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What we learned against the Seattle Sounders: How Thomas Roberts shakes up the team

Breaking down how Thomas Robert’s inclusion and Carlos Gruezo’s return made the difference for FCD.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas snapped their streak of poor form last night with the help of two own goals from the Seattle Sounders. Despite a lengthy weather delay and the absences of Paxton Pomykal and Edwin Cerrillo FCD grabbed three points for the first time since April 20th against Atlanta United.

Innovation or Necessity?

Luchi abandoned his traditional 4-3-3 in favor of a more Pareja-esque 4-2-3-1. Dallas had been struggling to make their three-man midfield work without Pomykal as he’s been away with international duty. Luchi changing formations is slightly surprising. He seems like a fairly idealistic and unpragmatic coach evidenced by his marriage to building possession out of the back despite considerable drawbacks to that strategy in many circumstances. Seeing him opt for a different formation that better suited the needs of the team is an indicator that he’s willing to be more flexible tactically.

The most surprising part of this shift is that it came in Pablo Aranguiz’s absence. Luchi has afforded Aranguiz plenty of opportunities thus far, although they’re often at his less-favored position on the left wing. But this week he decided to switch formations and install Thomas Roberts as the 10. A strong vote of confidence if there’s ever been one. Building the attack around Roberts helped give Dallas a clearer plan of attack while moving forward and they were able to generate a consistent flow of chances unlike anything we’ve seen in months.

T. Rob the Game Changer

It’s my unproven scientific theory that most teams play better with a 10. I’m generally hesitant to advocate for a 4-3-3 given how difficult it can be to get the balance in midfield correct. Liverpool have certainly pulled it off, but I don’t think FCD is there yet.

The thing about a 10 is that they’re by definition already located in a pretty dangerous part of the field. Attacks through the middle of the field are a lot more dangerous than anything coming from the wings because you can’t shoot from the wings. So by using Roberts as the focal point of the attack, Dallas were able to spend more time in possession in dangerous positions. In fact, Roberts served as a magnet that pulled the rest of the team centrally as well.

All of Dallas’ attacking players pinched inside
Player positions for FCD

If Dallas can continue to generate chances with a 10, then it’s going to be a hard decision about whether or not to go back to the 4-3-3 once Paxton and Cerrillo return.

Welcome Back, Carlos

After a lengthy spell out injured, Gruezo returned to the lineup. Perhaps his most overlooked contribution is that he frees up Bryan Acosta. Acosta not only did a better job of getting forward and playing a more creative and traditional box-to-box role, but in true box-to-box fashion he led the team in touches.

Gruezo doesn’t need to have a good weak to be one of the team’s most valuable contributors. His positioning and the attacking freedom he provides fullbacks and his midfield partners makes him one of Dallas’ most invaluable players.

How are you celebrating the win? How did you kill time during the rain delay? 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 for you? Is Dallas back or is this week a fluke? Tell me what you think in the comments and as always, thanks for reading.