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What we learned against Houston Dynamo

Dallas are in good position for a playoff run

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas had their game of the year against the Houston Dynamo—winning 3-0. The result clinched their playoff birth and means Dallas retains El Capitan.

Sitting pretty

Not only have Dallas clinched a playoff spot, but they players that they need to are getting hot. In MLS playoffs almost anything can happen. In MLS playoffs in 2020 anything can happen. So Dallas getting hot isn’t just a chance to save face and give fans a reason to be optimistic next season, they’re going to cause trouble for their playoff competitor.

Andres Ricaurte, while he missed a couple of goals, had a fantastic assist, Fafa Picault scored his first goals since August, and Franco Jara is building up a head of steam. This is all to say, exactly what Dallas needed to happen is happening.

The questions are, how far can Luchi’s tactics take them and how much of this performance was a result of Houston’s poor play?

Let’s start with the first one. In Luchi’s first foray into the playoffs, his team took the eventual MLS Cup Winners 120 minutes in a 4-3 shootout in Seattle.

FCD’s lineup vs Seattle in the 2019

Remember this lineup? We have 8/11 starters still on the team, which is a great sign. But we also see that Luchi felt like he had a trick up his sleeve by moving Reggie Cannon to the wing. In the context of this game, I can’t complain. But damn if I’m not still shaken from Oscar Pareja’s poorly timed transitions to three in the back. Does Luchi have any tricks like this for 2020? He has a lot of flexibility on the wings. He could easily start Ryan Hollingshead at left wing and John Nelson behind him or Bryan Reynolds on the right wing with the exact same back line.

The best thing that you can hope for is that he doesn’t need to change anything. If Dallas keep up their form and get a favorable matchup in the playoffs, like Sporting Kansas City or Minnesota United, both Dallas know well, then there shouldn’t be any reason to get tricky with the XI. But it can be hard not to get jittery when you feel that you’ve got a chance. We’re going to have to wait and see from Luchi, but he’s just as much an unknown variable as this team is.

Ricaurte and Ferreira

The lineup lists Ricaurte as a holding midfielder alongside Thiago Santos and puts Jesus Ferreira as the ten. While this wasn’t quite how it played out, having Ferreira ahead of Ricaurte created space for Ricaurte to work. Houston’s defense had to respect the threat of Ferreira’s presence and can’t afford to close down Ricaurte when he sits deeper. That gives him time and space to drop in dimes like this one.

Love for Santos

While Dallas’ attack has been hot and cold all season, the defense has been predictably solid. Part of that is Matt Hedges, of course, but the defensive stability that Santos provides shouldn’t be overlooked or discredited. He’s mobile, can pass his way out of trouble, has great instincts, and can dominate messy teams like Houston.

Thiago Santos defensive actions vs Houston

That’s all trick, no treat.

Going into the playoffs, Dallas need to have no reservations that they’re a team that gets their strength from their defense. They’re almost certainly going to be playing on the road, so there’s no shame in bunkering deep and getting your bearings for the first twenty (or more) minutes. With Picault heating up and Michael Barrios the ever present threat that he is, Dallas can make back lines uncomfortable on the counter with their speedy wing play and efficient striker. For Dallas, as long as they have Santos and Hedges in the back are always going to be playing the if game in attack.

  • How will the next two games affect your hopes for the team’s playoff chances? Will they at all?
  • Is Santos Dallas’ best new acquisition this season?