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What we learned against LAFC: Is FC Dallas still a one-man show?

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Three talking points from the loss against LAFC.

MLS: FC Dallas at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Damn, that Carlos Vela guy sure is good, huh? Kinda makes me wonder what we could do with a guy like that...

20-goal-a-season striker dreams aside, FC Dallas lost their third straight game by a score of 2-0 against Los Angeles FC. While the result wasn’t surprising (in fact, many predicted worse), Dallas’ form is beginning to raise larger questions.

Better than we once were?

Dallas’ last few years have been spent trying to break dependence on Mauro Diaz for generating attacking opportunities. After his departure, Dallas tried shaking up formations, playing more direct, bringing in replacement 10s, and have generally failed. Despite leaving almost a year ago (the “real” Mauro, the one that could win games on his own left three seasons ago after the achilles injury), Dallas still have not sorted out a way to consistently generate attacking opportunities.

Until Paxton Pomykal arrived. This season with Paxton on the field Dallas have looked poised on the ball and hungry. They have a plan to move the ball forward and generate goal scoring opportunities. But with Paxton injured and missing for U20 World Cup duties, Dallas have looked as offensively impotent as they did after Diaz’s departure.

While I’d rather be dependent upon a 19 year-old homegrown than a chronically injured DP, if Dallas are going to rely on one player for their entire attack, are they much better than they were last season? At least Roland Lamah could bag you a goal or two from the left wing position and you could hoof it long to Cristian Colman and Michael Barrios just to see what will happen. 2019 Dallas doesn’t have anyone other than Barrios and Jesus Ferreira that have shown the ability to finish chances or create their own.

We’ve called for Dallas to have an attacking identity for a long time. Having an attacking identity makes sure games like this don’t happen. If you have an attacking identity you know what works for you and you can feel confident playing your game on the road. If you have an identity you don’t record 0 shots on target.

Dallas need to re-evaluate their dependence on individuals to carry their attack, especially when those players aren’t going to be around for very long.

Twumasi sighting

The former 11th pick made just his 2nd appearance for FCD in MLS-play last night. Ema Twumasi and Francis Atuahene were exciting draft picks, but have struggled to stay healthy and prove they’re first team quality. Which is a shame, because Dallas could really use some winger depth.

Twumasi didn’t make much of an impression in his 14 minutes, but it was reassuring to get him on the field. Santiago Mosquera hasn’t adapted his game to fit the system (try to take on a defender one on one again why don’t ya?), so I don’t mind seeing one of the Ghanaians getting a shot out on the left wing. At worst, if they just stay wide, then they’ll provide width that previous left-wingers haven’t been able to.

It’s a shame that I have to call Atuahene and Twumasi “the Ghanaians” because we haven’t seen enough of either of them to know exactly what kind of players they are. I’m sure they both differ in what they can offer the team. For example, Atuahene typically plays on the left and Twumasi the right. Start both of them in a 4-4-2 (or a 4-3-3), with Ferreira and Barrios up top and Carlos Gruezo and Bryan Acosta in the midfield and you have a team that should generate some chances. They aren’t going to play the possession-oriented, Real Betis-style that Luchi Gonzalez has tried to establish, but they’ll record a shot on goal.

Dallas may be starting to get desperate. Luchi has been running out a different lineup each week for a while now, whether it’s out of necessity or frustration— the results haven’t been stellar. Luchi, if you’re taking suggestions, why not run Twumasi or Atuahene out wide? Strong left-wing play could really change the way this team attacks and would open up a lot of space in the midfield for Acosta and Ferreira (and once he gets back, Paxton) to operate.

Sidebar: if you haven’t read this piece about the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana from which both Twumasi and Atuahene graduated—it’s shocking and you can’t help but cheer for the boys afterwards.

Redemption for Jacori

Early-season 2018 Jacori Hayes was a blast to watch. He popped up all over the pitch and would read the play perfectly to step in at just the right time, could confidently hold off defenders to retain possession, and could make an occasional incisive pass around the box. He looked like Dallas’ midfielder of the future. But a lot has changed since then. Not only his personal form, but Dallas brought in a DP to contest for that spot and Edwin Cerrillo has quickly proven he’s more than a depth signing.

In his cameos this season, Jacori hasn’t recaptured the magic that impressed us so much last season. But he put in a solid shift this week. It’s difficult to work out exactly how a midfield made up of him and Acosta should partition responsibilities because they’re similar players, regardless, Jacori put up impressive individual stats this week. His four tackles were the most of anyone on the field (tied with Steven Beitashour) and his three successful dribbles were the most of any FCD player.

If he can win the ball and cut through midfields like he did this week, Dallas’ poor form may come to an end next weekend.

What do you think Paxton’s price tag is? Would you care to wax poetic about what Dallas could be with a 20-goal-a-season striker? What are you drinking to keep from falling asleep these last few games? When will Dallas turn things around? Sound off in the comments!