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Scratching the Chalkboard: Lethargic Play Doomed Dallas

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More frustration as Dallas continues to use the 5-3-2 formation.

MLS: Nashville SC at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas dropped all the points as the regular season restart against Nashville went horribly wrong. Dallas looked very much the part of a team that hadn’t played a competitive match in 5 months and gave Nashville their first MLS win in club history.

Is the 5-3-2 really the best option?

Dallas has talked about using the 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2) for some time during the shut down and honestly, I expected a little more with such a prolonged time to train and practice as a unit. Dallas looked terribly flat and lethargic for the first 45 minutes.

Nashville came out predictably very compact and didn’t give Dallas any spaces to operate, begging Dallas to play hurried and to hit on the counter. Dallas did recover quickly after being forced to turn the ball over, but never turned them into anything other than a possession exercise. This was most evident in the first half when Dallas owned over 60% of the possession yet found no joy in the attacking third.

FC Dallas passing chart in first half vs NSH

It didn’t look like the team was raring to go, or a team that was frustrated they couldn’t participate in the MLS is Back Tournament. It looked like a team that was still trying to figure things out.

FC Dallas passing chart in 2nd half vs NSH

Things did shift much more positively in the second half as Dallas brought in Paxton Pomykal and Ricardo Pepi to generate more off ball movement. More on Paxton later.

What’s confusing is the way Luchi deploys the 5-3-2 is typically done in a fashion against teams where the opposition will want to possess. The 5-3-2 as a baseline formation gives Dallas the flexibility to absorb pressure and hit on the counter, but it doesn’t bear the same effectiveness when the opposition is happy to cede the possession over.

Our good friend Mohammad said it best.

Can Pomykal get healthy?

I was high on Paxton in 2019 as the team’s MVP and that Dallas ceiling is whatever Pomykal can deliver for this team. This Dallas team is built around letting him make things happen and getting him on the ball as much as possible. The problem though was after the U20 World Cup, the wear and tear of the heavy work load started to show and Pomykal ended 2020 in a bit of downward trajectory and even found himself on the bench behind fellow homegrown Jesus Ferreira.

Pomykal’s passing chart vs NSH

In 31 minutes of action, Pomykal dramatically changed the way Dallas attacked as he was the aggressor and initiator. Dallas has the luxury of bringing him off the bench when the midfield play is stagnant but why was Pomykal in the bench to begin with?

Surely Pomykal’s style of play is contributing to the pain and injuries, as he consistently puts his body in the way so the bigger picture is what can he do off the field to keep his body healthy? Paxton’s got the skills, the humility and the passion to be a dominant force. Let’s just hope his body will also cooperate.

Shameful and embarrassing

No, this isn’t about the players but rather the “fans” that had the audacity to boo when the players took a knee to say American citizens are being targeted and abused and we should all be paying attention and demanding for change.

Reggie Cannon said it best.

Let’s be very clear about this: PLAYERS ARE NOT PROTESTING THE ANTHEM OR THE FLAG.

This wasn’t part of the TV broadcast, so I had no idea this happened prior to the game. It was utterly and completely inexcusable for such disregard for people’s humanity.

Reggie Cannon should be a source of pride for FC Dallas and its fans. A homegrown, an outstanding gentleman and positive human in the community. When he knelt, he was saying, “Hey, people who look like me are being targeted and attacked. Did you know that? Did you know I’m being harassed and abused? One of your own.” To boo players kneeling, to boo Reggie is is nothing short of reprehensible.