successful dribble. Red - unsuccessful dribble.)

Santi’s not going to take players on all the time like Fabian Castillo did, but he’s shown he can certainly do it and also ride through the tackles much better than any other player on this team. Making defenders lunge and miss, and find a way to stay on his feet will be a huge asset for Dallas moving forward if they continue to run with the 4-4-2 and play on the counter. One miss, and Santiago will have pulled the opposing defense out of position and I like Dallas’ odds in those situations.