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What we learned against LAFC: Santiago Mosquera steals the show

Mosquera’s performance and Kellyn’s return give us a lot to talk about this week

MLS: FC Dallas at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing first half, Dallas made improvements that won them a point on the road against LAFC. Here’s what I took away from that game:

Defensive organization is still a problem

Wasn’t it nice to be back to a regular sized field this week? At times LAFC made it feel a little too big when they would consistently find big pockets of space behind our poorly organized midfield. But that was to be expected, LAFC are a good passing team.

You would hope that by starting the game with Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa the backline would be properly protected, because you sure aren’t getting any offensive production out of those two. But unfortunately, the first half (with Gruezo and Ulloa) was when LAFC’s had all of their four shots on goal for the game. The contributing factor to this seemed to be a lack of communication between the four midfielders. As an LAFC player would take the ball down field he would face a wall of four FCD midfielders. The problem is that they weren’t pressing him or cutting passing lanes, just containing him and forcing him to play the ball behind them with an incisive pass. Maybe this would have worked on other MLS teams, but time and time again LAFC bypassed Dallas’ midfield with a good pass and were free to attack the back line.

As a unit Dallas looked better in the second half without Ulloa, although there were some worrying individual miscues, it’s always encouraging to see Oscar Pareja make positive tactical changes at half.

While it’s easy to focus on the attack’s struggles with finishing and creating opportunities, you can’t forget that the defense has a penchant for being inconsistent too. Hopefully further experimentation with midfield personnel including Kellyn’s return and potentially Diaz as a defensive midfielder can solve both of those problems.

Speed kills

It’s hard not to be excited when Santiago Mosquera is on the ball. He seemed to run the FCD attack for about thirty minutes in the second half. He’s one of the fastest players on the field, has great balance, and his fair share of tricks too (did you see that meg on Walker Zimmerman?). I’m still not sure we have him totally figured out either. As a winger we said he drifted too far to the middle of the field and now as a striker he spends a lot of his time on the wings. And we haven’t even seen him as a 10 yet. The point is, the 23 year-old has a lot to offer.

Barrios is the traditional speed threat on the right side, but their may be a new challenger in Reggie Cannon. He isn’t afraid to get forward, which isn’t new for Dallas’ right back position. Last season we saw Hernan Grana work his way upfield, but when Dallas lost possession he didn’t have the speed to get back. Cannon does. He’s shown that he knows how to use his speed both offensively and defensively without being overly reliant on it. He plays a mature game, but has the added luxury of being able to turn on the jets when needed.

Dallas’ speed on the wings lends itself to a counter attacking style and once they get more clinical in their finishing, I can see Dallas (re)establishing its identity as a dangerous counter attacking team.

Kellyn brings confidence

Jacori Hayes’ performance so far this season didn’t leave me clamoring for Kellyn Acosta to come back, especially after Kellyn struggled so much at the end of last season. But in 30 minutes he reminded most FCD fans what they were missing.

Acosta brought an air of quality and composure to the midfield that Dallas hadn’t seen yet this season. He made well-timed tackles and composed passes that Hayes doesn’t pull off as routinely as Acosta does. It felt like we had a USMNT regular in the midfield. If this long-break for Kellyn means that we get the pre-Gold Cup Kellyn back, then the wait was well-worth it. I don’t want to revive the #YearoftheKellyn to early yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kellyn has us all tweeting it soon.