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What we learned in FC Dallas’ 3-1 victory over Cincinnati

FC Dallas can’t do better than Ryan Hollingshead. Seriously, try us.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at FC Dallas Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas beat FC Cincinnati 3-1 at Toyota Stadium with the help of goals from Ryan Hollingshead, Michael Barrios, and Zdenek Ondrasek . The match was the first entry in what is sure to be an appreciated cross-conference match-up for years to come for FC Dallas fans, as well as arguably the best rivalry in MLS. There’s plenty to like about the scoreline and the three points, but how about the on-field product?

Making sense of Ryan Hollingshead

I have not hesitated to acknowledge my past condemnations of Ryan Hollingshead. He hasn’t always had a great touch or final ball, but he’s stolen the show this season. When I think back on Luchi’s first year, I’ll remember Ryan Hollinsghead being a one-man left wing perhaps even more so than Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira, and Brandon Servania all stepping smoothly into the first team. I’m even coming around to a take that I have long found unpalatable: Ho-Head is USMNT material.

I have a hunch that he could be an interior designer, because he just gets space. He has a great understanding with whoever his attacking partner is. He doesn’t hesitate to drift inside or overlap, and despite contributing offensively, he’s rarely caught out of position. These are all great characteristics to have as a left back, but what about being the team’s leading scorer? He’s only one goal off Ferreira. Is this something to be celebrated or indicative of a weak attack?

It has to be both. Turnover in attacking personnel and generally not having any dominant finishers on the roster has left Dallas with many low-volume goal scorers. While this has the statistical effect of allowing Ryan to have the second highest tally on the team with a six, the more important effect is how the team has shaped their tactics to accommodate the absence of a premier striker.

Dallas don’t seek to play through anyone. They were heavily reliant on Paxton early in the season, but this team doesn’t have any point guard. There’s no one in the eleven that is relied on to create a disproportionate share of attacking chances. Instead of attacking through Mauro Diaz centrally, Fabian Castillo on the left wing, or Barrios on the right Dallas builds slowly, pushes numbers forward then uses any player available to work the ball into the box. If you’re a space savant like Hollingshead, that means you become very important to the attack when you’re consistently putting yourself in the right place.

I don’t expect Hollingshead to be the second top-scorer again, but his production is here to stay. While we want to get younger, it’s going to be difficult to find someone that works in Luchi’s as well as Ryan.

Confidence play

There were a few brief passages last night that were some of the best soccer Dallas has played all season. Individual skills like Dominque Badji’s turn, Servania’s ball winning and retention ability, and a few of Ferreira’s passes were sprinkled on top of intricate interplay that let Dallas dominate the stat sheet in terms of possession and shots. While the dedication to building out of the back gave Cinci a few looks that they wouldn’t have had otherwise, but as a fan I’ll take the showmanship of risky passing at the risk of losing possession.

The team averaged 2.67 goals per game in August. With Cobra scoring, this is FCD at their offensive hottest of the season and it’s a joy to watch. Not only are their positive implications for the attack next season, but if we keep churning out goals the way we have been recently then Dallas’ season may be over later than we anticipated. Next week’s away game against Chicago represents improved competition and should be a modest challenge for the in-form attack.

Stat spotlight

  • Ondrasek placed all four of his shots on target
  • Dallas managed 17 shots for the second straight week
  • Paxton recorded two key passes in 23 minutes
  • Ferreira is converting 42% of his shots on target into goals (Vela is at 45%)
  • FC Dallas have not allowed more than 3 goals all season

Anything to report from a comfortable game? Was the weather as nice as Owen Newkirk kept saying it was? Is Cobra going to keep it up?