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What We Learned Against the Houston Dynamo: Width makes the difference

Santi’s and Mikey’s big games ensure Dallas three points

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas clenched El Capitan this weekend with a 4-2 win over Houston. To celebrate I’m going to do my best Jason Poon impression.

Attacking from out wide

Since the departure of Mauro Diaz and Maxi Urruti’s emergence as 10, Dallas have primarily focused their attacking efforts to the wings. Without a player with the passing range of Diaz that can sit deep and spray balls onto the feet of wingers as they streak towards the keeper from the touchline, Dallas have been resigned to crossing. This isn’t a bad thing. It didn’t make sense when Urruti was striker and would rarely be positioned where he needed to be, but with Dominque Badji’s poaching instincts and knack for making dangerous runs, Dallas’ attack may be back on track.

The Victor Ulloa-Carlos Gruezo pairing isn’t known for being particularly creative and that’s been problematic in the past, but now that Dallas has a more cohesive attacking strategy and personnel, they can focus on defending and recycling possession to open up opportunities for the wide players.

Ulloa and Gruezo’s passing charts

Notice how many of their passes are to the fullbacks and wingers. This puts the ball at the feet of Dallas’ more talented attacking players and allows Dallas to attack a 36 year old DaMarcus Beasley and an out-of-position Andrew Wenger.

Dallas’ key passes and assists

The result is an incredibly creative night from wide positions.

This is the tactical set up that makes the most sense right now for Dallas. With Michael Barrios and Santiago Mosquera so hot right now (seven games in a row with a goal or assist for Mikey), they should be the star of the show. Urruti also deserves recognition for his contributions all over the pitch.

Pedroso settles in

Since arriving in Dallas Marquinhos Pedroso has been nothing short of solid. He wasn’t given the conservative acclimation to the team that Oscar Pareja normally affords new players, but that hasn’t been a problem. He’s made very few mistakes defensively. While he isn’t as present in the attack as Anton Nedyalkov was, he isn’t paired up with Roland Lamah and has a different role.

Pedroso’s passing chart

A role he is playing remarkably well. He had just one unsuccessful pass in each half. Oscar isn’t asking him to go forward and cross, but to make himself available to his teammates to help retain possession. A job that is easier said than done for a full back. Full backs have half the passing options that midfielders do because full backs aren’t surrounded by support like midfielders are and they’re permanently crunched for space next to the touchline.

Pedroso’s defensive actions (green-tackles, blue-interceptions, orange-recoveries)

Pedroso won three tackles and made six interceptions meaning he single-handedly won Dallas possession nine times. His efforts are integral to Dallas playing any kind of possession based soccer which is what Clavijo’s transfers are hinting at.

Apologies to Reto Ziegler

I have been an outspoken Reto hater and today I am asking for forgiveness. I’m not sure why I had problems with Ziegler since he arrived. Perhaps I was intimidated by his hair, sick tattoos, or frustrated that we lost the Golden Retriever like exuberance of Walker Zimmerman. But after the last few weeks without him, I’ve come to learn what he means to this team. It was a It’s a Wonderful Life-esque peak into what this team would look like without him and I don’t want to go back there. While I still feel like he’s Hedges sidekick (that probably has to do more with reputation), I promise to no longer complain about him any chance I get.