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What we learned against the LA Galaxy: Zlatan should be scared

Acosta, Gruezo, and Pomykal’s contributions make the difference for Dallas as they grab their first win of the season

MLS: LA Galaxy at FC Dallas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas fans expecting to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they ventured out to Toyota Stadium may have left disappointed, but not those that went to see the ridiculous goals he’s known for.

Dallas won 2-0 with the support of a goal of the season candidate from Bryan Acosta. While it took them a while to get going, Dallas ultimately looked much more cohesive and able to create chances than they did in their first game.

Building a system

We’ve been calling it the “Luchi Era” since he took over, which speaks to our expectations. Fans want some sort of system—an identity— that the years over which Luchi reigns will be remembered by. While Oscar won silverware and oversaw the integration of homegrowns into the first team, for many, his years will always be associated with a feeling that something was missing. At the end of every season we told ourselves that next season was the one where it would all come together. Then often the product on the field lacked much of a consistency other than it was carried by the marvelous Mauro Diaz.

The Luchi Era promised to bring something different. There would be no more meddling in the mediocre. This team would have an end product in mind: a possession-based pressing system. While it is still incredibly early in Luchi’s tenure, we are beginning to see how this goal will be achieved. The midfield plays like a unit, fluidly probing for pockets of space to link up with the attack. The attack sets up high and wins the ball in the opponent’s half. The fullbacks are aggressive and don’t hesitate to overlap, knowing that there is a midfielder sitting deep willing to cover for them if needed. The striker knocks the ball down for teammates and then makes a dangerous run.

All of these are coming together to build an FC Dallas brand of football.

Paxton hype management update

We try to be reasonable here at Big D. We pride ourselves on our well-measured takes and restraint in a field where you’re often encouraged to defend ridiculous opinions for the sake of controversy. Going into the season, and as I mentioned in my post last week, I felt Paxton may be getting an undue amount of hype and thus was unfairly burdened with our astronomical expectations as fans.

But this week, I’m sounding the hype alarm.

Yeah, so what it’s a cowbell alarm?

He is a joy to watch and every bit as dangerous on the ball as Mosquera. While under different circumstances it would concern me that our second best attacking option is 19, under this system, Paxton might just be the perfect player.

If we aren’t going to play with a true 10 and need more creativity in the midfield, then Paxton Pomykal is the easy answer. While you may be trading off some defensive stability when you swap Hayes for him, Pomykal’s dynamism makes it worth it. I’d rather draw 1-1 than 0-0. Plus, as the team acclimates to their more pressing-oriented defensive system, Pomykal may be better equipped to create something quickly for his teammates after winning the ball high up the field. He also showed great effort working back.

So, there! I told you exactly what you wanted to hear. I’m done playing party pooper.

Carlos was busy

Gruezo’s passing map (Green- successful, Red- unsuccessful)
Gruezo’s defensive actions (Green- tackle won, Red- tackle lost, Yellow- recovery, Blue- interception, Purple- clearance)

Even if you don’t appreciate a good action map (or understand what they are), you should be impressed by the amount of green on the passing map and the sheer number of defensive actions he had. Carlos Gruezo had 15 recoveries, which are defined as: “an event in which a player gains possession after control of the ball has been lost by the opposition,” by MLS/OPTA. For context, Acosta had four and Pomykal one.

I said it last week: Gruezo is back in his best form with this new system. Acosta and Pomykal may be hitting their strides soon. It’s hard not be optimistic about what this FCD team can achieve as a midfield unit this season.

Can we go ahead and name Acosta’s goal the best of the season? Did you cringe when I used “football” instead of soccer? Are you wondering when Hollingshead started eating his Wheaties? Do you think Bryan Acosta looks like a Bob’s Burgers character? Let me know in the comments!