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What we learned against the Columbus Crew: Pedroso isn’t the right piece

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New coach growing pains, fullback trouble, and isolated strikers. What went wrong for Dallas this weekend.

MLS: FC Dallas at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

That game was so boring it reminded me to do my taxes.

Early this season, other than the LA game, we’ve seen FCD struggle to execute Luchi’s rather aspirational playing style. Will Pareja’s pragmatism make a return? It’s too early to tell. I don’t mind the team striving to make an identity for itself, but the end product has to be less disjointed than what we’re seeing now. Let’s break down some of the problem areas for FC Dallas in this game.

Struggling with subs

It was obvious to most observers that things weren’t going Dallas’ way this game. There were individually poor performances, but Dallas was generally not able to move the ball around with purpose. While they out-passed (quantitatively) and out-possessed Columbus, they didn’t seem to have much of a plan going forward.

The team needed some sort of shaking up. Whether that’s bringing more firepower on like Pablo Aranguiz, Jesus Ferreira, or Thomas Roberts or swapping the struggling Marquinhos Pedroso for Nelson is debatable, but it was obvious that the team needed a change. They didn’t get one until the 70th minute. And that’s too late.

It could be because Luchi didn’t feel that he had any game changers on the bench, which may be fair. It was a remarkably young bench with an average age of 21.42. Dallas haven’t found a go-to sub yet with this revamped roster, so it’s slightly more understandable that Luchi would stick to his guns and play the guys he has out there. After failing to use three subs against LA earlier in the season, I get the feeling that’s part of his philosophy. While there are coaches that can make it work, Luchi may still have some adapting to do when it comes to knowing the right time to make a change.

A faulty fullback

It’s fair to say that since arriving in Dallas, Pedroso has never been bad. He filled in quickly after the awkward departure of Anton Nedyalkov, but has never made the position his own. Given Santi’s proclivity for drifting inside, having a marauding left back is all the more critical to Dallas’ attack. After almost a season with the Hoops, we know that Pedroso is not going to be that player. He’s an average defender, but he’s never combined well with those around him. Considering how important fullbacks are to a possession-oriented style, it may be time to move on from Pedroso.

Traditionally, I’m a Ryan Hollingshead basher. In the past I felt like he was the stereotypical MLS player: poor touch, poor vision, average at everything else. While it was great he could play every position, that didn’t mean that I ever wanted to see him on the field.

But I’ve been impressed with Ryan so far this season (though not as much this game). He looks remarkably different (and I’m not just talking about the stache). It’s not too often that you see a someone’s game take a leap forward in their sixth season with the team, but maybe Ryan’s just a late bloomer.

I’ve liked John Nelson at the fullback spot as well, but left back is Hohead’s to lose at this point. He has the best chemistry with Mosquera and has shown that they can combine well on the left. He displays tactical awareness as well. He drops deep when needed and communicates well with Carlos Gruezo to make sure he has cover when he gets forward.

Thus far with Luchi’s system, fullbacks have a decreased importance in the attack than we’ve seen in years past. Reggie Cannon isn’t as invovled on the wing as he was last season (small sample size), but having two fullbacks that are as capable as Hollingshead and Cannon is a blessing that needs to be taken advantage of.

Get Badji the ball

As much as I complained about Maxi Urruti never being in the box for a cross, Dominque Badji’s play is not what I had in mind. He showed glimpses in preseason that he can make contributions during build up, but Dallas haven’t generated enough attacking opportunities for him to put those skills on display. Too often he finds himself isolated for long stints of the game. How do you remedy that?

You don’t want him to drop too deep. Then you have the Urruti problem again. But if he isn’t touching the ball, he isn’t going to score and Dallas’ creators can’t be trusted to provide consistent service yet this season (nor can Dom be trusted to take advantage of those opportunities).

The solution is to be more willing to go long on occasion. I would love to build all our attacks from the back and work the ball through the midfield with beautiful tiki-taka one touch passing, but we aren’t there yet (and may never be). Badji has shown that he can use his body to fight for the ball and win one on ones. Give him those chances to disrupt the back line and turn him into a factor in the game instead of letting him atrophy up top.


What did you see that you liked? What did you see that you didn’t? Will Dallas turn it around tactically next weekend against Colorado? How can Dallas spice things up? What the hell was Bryan Acosta thinking? Let me hear your ideas in the comments!