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Scratching the Chalkboard: The Kids Did FC Dallas Proud

... but questions remain with the veterans on this team

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas finally played a statement game on the road yesterday afternoon. Despite walking away with a season ending loss to the Seattle Sounders, Luchi Gonzalez’ year long plan of having this team put together a 90 (er, 120) minute performance that he will no doubt use as the DNA and blueprint to build out of for 2020.

Play the kids

With the exception of Eric Alexander, every field play option on the bench was aged 24 or younger. The signal of intent was that when this team needs a boost, a job done or a moment of brilliance, Luchi Gonzalez was going to turn to the kids. The kids were going to provide and lead this club into the next round and into the future.

Paxton Pomykal and Santiago Mosquera were the first two off the bench in the 77th minute, with Dallas having just conceding the third goal and needing an equalizer to keep their season alive.

Pomykal’s offensive touches vs SEA

Pomykal was shut out of the game during the second half, but once extra time came, the Homegrown started to take over and give the Dallas faithful a reason to believe why he was just handed that lucrative extension.

Paxton was unlucky to not get on the score sheet, with a lovely touch and turn acrobatic volley that didn’t miss by much, and lovely touch to settle him in front of goal that forced a spectacular save from Stefan Frei. But with the clear instruction of “Paxton, go get us a goal and leave the defensive responsibilities to the rest”, you could see him playing with so much clarity and decisiveness in the final third. His five key passes were a team high, and contributed ~33% of the team’s total of 16 for the afternoon.

Brandon Servania had himself a very strong game and made a case that he deserves a starting spot heading in 2020.

Servania’s defensive actions vs SEA
Servania’s offensive actions vs SEA

Servania was clean on the ball, did his duties on defense and gave Dallas a new offensive option with his long range shots that actually were on target or very close. (Looking at you, Bryan Acosta.) Servania took four shots from outside the penalty area, and were screamers that would’ve been jaw dropping highlight material had any of them beat Frei. Seattle did not close him down, and Brandon took it upon himself to have a solid crack at goal, testing Frei and pushing Seattle to start stepping up more.

And I haven’t even touched on the fact that Reggie Cannon played out of position for most of this one, and even on the opposite side as a left winger when he had to switch with Michael Barrios. Cannon’s goal was the fuel that Dallas needed to jump start their come back.

FC Dallas and Luchi put the fate of their club in the hands of the youth, and they’ve rewarded them handsomely with their performance against Seattle and throughout the season.

But the veterans...

...especially on defense and marking on set pieces left much to be desired. But before we jump in there, let’s talk about the most egregious moment from the game yesterday: Bryan Acosta.

What’s disappointing is that Acosta gave one of this best performances in the FCD shirt in this one, his goal to send the game into extra time was euphoric. But the absolute brain fart of his decision making process here is completely astounding.

Acosta looked over multiple times at Mosquera, so the argument that he didn’t see or hear Santi making the supporting run is out of the question. Acosta had three touches on the ball, including his shot, and at every touch he had the opportunity to lay the ball off to Mosquera and yet opted not to. Not even attempting to pass the ball in those situations is maddening.

Then there was Bressan who had himself an OK outing, but not a very memorable one. It started with this sequence that led to Jordan Morris’ first goal off the counter.

(I apologize for the potato quality of these screen shots. Can’t get the videos to load in HD at the moment.)

Bressan has stepped up, but it’s not entirely clear what he’s doing at this point. Was his marking Brad Smith? Was there someone behind him that the camera isn’t showing?

No, once the ball is cleared you can see Servania has his man covered. In essence Bressan had stepped into no man’s land. That can happen from time to time when you’re pressing, so as long as your teammates are in good positions. Which leads to a very painful graphic below:

Top of the screen is Ryan Hollingshead. Bottom right is Bressan trying to recover. Matt Hedges is all the way to the left, in the middle is Reto Ziegler making a play for a 50/50 ball. There’s absolutely no shape whatsoever between the back four, which gave acres of space for Morris to run onto and put Hedges in an uncomfortable 2v1 situation.

This shouldn’t happen between veteran players, especially during the playoffs after you’ve had a year to work together and while you’re supposedly pressing as a unit to get the ball back. One long ball shouldn’t stretch your defensive shape like this.

While it was a wonderful season and playoff game for the kids to showcase their talent, it was sadly the veterans that led this club down time and time again. Dallas is almost there, but will need to take a long look at their spine and see if they can improve the roster during the off-season.