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What we learned against the Columbus Crew: Dallas’ attack stagnates

Disappointing games from the front four make for a drag.

MLS: Columbus Crew at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew SC cancelled each other out Saturday night as they drew 0-0. The game saw 23 shots, but only three on target. Arrigo Sacchi said the perfect game is a 0-0 draw, but it felt like another one of those punch card games.

The lineup needs a shake up

Dallas have stockpiled away offensive talent that we haven’t seen in weeks. The injury report says Roland Lamah is dealing with a hamstring strain, but he’s been on the bench as an unused sub four games now. Love him or hate him, Lamah is our highest scorer and he doesn’t have any business sitting on the bench for a home game.

Next, we lack creativity. Santiago Mosquera’s performance was very disappointing and Maxi Urruti isn’t much of a creative type (see Jason’s piece for more on why it’s time to drop Urruti).

Mosquera’s passes and shots (green- successful, red- unsuccessful, yellow circle- blocked shot, yellow square- key pass)

Mosquera is the most creative player in our starting 11 at the moment, and it’s incredibly concerning to hardly see him in the final third. Pablo Aranguiz fandom reached practically cult levels during his short stint of playing time, and rightfully so. You have to wonder why he isn’t seeing the field after having such a promising few weeks, especially with Dallas struggling so much offensively. A good 10 could really help unlock Dominque Badji, because Badji’s performance thus far hasn’t been acceptable either.

We can’t pass out of the back

The game had a scary start for Dallas as Columbus opened with a high press. Dallas’ back line struggled to adapt. Even after Carlos Gruezo dropped deep and served as a fifth defender Dallas couldn’t figure out how to play past the pressure.

Unsuccessful passes by Dallas defenders
Unsuccessful passes by Columbus defenders

This comparison isn’t perfect. There are so many tactical variables that can’t be controlled for, but the point I’m trying to make is that in this game Dallas did not do a good job moving the ball from back to front efficiently.

Previously I felt like Dallas’ defensive unit was starting to gel, but this game makes me doubt that. A high press isn’t rare in MLS (one as good as Columbus’ is), so Dallas doesn’t have an excuse to play so poorly against it. Especially at home. Columbus set the tone by taking the game right to Dallas in the first half and it really neutered FCD offensively.

Can Jacori Hayes do Carlos Gruezo’s job?

There are times each game where Pareja has Carlos Gruezo play as the deepest defender. His job is to make himself available to the other defenders to retain posession and move the ball forward. But the problem is Gruezo’s touch isn’t very good and his passing is just as suspect.

Hayes has great ball retention abilities and a better passing range. His skill set is perfectly suited for this job. With his energy, he should easily be able to drop deep to pick up the ball and then still contribute when needed in the midfield. I don’t think Hayes is as tactically disciplined as Gruezo though, and if Hayes gets dragged out of position then the back line would be exposed.

But at this point in the season, Dallas look out of ideas. Pareja seems to have settled on a group that he likes and we haven’t seen much tactical variation. Hayes for Gruezo would be a small low-risk change that may make Dallas stronger in the long run (if they’re going to keep using a midfielder in that role). Hayes didn’t look great in his last outing, but he is still young. It feels like Gruezo has stagnated a bit and maybe a rest could do him some good.

Did you see anything you liked against Columbus? Is Berhalter good enough to be the USMNT coach? Will Dallas ever be fun to watch again?