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What we learned against the Chicago Fire: FC Dallas pour on the pressure

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Take aways from Dallas’ domination of Chicago.

MLS: Chicago Fire at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Sure it was against an experimental Chicago Fire team, who spent 20 minutes with 10 men, but FC Dallas looked good. They attacked and defended well and poured the pressure on Chicago.

Is Michael Barrios back?

Mikey B has regressed this season. After competing for the MLS assist lead last season, he hasn’t gotten in the positions where he is best and when he has his touch or vision has let him down. Barrios has never had fantastic technical ability and is often frustrating, but there are things he does well nonetheless. One of those is taking the ball to the end line. With his speed and acceleration, if he gets a fullback flat footed, he can create space for himself by taking the ball to the end line and putting in a dangerous cross. This is where Barrios excels and we got to see him do some of it this weekend.

Michael Barrios passing chart against the Fire (green- successful pass, red- unsuccessful pass, yellow- key pass)

Barrios can experience a renaissance like he did when he moved to the super sub role if he can return to what he’s best at: using his speed and making end line crosses.

What possession can do

Uncharacteristically, Dallas out-possessed Chicago 59.7% to 40.3%. Last week against RSL I asked if Dallas would be suited for a more possession-oriented game and argued that Dallas needs more of the ball. This week they did that. Admittedly away against RSL and home against the Fire are two different games. I don’t think it’s realistic for Dallas to play possession-based games away, this is MLS after all; just about everyone plays for the counter when they’re away. But Dallas having the bigger share of the ball definitely made for a more interesting game. Dallas out shot Chicago 23-5, that’s a margin I could get used to.

It started with the Gruezo-Ulloa midfield pairing. Who would have thought that Dallas’ best possession oriented midfield doesn’t have Acosta in it? Gruezo, has grown tremendously as a passer since his arrival, but he’s still conservative with the ball (as he should be), Ulloa is similar. But with the 4-2-3-1, you allow them the luxury of being able to make simple passes to retain possession and leaving the creative stuff to the front four as opposed to the flat 4-4-2 where you ask your central midfielders to contribute more to the attack. I think this could be a great lineup for FCD. Hollingshead contributed a lot to Dallas’ ability to retain possession and I’m anxious to see how Pedroso is with the ball at his feet, although I can’t imagine he’s poor. It truly was a great team performance and it shows what Dallas are capable of this season.

Mosquera at 10

In addition to calling for more possession last week, I asked that Santiago Mosquera be kept away from the 10 position because he loses the ball a lot and if we want to play a possession oriented game, we need someone that is more efficient with the ball. But one week later, Mosquera has overseen perhaps Dallas’ best attacking and possession game yet.

Unsurprisingly, he played a bit of an unconventional game as a 10.

Dallas didn’t have many touches in the position where a traditional 10 picks up the ball. Most of their attacks started out wide and that isn’t bad as much as it is unorthodox. Mosquera is not going to be a like for like 10 replacement for Diaz.

In this passing chart of Dallas’ midfield and forwards passes, I put a rectangle around zone 14. Dallas may not have a lot of activity in there, but you can see that they have three key passes coming from there as well as Ulloa’s assist.

Dallas’ attacking player passing chart (green- successful, red- unsuccessful, yellow- key pass, blue- assist)

Here is Mosquera’s passing chart.

Mosquera’s passing chart (green- successful, red- unsuccessful, yellow- key pass)

He hardly has any passes in zone 14 and he still drifts out wide, but if he can continue to create chances then I won’t complain. Maybe it will be his unorthodox play as a 10 that will make it hard for teams to plan for him. He could be our biggest competitive advantage, some sort of tactical secret weapon. We’ll see what Pareja does with it in the next few weeks, but this was definitely a promising sign.