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Scratching the Chalkboard: Saved By The Keeper

Gonzalez’ heroics give Dallas a much earned point

MLS: Los Angeles FC at FC Dallas Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas ended a challenging week with a home and away series against LAFC with a 1-1 draw at home. With an early red card shown to Matt Hedges in the second half, walking away with a point is a very good result, especially considering the opposition and all the injuries. You still want all three points at home, but sometimes circumstances force you to settle and you take what you can.

Dallas went back to their traditional four man back line, and the familiarity of it seemed to help keep things simple for the Dallas defense and to keep LAFC from putting up more than a solitary goal in net.

Jesse “Superman” Gonzalez

I don’t often write about goalkeepers in these articles for a variety of reasons.

  1. I don’t feel very comfortable analyzing keepers
  2. They generally, and I’m using this very loosely, don’t have much of a tactical role

But to not mention Gonzalez would seem criminal. So while I’m going out of my comfort zone here, it just feels right to highlight Gonzalez’ super human performance against LAFC.

LAFC shots vs FCD

Jesse Gonzalez faced 17 shots from LAFC, nine in the second half and two penalties, while managing to save one and nearly saving the second. Dallas should’ve lost both games to LAFC, and should’ve lost by a margin much larger than 3-1 over the two games. But it’s things like this that make it so hard to ignore his talent:

Once Matt Hedges picked up his red and Dallas were reduced to 10 men, my immediate thought went to this:

Jesse’s ability to time waste is notorious around the league, and once he started holding on to the ball, you could see Carlos Vela immediately hold up a hand and start counting with his fingers how long Jesse’s been stalling. Unfortunately for Vela and LAFC, this actually just helped Gonzalez and Dallas maximize the time and to not put himself in danger of getting a yellow. Once Vela and company got to five seconds, Jesse started his motion to distribute the ball. LAFC actually should’ve wanted Gonzalez to time waste early and to get the yellow, as Gonzalez would’ve been suspended for yellow card accumulation and, it would force Jesse to play faster and more hurried the rest of the game to avoid the second yellow. By counting for him, Gonzalez was able to properly manage the time and get Dallas out of the game with a result.

Gonzalez is often heralded as a premier shot stopper, especially on penalties. Did a quick look at his stats and he does have a strong case for being exceptional at PKs. Here are his stats compared to the best MLS keeper of all-time, Nick Rimando:

Nick Rimando: 84 PKs faced. 32 PK saves. 36% PK save percentage

Jesse Gonzalez: 14 PKs faced. 5 PK saves. 36% PK save percentage

*Note these are just regular season games, and do not include playoffs or that penalty shoot out against Seattle.

Do What You Know

After finding success with a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 or whatever you want to call it against Atlanta, Luchi Gonzalez tried to roll the dice again, hoping luck would strike twice earlier this week at LAFC. The result was... OK. Gonzalez didn’t have the right personnel to pull it off against a vastly superior side, and made the right adjustment of just going back to what his team knew: 4-3-3.

LAFC passing chart in 1st half vs FCD

Interestingly, with the players he has for the midfield, they are more comfortable running the triple pivot now than a double. Jacori Hayes and Bryan Acosta were pulled out of their positions all game on Wednesday, and with the adjustment of adding Pablo Aranguiz to the midfield helped them solidify their positioning.

Looking at the chart above, you’ll notice that for the first half, LAFC barely did anything inside Zone 14 (the space just outside the penalty area). Zone 14 was where LAFC feasted on Dallas on Thursday evening and Dallas had to change that to have any chance of getting forward.

Knowing Aranguiz was there to help too (and he did), gave Dallas an advantage in gumming up the midfield and launching counters. Hayes and Acosta did much of the defensive work and controlled the midfield well with their positioning and read of the game.

Hayes - Acosta defensive actions

Even though the 4-3-3 may be still a work in progress for this team, without a true DM to deploy, Gonzalez may have to resign to the fact that the triple pivot may be the best thing for this team moving forward.