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What we learned against the San Jose Earthquakes: Things Fall Apart

Dallas can’t get it done at home, is there cause for concern?

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After flying high last week against Atlanta United, FC Dallas underwhelm in a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes. Despite San Jose’s midweek fixture, they were able to grind out a 0-0 draw away from home. While this is a good result for San Jose, most of the attention is going to go to Dallas’ inability to finish and maintain the possession that has characterized their attack under Luchi Gonzalez.

Dallas looked lethargic, especially in the second half, and allowed San Jose to control the game for long periods of play.

Dallas struggled to control the ball against San Jose
Dallas were handily outpossessed by SJ and for long periods of time

The team’s performance wasn’t indicative of Luchi’s philosophy of sticking it to the other team by out-passing them and controlling the ball. Thus far into his tenure, Luchi has displayed a tactically cohesive philosophy. He’s been more willing to bunker down at times, but this wasn’t one of those games. Dallas struggled from the get go, but why?

Best XI?

On paper, this lineup has all of Dallas’ best performers this year. The consistent weak spot for Dallas has been the left wing and Acosta has played well enough to warrant a starting spot, but Edwin Cerrillo has played well enough to keep his. So by putting Paxton Pomykal out on the wing, which is admittedly not his natural position, but he has experience there, you get Dallas’ most in-form players on the field. Paxton was never expected to be an out and out winger. Ryan Hollingshead has done a great job this season of marauding around the left side of the field, playing more like a wing back than a full back. Whether it’s been Pablo Aranguiz, Santiago Mosquera, or Thomas Roberts, the left wingers this season have all shown a tendency to pinch inside.

So good so far, right? But there’s a problem with just looking at lineups on paper.

Paxton Pomykal featured prominently on the right
FC Dallas player positions

Paxton primarily popped up on the right, and so did Dallas’ attack.

Dallas favored the right with their attacks with 39%
Dallas’ direction of attack

Given San Jose’s man-marking system, how similarly Carlos Gruezo, Bryan Acosta, and Cerrillo play both in what they offer and their positioning, they were able to clog the middle of the field and isolate the Jesus Ferreira from the rest of the game. Barrios, tucked in as a second striker at time s as well and further congested the attack. In a man-marking system, you have to use width to create space and Dallas did everything they could do to get skinny. Dallas, unable to work the ball around the way they prefer, was forced to move Paxton around to try to free him from his marker. But Paxton spent most of his time in the midfield, allowing SJ’s two center backs and left back to focus on the Ferreira and Barrios threats.

Dallas got choked out of the game. To some degree they were unlucky not to create more, but it’s hard to argue that San Jose didn’t force them to play a different style than they were used to and made them uncomfortable.

Super Sub

(First, of all. Given how unfunny I am, I just want to thank all of you that read my posts on a weekly basis. Thank you sticking with me despite my tendencies to delve into the ridiculous and tolerating my taste for terrible jokes.)

We’ve hammered a lot on Luchi’s subbing this season, but is it really his fault? Mosquera and Aranguiz are both talented players, we’ve seen that they have high ceilings, but they have consistently struggled to find their place in Dallas’ system. As much fun as Mosquera’s flashy dribbling is, it never seems to amount to much. Aranguiz had flashes as a 10 in the mold of Mauro Diaz last season, but he’s never impressed as a left winger.

Hayes is our best option off the bench to solidify the team, but he doesn’t offer the dynamism that you want from your first option off the bench. Roberts is still a bit raw. Twumasi and Atuahene struggle with their health and must not be impressing in practice. We’ve seen what an asset Barrios’ speed is and we’ve long called for an equally electrictifying presence on the right, either of those draft picks would be the perfect fit for those, but for they haven’t impressed in their time or done enough to earn time.

If Dallas want to remain resilient this season and potentially launch a venture into the playoffs, they’re going to have to get the sub situation sorted out. Would it be unrealistic to see what a guy like Sealy or Pepi can offer?

The Midfield Four

I want to end on a positive by acknowledging our embarrassment of riches in the midfield right now. Cerrillo’s unexpected uprising has forced Dallas to think creatively about how they can keep him, Gruezo, Paxton, and the new DP, Acosta on the field. Luchi has shown a preference for a 4-3-3, but given the poor performance from the left wing position, why keep wasting a player there?

I’m not sure Dallas have figured out the best way to get the most out of their players. There are a handful of guys that you have to start right now, but there isn’t a way you can arrange them that makes sense.

How do you think Dallas should line up right now? Was this week’s problem with tactics, formation, execution, personnel, or bad luck? Who do you think needs a shot as a super sub?