Jesse Gonzalez’ reaction to the final whistle being blown Saturday night was extremely appropriate.
After all, it did bring to and end a wildly-stressful final twenty-or-so minutes of the game that saw FC Dallas clinging for life to a one-goal lead. They ultimately held on, but not without a VAR review, an abrupt downpour and Diego Valeri doing all they could to steal points away from the hosts.
It’s shades of the week prior when FC Dallas blew a one-goal lead, ultimately losing on the road to Philadelphia. The growing theme is that Luchi Gonzalez’ squad has a finishing problem. This is not ideal considering his team’s style of play demands constant pressure, focus and tidiness for all 90 minutes.
“Obviously we’re happy to get the three points and the win,” defender Reggie Cannon said after the game, “but I think it was a little bit different this week because we all know we’re starting to fall off a bit in the second half because of the way we play.”
“Our midfielders are getting a little bit tired, which is understandable, because playing this way takes a lot of out of you — a lot.”
The possession-based style is exactly what had FC Dallas up 2-0, but similar to last week, as soon as they abandoned that tactic, they invited unwanted pressure. As a defender who was enjoying his team’s dominance over an offensively-inept Portland Timbers team in the first half — part due to FC Dallas’ play, but also from playmaker Diego Valeri starting on the bench — the second half falloff frustrated Cannon.
“Personally, I’m not too happy about the way we played because — like I was talking to [Timbers forward] Jeremy Ebobisse and he said they couldn’t touch us in the first half. In the first half, every team cannot touch us. We are unstoppable. And then, in the second half, there’s some sort of breakdown and we have to figure out.”
So how does FC Dallas figure out their late-game dips? Cannon’s first thought is simply due to the continued change in style the team has undergone since Gonzalez’ tenure began.
“I always say this, and all respect to Oscar [Pareja], when we got a goal or two goals, we’d pack it in,” Cannon said. “We’d defend with our lives and that was the saying.”
“So this year we’re kind of getting away from that and it’s tough for a lot of the guys who played last year that have that foundation. We have to get that confidence to be able to play out of the back and play through the keeper — it’s tough.”
Thankfully, be it home-field advantage or just a little bit of luck, FC Dallas found themselves victorious at the end of it all and now can turn their attention to an even tougher task, facing Atlanta United on the road.
For Cannon — and because MLS seasons are a marathon, not a sprint — it’s only a matter of time before FC Dallas can play the way they want for all 90 minutes.
“I think it’ll click one of these days and we’ll definitely be a more dangerous team in the second half.”