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What we learned in the 3-3 draw with the Montreal Impact

We’re still in this.

MLS: FC Dallas at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s game was one for the season memory bank. It was a wild ride that saw FC Dallas erase a three goal deficit to tie the Montreal Impact. Despite only earning one point, the team showed a fighting spirit that every fan loves to see.

It’s going to be close

Dallas have a few games in hand on most of their western conference competitors. With LAFC clinching the first playoff spot, crunch time is upon us. The pressure is high on this young team and it has only been made higher by Luchi stating his ambitions for the playoffs (read into that however much you want).

Last season it took 49 points to be above the red line. Dallas are currently at 37 with seven more games to play. The next two are very winnable home games against Houston and Cincinnati. Things get more complicated with a road trip with stop in Chicago and Seattle. You can play the magic number game, but as a fan and as a player you have to focus on what you can control. Dallas can’t afford to look past anyone right now and has to take the rest of the season one game at a time. Each game is more meaningful as the season begins to wrap up, can the kids take the pressure? Did the off-season departures make the team mentally stronger? We’ll find out in the next few weeks. This is why we watch.

Rethinking the attack

Neither side looked efficient last night, but Dallas’ attack looked especially threadbare. They weren’t properly supported by the defense, but regardless, no primary attacking threat emerged. By starting Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal, Dallas are now fielding two players that are capable of being playmakers in the center of the pitch. However, neither have played, or even attempted, killer balls into the box. I’ve thought it was a personnel problem for a long time. Dallas haven’t had a true 10 very often this season, but for a while, Paxton was able to fill that attacking niche. But it’s time to realize that’s now how this team is built.

Dallas are going to continue to build through the wings. That’s where the space is, so as a team that aims to keep possession, the ball often finds its way there. Dominque Badji’s runs are better suited to be linked up with when they’re made instead of building slowly then hitting him in the box. Given his positioning, he isn’t on the field to score goals. He’s there to support the rest of the attack. He’s struggled in this role at times and often doesn’t link up with the rest of the attack. I’m not confident that he’s Dallas’ best bet at striker going into next season (that’s hardly a hot take, but we’ll leave that discussion for the off-season).

If Badji isn’t playing striker, and no one is playing balls into the box, where are the goals going to come from? As we’ve seen this season: everyone. Seven players registered key passes last night and no player had more than one. Ryan Hollingshead could very well end up Dallas’ highest goal scorer this season. We’re just going to have to get used to it. This attack isn’t built for a 20-goal-a-season striker even if we had one. Looking on the bright side: it spreads the celebrations around some.

Using Reto right

Ziegler attempted lots of cross field passes to Barrios on the right wing
Ziegler’s passing chart against Montreal

Reto Ziegler has a hell of a left leg, if you didn’t already know that thumping penalty kick should have made you aware. We’ve seen Dallas try these cross field passes in previous seasons with Maynor Figueroa, but this game Luchi seemed to give Reto the green light to let them rip. With Barrios’ speed, it only makes sense. It isn’t slow building, but it gets Barrios in behind and can catch defenses disorganized. As Luchi experiments with what works and what doesn’t, I’d expect to see more of these direct passes, especially on the road.

Reto has the ability to split defenses with his passing, so it only makes sense to let him use it when it isn’t breaking up the flow of the attack. While it wasn’t particularly effective last night, I hope to see more of it. “Reto’s cross-field pass finds the feet of Barrios; he’s in behind his man; he’s got Badji near post; he gets a foot on it; and Dallas scores!” Sounds pretty good to me.

Has the team convinced you of its “warrior” mentality lately? Do you miss Urruti? What’s your prediction for the rest of the season’s results? What’s our magic number?