FC Dallas held on for a much needed road point against Real Salt Lake last night. While it’s just a solitary point, it’s also two points that they prevented RSL from gaining. Only four points separate Dallas from 10th place Houston, and RSL is only three points behind Dallas too. Draws on the road, especially against Western Conference teams is still gold and keeps Dallas within two points of climbing into fourth place to host a playoff game.
However, despite the positives in the outcome Dallas’ offense has reached non-existent levels. Since Dallas’ three game winning streak, they’ve since gone 1-3-3 with just three goals scored during that seven game stretch.
Hats off to Maurer (and the goalposts)
Jimmy Maurer’s done an exceptional job as the starting keeper for FC Dallas season. There’ve been few bright spots from this 2020 campaign, and certainly keeper play has been one of them. Maurer’s G-xG (according to American Soccer Analysis) is -1.50. He’s conceded 11 goals, but based on the advanced stats, should’ve conceded 12.50. All this means is that he’s keeping more shots out of the net than expected, which is good.
As a team, despite having 24 shot attempts last night, only three were on target for Real Salt Lake and RSL’s xG from the game was 1.49. Obviously the goal posts (all three of them) did aid in the effort, but when called upon Maurer stepped up and made the big saves without coughing up a bad rebound.
Santos and Tessmann ran their butts off
It’s a little strange to highlight the defensive efforts from the Dallas midfield when they gave up so many shots but it’s pretty impressive when you look at the chart and see the amount of coverage they provided.
This is still a bit of a head scratcher in terms of analysis. More doesn’t necessarily equal better. Former FC Dallas homegrown Victor Ulloa would specialize in this and be a prime example of less is more. For a player like Ulloa, he would read the plays so well that he would cover the passing lanes and therefore not get any defensive actions because he wasn’t forced into action. No or very few defensive actions could also mean that the player was so ineffective in their role that they couldn’t disrupt enough plays.
Real Salt Lake did have the bulk of the possession and Dallas needed to get in there to break up plays, something Santos and Tessmann have the physical abilities to naturally do so. This would’ve been more impressive had these resulted in fewer shot attempts at Maurer, but they did put in a very solid shift, at altitude and on a congested schedule.
Time to get ugly on offense
There’ve been some rumblings, and rightfully so, about what exactly has happened to “Luchi Ball” where Luchi Gonzalez boldly claimed after his first match as head coach that he wanted this team to possess and pass the 700 pass mark. Dallas hasn’t been close to that mark at all in 2020 and to be fair, 2020 has been bananas for Dallas given the outbreak of COVID-19 tests during the Orlando trip, the injury to Paxton Pomykal and the unexpected need to transfer Zdenek Ondrasek. Reggie Cannon is also missed, but his departure was expected and they had carefully gotten Bryan Reynolds ready for this moment.
But Dallas’ xG against RSL was 0.53, just an abysmal number as they managed just two shot attempts against RSL in the first half. Look at the shot attempts below and while Dallas did create a few opportunities, the frequency of those chances were just too far and in between to matter.
As we covered earlier, Dallas is in a serious scoring slump - though I’m starting to hesitate to call it that and perhaps these lulls are what this team is actually capable of. This team hasn’t been able to find their identity on the offensive end, or have refused to embrace it. With the season they’ve had; the injuries and exits, Dallas isn’t built to play that possession style that Luchi wanted from early 2019. This team is still just at their best when they choose to go at it on the counter and let the front three interweave and attack at top speed.
On paper, they have the player they need to pull the strings in Andres Ricaurte, who has the vision and the passing range to get the counter launched with just one touch but with two games every week, Dallas has no time to establish that in practice.
There are, at most, four games left in the season and Dallas has to find a way to get some goals in those competitions. Without the luxury of time and repetition, I think it might be time to just let the players get into attacking positions and do their best to draw a foul and try to get a decent set piece opportunity. It’s ugly soccer but better than losing or not scoring at all.