Week 2 is here and with it, FC Dallas host the LA Galaxy this Saturday. After one week, ONE week people (chill), FC Dallas has one point and is in a three way tie for 7th – 9th. Los Angeles beat Chicago last week and sit tied for 2nd – 4th with three points. Ok, with the busy work out of the way, let’s get down to business…to defeat…the (never mind).
While you have no doubt by now seen the political attack ad put out by FC Dallas against Zlatan Ibrahimović for his hubris filled talk about breaking “all the records,” one wonders (I - I wonder) how advisable that really was. For the Galaxy, there is no getting around the fact that Ibrahimović is the sun and everyone else are peripheral orbs around him. No matter how bright (Jonathan Dos Santos), shiny (Uriel Antuna), or massive on their own (Lletget, Alessandrini, Kitchen); not even a shooting comet like Efrain Alverez can change that fact. Fortunately for them, LAG’s titan is capable of holding they system up. He can lead a line up at the top, pressing center backs and cutting passing lanes. He can drift wide when needed. He can, and often does, drop down into the midfield to get on the ball and create for himself and others, like a false number 9. He can do all those things because he has a legitimate claim to be the best player in the league and I think it is unwise to poke the Lion, especially when your trapped in the cage with him.
Last week we talked about all the “new” things, what with the new season and all. But since it’s still only week 2… remember, it’s only week 2 people… we should mention some news about the newness with Los Angeles too. Much like FC Dallas, LA went through a front office and coaching overhaul this past offseason too. Denise de Klose was hired away from the Mexican National Team Federation and within a few days brought in highly respected coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto from Bocas Juniors. Schelotto is the man responsible for bringing along players like Diego Valeri and Miguel Almiron and appears to have another gem to refine in Alverez, the 16-year-old academy product who changed last weeks game in favor of LA.
GBS has stated his goal is to be more possession oriented, with steady buildup play and an overall better attacking structure in place. Besides the desire to control the game, the main key is structure, in both the players on the field and where/how they play. Los Angeles was one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season. Getting beat on the counter, beat from normal run of play, set pieces, whatever. Schelotto’s point is to shore up the defense, not just with better players, although new Uruguayan signing Diego Polenta should help, but with a better environment in place for the defense to operate. Let’s call this a work in progress for now. While Chicago only scored once last week – they were in on goal A LOT and should have come away with at least two more goals, and those are just the highlight misses. Watch the whole game and it’s clear that communication was an issue for LA. Players weren’t tracking back, weren’t tracking runners in the midfield, generally not doing the normal things good – average – teams do in defense.
So how did they come away with the win. Well besides poor finishing from Chicago, LA scored two goals set up by “the-next-uber-prospect-you-will-be-sick-of-hearing-about” in Alverez. I was skeptical about how much influence the teenager really had after coming on as a sub, but credit to him, he made some great plays, especially setting up the first goal. Of course, LA may not have been in that situation had they not lost their second-best player, Alessandrini, to injury in the first half. Although he is week to week, Dallas will not have to worry about him, which is a big plus. Although Emanual Boateng is a speed demon, he doesn’t present the same skill set as the French winger. He’s basically LA’s version of Barrios - speed, speed, speed with a semi-accurate cross into the box. On the other wing, another new signing, Uriel Antuna, on loan from Manchester City, will work to make a bigger mark on the game. There’s word that Sebastian Lletget will start this week, but nothing official. Also, LA signed Joe Corona earlier this week and we may see him as a sub. Apparently, midfield depth was an issue after they had to buyout their 4th DP.
What will we see out of Dallas then? Hopefully more than we saw last week. It was clear to almost everyone that more creativity was needed from the midfield. Whether that was replacing Hayes or Acosta is up for debate. But the lack of creativity, lack of movement, and general “meh” offensive showing was disappointing. In the Three Keys section last week, two were about finding a better fluidity on offense and a focal point for it. Neither key was found. Although FC Dallas is a more balanced team across the board, much like in the playoffs last season, our guests actually have a focal point and idea of how to play and win a game. Until Dallas gains that, it will be a tough road to get wins.
Key Matchup: Matt Hedges vs Zlatan Ibrahimović
This is simple, if Hedges and Ziegler can contain the big Swede, Dallas can and should win this game. Of course, large, physical strikers are always tough for Hedges, and Zlatan is the best of them all. Who keeps who in check?
Secondary Key Matchup – Carlos Gruezo vs Jonathan Dos Santos
With late word coming that Zlatan probably isn’t going to make the trip, a lot changes for how this match plays out. The solar system has lost its sun so to speak, so it will be interesting to see how this LA team operates with no clear focus. With Zlatan and Alessandrini both out, next man up is Dos Santos to make things happen. I suspect this will be all about survival for LAG now.
Three Keys to the Game:
1. Any Fluidity to the Attack – Last week was about a “New Fluidity” in attack. That didn’t work. Let’s settle for any fluidity in the attack. Any amount of creative movement on the ball, away from the ball. A better buildup out of the back – definitely needed – and better tactical nous on the field.
2. Cohesive Defense – Last week was mostly a solid performance from the back line. Cohesion should be the goal for everyone as the season starts to pick up and the rust is shaken away.
3. Start Paxton – It was such an obvious sub that it was ten minutes late. Last week’s game was crying out for a more creative presence in the middle and Paxton came on and changed the dynamic. He should be starting (whispers) in place of Hayes. And he should be able to make a difference in this one.
I was all set to see this game go as a draw, with Zlatan being the major difference for LA. But with it looking more and more likely that he will not make the trip, this should be a win for Dallas. I hope I don’t have to harp on this all season but having a true creative midfielder in the game will be imperative for this team. When you set up in a 4-2-3-1, the central playmaker obviously dictates the play. It was true with Diaz, it was seen with Aranguiz, and it was noticeably missing without Paxton on the field. This system, the way FC Dallas is looking to be set up, must have that spark right in the middle. He doesn’t have to be the goal scorer or best player on the team. But like a conductor - directing Barrios and Mosquera and Badji and Acosta and Cannon and whoever from that central spot is what makes this all work. I was hedging my bets in preseason, but after one game, ONE GAME, it’s clear that the no. 10 spot will make or break our season – and the main man will be Paxton. Ignore my prediction from the prediction article, that was with less information, I’m calling a 1-0 win in this one. Goal from whomever – assist from Pomykal.