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Scratching the Chalkboard: What’s Defending?

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A comedy of collective errors sees Dallas drop more points to San Jose

MLS: FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas did what we all feared in the back of our minds, play to the level of their opponent and just make a mess out of an opportunity. There were several factors in play that did not go in Dallas’ favor (the field, the weird bounces), but when you look at the teams on paper there is absolutely no reason for San Jose to be even on the same field as Dallas. But I suppose that’s why games aren’t played on paper and on a “field” (if you can call it that).

Bad Breaks or Bad Decisions?

Will admit that Dallas had several bounces go the wrong way for Vako’s brace, but they were still the result of a culmination of bad plays and decision making.

At the time, I thought this was just a series of unfortunate plays where the ball strikes Maynor Figueroa and Vako takes full advantage. But what exactly is Hedges doing here? I keep looking at the clip and I cannot fathom what he could’ve possibly been have processing.

Defending 101 tells you that when it’s time to head the ball defensively, it’s “Up and Away”. Hedges violated that law on both accounts as he went low and straight up the middle. Was he trying to pass it to Victor Ulloa? Maybe, but why? You an see San Jose’s Magnus Ericksson was already in place and in fact tried to jump the header to pick it off.

Maybe Hedges just completely headed that incorrectly and he was trying to get it up and away, but for a CB of his caliber, these kinds of mistakes should not be happening.

This is the most troubling sequence of the night, and as our managing editor Drew Epperly pointed out in Slack this morning, this is the type of play that gives opponents a blue print on how to shred the Dallas defense.

That Wondo run that split Hedges and Figueroa was incredible and while it won’t show up on the stat sheet anywhere, is what teams will try to mimic going forward. That slit second break created a pause on who needed to step and where to. Hedges lost his footing, Figueroa dove in needlessly, Ulloa took a wrong angle and Marquinhos Pedroso freezed for a half second instead of cutting down the angle. Reggie Cannon also made the error of challenging Vako towards the middle. On one hand, he did have help in that direction but it was late in the first half and you want to get to half time 1-1.

Again, during the game I thought it was bad breaks and bounces going the other way (which just happens sometimes in soccer). But after reviewing some of the footage, it’s not just that as bad decision making led to some of those bad bounces. Hopefully, this team will have fixed those by Saturday.

Finally Flying

One of the things that we were most excited about acquiring Domique Badji was his ability to score some goals on the break. These are the types of goals we were looking forward to seeing.

And of course, Santiago Mosquera’s touch before finishing the sequence off was gorgeous.

This goal was my favorite of the night, most particularly the off ball movement from the team and especially Maximiliano Urruti’s decision on his pass. Most players would’ve sent Cannon wide and outside. It’s a safe pass and puts the ball where the defense can’t reach. Instead, Urruti plays Cannon inside and turns Shea Salinas the other way. In one decision, Urruti changed the play from “Hope we get a good cross” to “Cannon’s through!”

This is the kind of play where this team misses Mauro Diaz the most. Diaz would play balls where his teammates should be, inviting them to exploit spaces and educating them on where their movement should be. Urruti’s pass reminded me of that. Yes, teammates should also lead the ball carrier, but sometimes it’s the one on the ball who has the best vision and should be dictating where his teammates ought to go.

Shake It Off

To say Jacori Hayes had a bad night is probably an understatement. Hayes had to fill in for Carlos Gruezo, and while Hayes was alright on the ball, San Jose exploited the mess out of his lack of defensive range compared to Gruezo.

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

My biggest concern are his three missed tackles in the middle of the field. And after I show you the next graphic, you’ll also see why I’m also concerned by the lack of defensive actions too.

Anibal Godoy and Luis Felipe’s passing chart. (Green - successful pass. Red - unsuccessful pass. Yellow - key pass.)

Godoy and Luis Felipe bossed the midfield like they were channeling their inner Iniesta and Xavi. The lack of disruption to San Jose’s midfield metronomes was incredibly poor. Hayes had a rough outing but he has the tools to level up. Let’s just hope he does so quickly before the playoffs.