The season is underway for FC Dallas here as they picked up a scoreless draw on Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids. Normally, you celebrate a shutout and in some ways, we certainly should with the way Jimmy Maurer performed in goal. But this was a game that was frustrating on some levels for FC Dallas fans. Here are some items we learned from the opener and where it might take FC Dallas here as the season rolls on.
About that formation
When the lineup card came out showing a 3-4-3, we all kind of had similar thoughts. Is it going to be more of a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2? Is it going to allow the midfield more room to work? Will the back three be compact enough to handle any pressure? Is there going to be enough room out wide?
Yeah, there were loads of questions and by the end of the night, I think we had plenty of answers for it too. I think in some sense, the back three held up against what Colorado brought to the table in their 4-1-4-1 look that emphasized being out wide more. But the width of the field for FC Dallas was not really there for most of the night outside of what John Nelson and Jader Obrien brought. Everything else was stuck in the middle of the field until the final 10 minutes or so when FC Dallas mounted their final attack of the night as they looked for the game-winner.
We had a feeling based on the final preseason game a week ago in Houston that this formation and lineup could be a real thing for Luchi Gonzalez in 2021. It worked in Houston due to the roster that the Dynamo has at the moment (not a great one), but against a slightly better team like Colorado, it didn’t have the movement that we’re wanting and in some sense, the build-up play out of the back felt busted as well.
For things to go well in 2021, Gonzalez is going to have to figure out how to properly get Andres Ricaurte going in the attack. Saturday night, he was quiet, distant, and at times non-existing in the attack. The center midfield pairing with Bryan Acosta may have something to do with it but at the end of the day, I probably could count on one hand the number of times he was truly involved in the attack.
If you need a stat to really bring home how quiet of a night it was for him, look at his dribble numbers. Oh wait, there wasn’t any for him on Saturday meaning he didn’t take anyone on with success. That’s not great out of a playmaker. What about his passing on the night? It was better and while he did lead the team in the lovely expected assist (with a 0.52), it still didn’t provide the kind of spark that the team needed on the night.
About the kids
So the lineup came out and the first thing most noticed was the lack of a Homegrown player in it for Gonzalez. Yeah, none. A closer look did show that six of the eight players on the bench were, in fact, Homegrown players. Here is the kicker folks, get used to this in 2021. The competition is a bit higher for these guys, some of them are carrying injuries (looking at you Jesus Ferreira) and some are getting over injuries (Paxton Pomykal).
In some ways, this was bound to happen before long as FC Dallas has sold off some young stars and are trying to figure out where things go from here. They want to be a selling club but they also have the ambition to win titles too. It is a balance they’re trying to figure out and it may take some time and trial and error on the part of Gonzalez to get it right.
But let’s look at things here on Saturday night again. Gonzalez only used two of his five subs (so did Colorado for what it is worth), and Pomykal and Ricardo Pepi were the two used. Each brought some life to this game that saw FC Dallas flip the slowness of the second half on its head and actually brought the energy the game needed.
Will this carry over into San Jose this weekend? I hope so, maybe a formation shift to allow one or two of these HGPs back in the lineup is what is needed. Maybe a Tanner Tessman alongside Acosta in the midfield to help open up Ricarute.
Training will be interesting this week as FC Dallas looks to regroup here. Thankfully San Jose had a much worse start to their season than we did with a 2-1 loss to Houston on Friday.