After two games against LACF in the span of a week, FC Dallas gets back in to action on the road in Vancouver. The Whitecaps come into this one with 14 points, having won three, drawn five and lost six games this season are in ninth place in the Western Conference. After two disappointing results last week, Dallas now has 18 points with five wins, three draws and five losses and are in 6th place in the West.
It’s deja vu again - another week, another team integrating a new coach and a new system. With Vancouver, the new coach is Marc Dos Santos, most recently coach of NASL team San Francisco Deltas. Dos Santos’ resume shows nothing but success everywhere he has gone. He has guided teams in Canada, Brazil, and the United States, at every level, to championships. But he’s got his work cut-out for him in Vancouver. In total, Vancouver has brought in 15 new players since last season, while offloading 21! The good new is Dos Santos basically gets a brand-new team to work with; the bad new is that it’s basically a brand new team to MLS. The Whitecaps have started to look better over the past few weeks but have not found their offense thus far. Although they’ve conceded 18 goals (dead middle of the league) they have only scored 14 goals through 14 games. And lest you think that’s one per game - well, kind of, sort of, not really as they’ve been shut out five times and have scored more than one goal in four games. In other words, 65% of their goal scoring has come in 30% of their games.
Everything starts up top with Fredy Montero. The Colombian has four goals and an assist on the season. Montero has always been very consistent with his goal scoring in MLS, averaging 12 goals in his five previous seasons (four with Seattle from 2009-2012). Although, that’s not prolific by any stretch, consistency can help teams plan and build. Vancouver’s problem this season is finding more pieces with which they can build. Their second leading scorer is center back Doneil Henry, with two goals. Finding more options in attack needs to be priority number one during the summer transfer window. Lass Bangoura was brought in during the winter to help fortify the wings, but he’s only started six games and has only one goal and one assist on the season. He’s also been hit with injuries, meaning Victor Giro (traded for in December from Orlando) will probably start on the left wing. On the other wing, yet another new face is Lucas Venuto who came over in January from Austria Wein. The Brazilian has a nice resume, including stints at RB Leipzig, and Europa League experience, but he’s yet to make much of an impact this season, with only one goal from nine shots.
Same story different player with South Korean midfielder Inbeom Hwang. The new young DP has contributed just 1g/1a on the season but has been forced to move around the formation filling in for injuries and searching for his best role. To be fair to Hwang, he’s averaging 1.3 key passes per game, most on the team, and is generally left to carry much of the creative burden. His midfield partner Russell Teibert is a steady if unspectacular metronome and box to box type. He has only one assist on the season but completes almost 90% of his passes and does plenty of work coming back in defense. Backing up those two is new signing (number five for those keeping track at home) Jon Erice from Spain. The holding midfielder is averaging about two tackles per game but offers little going forward.
To the back line we go where yet another new player (#6) has been one of the few bright spots so far. Loan signing Ali Adnan (from Seria A club Udinese) has contributed two assists on the season and has averaged the highest match rating on the team – a seven according to WhoScored. He’s provided a strong attacking presence from left fullback, averaging 1.6 shots per game (11 games played) which is third on the team behind Montero and Hwang. Centerback, and second leading scorer, Doneil Henry will miss this one due to injury so look for possibly Andy Rose or Derek Cornelious to partner with loanee Erik Godoy at centerback and Jake Nerwinski at right fullback. Minding the net is Vancouver’s seventh(!) new starter, goal keeper Maxime Crepeau.
The key principles of a 4-3-3 are about using width from the wingers to create space for the attack. Fullbacks, such as Adnan, can overlap the wingers to get behind the back line and send crosses and cutbacks to players lurking in and around the box. But to be really dangerous, teams have to create from the middle of the field and that has been Vancouver’s problem. Hwang is alone in the offensive creation department and the attack is toothless. Look for Dallas to take advantage of this by being aggressive in attack, sending numbers forward and holding possession for long stretches as they prod the Vancouver back line.
Key Matchup: Jesus Ferreira vs Erik Godoy
Ferreira (or Bryan Reynolds or Zdenek Ondrasek) is going to need to step up and deliver against the Vancouver defense. Although they aren’t super stout, the back line is easily the strength of this Vancouver team. With possession most likely favoring Dallas, the strikers should have plenty of bites at the apple. Putting in a goal or two practically seals three points against the Whitecaps and Ferreira is Dallas’ best chance at that.
Three Keys to the Game:
1. Reignite the Attack – Dallas hasn’t scored more than one goal in a game in over a month. Finding a way to create and finish chances has been tough against some of the best teams in the league (and San Jose, sadly). But Vancouver represents an opportunity to dominate possession and throw numbers forward to try and solve this problem.
2. Young Guns Again – Last week saw another Dallas youngster make a debut in Bryan Reynolds. Reynold could fill in on the wing or play up top as a striker. Jon Nelson continues to get run at full back and may get a start this week, depending on if Ryan Hollingshead moves up to the wing. We also had an Ema Twumasi sighting last week as well. With Matt Hedges serving suspension, might we even see 2019 1st Round Draft pick Callum Montgomery see some time? There should be lots of chances for these young players to make an impact and earn a larger role going forward. Let see if any of them take it.
3. Defensive Solidarity – Speaking of Hedges suspension, Bresson will most likely get the start. He has looked good in his time on the field so far, but always as part of a back three. If we revert to a four-man back line it will be a new test for the defense to pass.
I know Dallas has not won a game in a month. I know we haven’t scored more than one goal in a game in a month. I know Vancouver comes in having claimed eight points from their last five games while we have mustered only two in the same time. I don’t care. Dallas should comfortably possess the ball most of the game. They needn’t worry much about counterattacks and should be able to contain the few attacking options Vancouver does have. We aren’t in must-win territory but breaking a bad run of form while still in playoff position is important. With few options for reinforcements until the summer transfer window, this is prove-it time for a few players on the roster and I expect them to deliver this week against a very beatable opponent. Put me down for a 2-0 Dallas win.