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What we learned against Real Salt Lake: Is counter attacking working?

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RSL dominated possession against Dallas, but is that okay?

MLS: FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Road wins are always hard to get in MLS. A win shouldn’t be taken for granted against a team of Real Salt Lake’s quality. The result itself shouldn’t raise any red flags, but FC Dallas, as they often do, struggled to pass the eye test.

It’s a possession game

FCD looked understandably exhausted after playing just three nights earlier, but they also struggled to retain possession and make simple passes. Yes, Dallas are a counter attacking team, but RSL overran Dallas’ midfield and were able to choke them out of the game.

Comparing Dallas’ midfield’s (Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo) passing charts to RSL’s midfield’s (Kyle Beckerman, Kreilach, Alan Rusnak) tells a scary story.

Acosta, Ulloa, and Gruezo’s passing charts
Beckerman, Kreilach, and Rusnak’s passing charts

While possession isn’t Dallas’ style, they can’t let RSL have their way with the ball like this. This shows a lack of organized pressing (probably because of tired bodies). And as Dallas had to chase the ball around the midfield, they just wore themselves out even more. I’m okay with Dallas countering as long as they prove that they can stay organized defensively and absorb pressure, but being successful as a counter attacking team is always going to be an uphill battle. You’re allowing the other team to have most of the opportunities and demanding that your team is able to convert opportunities into goals (which Dallas has struggled with as long as I can remember).

Mosquera’s best position

When Santiago Mosquera is on his game, which has been rare lately, he’s electric. He quickly established himself as one of Dallas’ most exciting players. But he’s still an unknown commodity. He’s only played 90 minutes for Dallas three times. So there’s still a lot of speculation about his best position because he’s capable of playing striker, winger, or attacking midfielder.

With his dribbling ability, and more importantly penchant for losing the ball, I feel like his talents would be wasted anywhere other than the wing. He’s our best player for taking defenders on and he’s hardly clinical enough to player the 10 role.

Mosquera’ passing chart over his 29 minutes against RSL

If Pareja decides that Mosquera belongs on the wing full time, that leaves Paxton Pomykal as our only 10, which is equal parts exciting and scary. I like what Mosquera has to offer and it’s great that he has experience at a few positions, but as he finds his place on the team I’m hopeful that it will be primarily on the wing.

What to do with this season

This seems to be the most divisive issue with fans right now. While FCD is currently at the top of the Western Conference table, many fans are not convinced that they have what it takes to compete for the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. Mathematically, it is very likely that Dallas end up in the playoffs, but where do they go from there? What are the objectives for a successful season? If we can’t win MLS Cup or Supporter’s Shield, why not just play the kids? Or can we win silverware this season?

These are the questions that have caused many debates amongst supporters, but more importantly, it isn’t yet clear how the front office feels about these issues. Was selling Mauro a sign that Dallas aren’t going to compete this year? Is there a replacement player in the works?

No one knows yet, but the coming weeks should begin to reveal all. Enjoy the ride fellow Dallas fans.

Do you think Dallas should abandon the counter attacking style? What do you think Mosquera’s best position is? Are you sold on him yet? What should Dallas’ ambitions for this season be? Let me know in the comments.