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Scratching the Chalkboard: Tessmann impresses in debut

The depth of the FC Dallas midfield shined in home opener

MLS: Philadelphia Union at FC Dallas Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

It was chippy and oftentimes very disjointed, but at the end of the night, Dallas did what they needed to do and secured the three points at home to start the 2020 campaign. With a tougher than usual start to the season thanks to an early three game road trip, Dallas must take six points in the first two games no matter how ugly the soccer is.

Dallas is halfway through that mark, and will welcome Thierry Henry and former FC Dallas striker Maxi Urruti next weekend, but more on last night’s game first.

Midfield Depth

One area of incredible strength for FC Dallas has been the high quality of midfielders available at their disposal. Despite a couple of key injuries to Bryan Acosta and Brandon Servnia, Dallas was completely unfazed by the losses and had Homegrown Tanner Tessmann step up seamlessly into the starting lineup.

Tessmann signed his first professional contract two days prior to Saturday’s game and was a bit of a surprise starter. His smooth transition into the first time was a testament to Dallas’ First Team - Academy set up where there’s a direct line between the two “teams” in their training and connection with one another.

Tessmann’s passing chart vs PHI

This was my first real look at Tessmann in a full competitive setting and was very curious what skill set he brought to the table. He had received rave reviews as an athlete, but we all know that soccer is more than just pure athleticism. What stood out most to me was the 18 year old’s overall composure on the ball. Tessmann looked very comfortable with the ball in tight spaces and was able to use his 6’2” frame to fend off defenders.

His passing was not the sharpest at times and was a little loose than he probably wanted. But you can tell very early on that he has the vision and the skill set to unlock the defense, but it wasn’t all there for his first game.

Tessmann’s defensive actions vs PHI

Where Tessmann did shine brightest though was his defensive range. He took up good defensive positions and figured out very quickly how to line up well with Thiago Santos and where he needed to press and step up for the tackle. His 11 recoveries were the most by any player on the field yesterday evening and provided Dallas good coverage to disrupt the Union attack.

Getting out of the back

One thing that Luchi Gonzalez will look to shore up over the next few weeks will be the team’s play getting out of their own half. This was an area of strength last season but against the Union’s press, Dallas struggled to find their rhythms and the proper weight on their passes to get out of troubled spots throughout the game.

Union’s defensive actions vs FC Dallas

From the chart above, you can really see Philadelphia was really successful in pressing Dallas in their own half and forcing turnovers quickly. This will probably become a non-issue once Brandon Servania comes back from injury and Paxton Pomykal gets back to full fitness but in the interim, Dallas will need to make some adjustments to their passing lanes to make sure other teams don’t turn these into dangerous scoring opportunities.

First look at 3-5-2

If you’d been tracking with the team during the pre-season, you would’ve noticed that Dallas lined up very frequently in a 3-5-2 formation with Ryan Hollingshead and Reggie Cannon being converted into wingbacks. The consensus was that Luchi wanted this formation as a secondary option to deploy during certain situations and game states where it would help the team control the game.

(There’s also some of us wondering out loud whether the 3-5-2 will become the primary formation once Franco Jara arrives, but that’s for another article.)

Dallas made that shift around the 65th minute when Bressan was subbed on. Dallas had taken the lead at that point and were looking to throw a wrinkle into the game plan and make finding the equalizer harder for Jim Curtain’s Union side.

FCD’s passing chart using the 3-5-2 formation

Dallas was nurturing a lead, so naturally they would be absorbing more pressure and would be forced to hit the long ball more often. FCD was only able to generate two shots during the final third of the game, but thankfully one was that spectacular run from midfield by Pomykal that put the game away.

There’s nothing conclusive to get from this, but it was a good first look at what Luchi might do throughout the year.