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FC Dallas vs Vancouver Whitecaps: Preview and Scouting Report

Vancouver is dealing with plenty of players out for this one.

MLS: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

A smashing success for the kids last game as FC Dallas won big against Toronto. Will the good vibes continue in a double game week? First up is Vancouver. The Whitecaps come in having drawn their last game and have four draws and a win in their last five. With 19 points, they are in 10th place in the Western Conference. After the win, Dallas is up to 4th place in the West, with 25 points and one ahead of Houston (who have three games in hand somehow).

Formation 4-3-3

It was 31 days ago, Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps squared off in their first match of the season. Although Dallas dominated the match (60% Possession, 20 Shots, 90% Pass Success), Vancouver picked up the three points as some dubious defending doomed the team. But my how things have changed. Through circumstance and preparation Dallas has come across a youthful starting XI that appears to have reinvigorated the club. With Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, Edwin Cerrillo, and Brandon Servania starting and Bryan Reynolds and Pepi coming off the bench, that’s six players age 20 or under all playing against Toronto. the chemistry between those former academy players was palpable. Oh, throw in Jesse Gonzalez and Reggie Cannon as the “old guys” and you can see the future being manifested in the present. But…BUT…as we saw in US Open Cup play, sometimes playing the youth is a recipe for inconsistency. As we start the second half of the season, will that inconsistency see Dallas’ summer roll like a roller coaster or will the kids grow quickly and lead Dallas towards a big post season surprise?

Vancouver has played just two games since the last meeting, both draws. One against Toronto ended 1-1 while the previously mentioned draw against Colorado ended 2-2. And like many MLS teams right now, Vancouver is dealing with multiple absences due to international duty. Starting goal keeper Maxime Crepeau is away with Canada at the Gold Cup, along with fellow Canadians Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius, and Russell Teibert. Dallas didn’t see Henry last game, but Crepeau has been big for Vancouver all season and Cornelius and Teibert are dependable options in the defense and midfield. That means most of the starting XI from last game (the one we took 20 shots in, remember) will be back for this one.

One player who Dallas didn’t get a look at, however, was winger Yordy Reyna. The left sided winger was injured last time but made his presence known in Vancouver’s most recent game with a stunning free kick to tie it up and earn a point. He’s a strong attacker who’s bought into his defensive duties and pairing him down the left flank with fullback Ali Adnan is a supremely dangerous combination. Fredy Montero will be up top again and most likely we will see Lucas Venuto on the right wing. Venuto scored Vancouver’s second goal last game, a well struck shot across the goal to the lower right side. These three attackers have combined for eight goals on the season, but Montero has six of those.

The midfield will also see at least one “new” face from last game. Felipe will take the spot of Teibert as a box to box type. He will take up position alongside Inbeom Hwang, who plays the more attack minded mid, while John Erice sets up in his defensive mid spot. Read enough Vancouver articles and its clear Erice and Hwang have been the signings of the season for the Whitecaps. Erice has become the steady defensive presence the team had been lacking and Hwang’s creativity has brought a dynamic option Vancouver could have used last season (and the season before, and the one before that, and…). Couple that with Hwang’s age (22) and his star status in his native South Korea, and Vancouver has a gem they can build the midfield around.

The back line will be mostly like last game, with Adnan, and Jakob Nerwinski as the full backs and Andy Rose and Erik Godoy playing in the center back positions. Vancouver came out in 5-3-2 formation that had and extra center back on the field last time, but I imagine with Reyna back, they will revert to a 4-3-3. Godoy has been rock solid all season, having played every minute of every game thus far. Rose, likewise, has started the last five games and played in 10 total. Neither can be discounted on set pieces, as they each have one goal, but they aren’t considered threats either. The threat resides on the left side with Adnan. His goal last game – where he took on and split Cannon and Michael Barrios at the edge of the box before firing in a ridiculous curler – was one of the best individual goals scored all season in the entire league. He loves to overlap and get into the attack. Frankly, although Dallas controlled much of the last game, they were lucky he went out in the first half due to injury. His combination play with Reyna and Hwang will be a barometer of success for Vancouver.

Like last game Vancouver was content to soak up much of Dallas’s possession and hit on the counter attack and I suspect will do the same thing now they are away from home. Venuto and Reyna both like to cut inside and allow the fullbacks to overlap. From there they get into the box to create opportunities for themselves and Montero. Hwang is creative in possession and in finding little pockets of space. He will look to do so again against the inexperienced Dallas midfield. But much like last game, Dallas will have plenty of possession. The difference in results will come down to finishing chances. (No duh, man!)

Key Matchup: Dominque Badji vs Jakob Nerwinski

Dom Badji is a pure poacher through and through. He may be starting on the left wing, but he rarely drops too far back in defensive help, staying fairly high up the field, and is always cutting toward the middle of the box. He literally stole the first goal last week from Ferreira by pouncing on the ball less than a yard away from the line. This also means he’s a nightmare on full backs. They can’t be content on tracking him out wide and cutting off crosses. Badji will slink in from the back side of the box and pop up in the gaps left between defenders or he will try to take his defender one on one into the box. If Nerwinski loses Badji, his hot streak might get Dallas three more points at home.

Three Keys to the Game

1. Keep Developing Chemistry – The young guys looked so good last week. Watching the game, it was clear they had a feel for where each of them would be. And they gave each other confidence that spilled over to the whole team. The chemistry they have now needs to spread to the veterans. Chemistry is a mix of things but being confident in the guy next to you and in his ability is the foundation for it. If the vets can see that the “kids” are good enough, it will elevate everyone’s performance.

2. Badji’s Hot Streak – He’s now scored three in his last three games (two vs. Toronto, one vs OKC) and looked dangerous multiple times more against Toronto. He’s a bit streaky but, like all streaky strikers, he can win you a few games during that fire period. Keep it rolling this week and Dallas will start climbing the standings soon enough.

3. Bressanelli – We need to give a special shout to Bressan for his terrific match last game. He shut down his flank and then popped up to score the second goal of the game. Now we need to give a shout to Bressan because Vancouver, with Reyna and Adnan, will be a whole different animal than Toronto. Bressan’s not the most…fleet of foot…shall we say, but he’s smart with his positioning. It’s going to be a tough night for him though and his defense may decide the game.

We’re all riding a high after tearing up Toronto. Although it was cool – by Texas in June standards – you could see the heat fatigue hit Toronto like a gut punch. The goals were the knockout to follow. Vancouver comes in having more rest than Toronto, and with fewer key players missing. But that shouldn’t stop Dallas from once again controlling this match and letting the Texas heat wear down a Canadian opponent. Also, fair warning, inconsistency is the name of the game with a youth movement. We get the highs like Toronto, but we also get the lows, like a US Open Cup loss to USL side New Mexico. Don’t be surprised by either. That said, I think a 2-0 win sounds about right. Vamos Hoops!