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Scratching the Chalkboard: Jesus Take The Wheel

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Are we excited about Jesus Ferreira yet?

MLS: Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas did what they couldn’t do the previous weekend: hold on to a lead. Last week Dallas played tentatively and had a 1-0 lead against the Philadelphia Union before shipping two goals in the final seven minutes to lose 1-2. This time, against a struggling Portland Timbers, Dallas started off stronger, with a higher line and more intent but were played out of their own stadium in the final 20 minutes or so. Fortunately they didn’t give up the equalizer, and while three points is always three points, this sudden trend of shaky play while holding on to a lead is certainly starting to look troubling for Luchi Gonzalez and his young squad.

Jesus Take The Wheel

Admittedly, that’s a terrible, terrible pun but I’m sticking with it. Two goals in the last three games and with a chalkboard like this...

...I just don’t see how Dominque Badji or Zdenek Ondrasek can even get a sniff at the starting spot right now.

Though he doesn’t get on the ball a lot, it’s his movement and ability to combine with his teammates, mainly Paxton Pomykal, that’s making this 18 year old (!!!) a shoe in as a starter for this team.

And after attempting a team low three shots against the Union, Ferreira single handedly nearly doubled that output on his own with five shots. Generally, just shooting more isn’t a good thing, but it has more to do with the quality of the shots. Had Ferreira got his hips around the ball a little more or pushed the ball just an inch in one direction, he would’ve had a hat trick.

This not a criticism, those shots were high difficulty level shots that Ferreira attempted. What’s working really well for Ferreira is his ability to get his shot off a split second faster than the defense is expecting it. Jesus pulls the trigger faster than anyone else on this team and it’s a weapon that Fabian Castillo later developed into a double digit goal scoring campaign for FCD.

He’s 18 and still raw, and no doubt will have his shares of difficulties but at this point, there’s no reason to expect any changes up front for now.

What happened to the possession?

After starting the season with 68% of the possession in week 1, followed by 64% possession in week 2, Dallas has barely gotten into the mid 50s for possession since then. (The lone exception to this was against RSL when they got 68%, but RSL was down a man from the 17th minute on.) Dallas started the first three games with 600+ passes, and haven’t hit 500 in the last two games.

Teams are adjusting by sending men to press Edwin Cerrillo more, and hampering his ability to turn up field. This is causing Dallas to get a little more rushed and sloppy with their passes and its resulting in more turnovers inside their own half. Teams are also learning where to press and which side to approach Dallas players, in order to force a heavy touch. These are small things, but its in the details that are causing Dallas some major problems towards the last quarter of the game.

FCD passing chart after giving up goal to POR

Once Portland found a goal, and were within striking distance, they figured out they could press and force Dallas into playing the ball wide and back to them. You can see Dallas is pinned back, mostly playing out of their own half with a lot of clearances from Jesse Gonzalez.

POR passing chart after scoring their goal in the 69th minute

Portland on the other hand, feasted on this opportunity and enjoyed having a bulk of their possession inside Dallas’ territory and turned it into this:

POR shots in the final 20+ minutes

Of course, a natural cause was the introduction of the 2017 MVP, Diego Valeri into the game. Valeri did everything you’d want from a creative mid; finding space, creating chances and taking chances when presented.

Valeri’s shot and passing chart

I made a tweet about how Luchi would respond to Valeri’s entrance at the time:

What we saw was reactionary. Rather than asserting their possession style, Gonzalez reacted to Valeri and brought in Bressan to make his MLS debut and Dallas finished the game with five in the back.

Was it the right call? Hard to argue against three points. Would I have preferred Gonzalez be more aggressive and take a chance? Sure. However, it’s easy for me to say that as it’s not my job on the line and dropping points at home is an absolute no-no.

Either way, Dallas has to get back to how they closed out that 2-0 win against the LA Galaxy back in week 2. There was that sequence where they took the air out of the Galaxy’s tires by completing 5,582 passes in succession before the Galaxy got even close to the ball. I understand that Dallas can’t do that every time, but I certainly want to see them go for it and live and die by their new identity.