FC Dallas are one of the top two teams in MLS. Despite their current standing in MLS — third in the West, tied with the Dynamo — they are among the favorites to win MLS Cup and possibly stay in contention for the Supporters’ Shield, a race dominated by red-hot Toronto FC. Games in hand and the eventual return of their best player, Mauro Diaz, will likely move Dallas back to their rightful place atop the conference.
The Houston Dynamo, attempting to solidify themselves as, at the very least, playoff contenders, lost twice last week on the road to Eastern Conference foes. They are now 0-5 on the road this season. They face FCD in Frisco on Sunday in Houston’s first nationally televised game of the season.
A crowded schedule and a couple of bad results will weaken the Dynamo’s Texas rivals, but they remain a formidable, tactically-sound opponent with a diverse group of talented players.
The Dynamo’s primary weakness is their lack of ability to create quality opportunities from possession. Aside from unorganized pressing at speed and incisive counter attacks relying on consistently high positioning from the wingers, they are unable to score goals from open play. Teams game-plan against this and that’s why Houston struggle on the road.
FC Dallas’s M.O. this season has been tight, condensed play at the back and attacks through wingers bombing forward, dogged press from Maxi Urruti, overlapping full backs, and late runs from Kellyn Acosta. Without Mauro Diaz, their No. 10, this is Oscar Pareja’s plan B, and it’s worked exceptionally well considering the circumstances.
Combating teams that play like this is not something the Dynamo have done well this season. It forces them to break out of their shell and take possession of the ball, and when this happens, they get less room on the counter. They are unable to attack the way they want.
Thus, the obvious key for the Dynamo against Dallas is to do better in possession and force FCD to break out by scoring early. This means they may have to shift the wingers back and to create passing options for the midfielders which will put more of an onus on the striker to drop back and hold-up play.
Creating possession in soccer means creating passing lanes and to do that many teams in the modern game attempt to form triangles of players. If you watched Barcelona in the tiki-taka era (or, like me, YouTube videos on it), you will realize that their movement of players creates triangles all over the field, allowing a multitude of passing options to be formed when any player has the ball. Here’s a screenshot from the video I linked to:
If you can ignore the grammatical error, the triangles are pretty clear to see. This is the tactical basis for possession.
No, the Dynamo don’t have Andres Iniesta or Xavi or Lionel Messi, and no, I’m not expecting them to go full tiki-taka. But they have to start creating better passing angles, and the way to do this is to look closely at the movement of every player and figure out how to make it more efficient in connecting lines and breaking down the opposition.
This sequence from the Atlanta game is a good example. It’s a good spell of possession for the Dynamo, but their inability to connect the lines and move the ball up the field is evident:
Long sequence of Dynamo possession vs Atlanta. One of the best stretches they had that game, but inability to find forward options evident. pic.twitter.com/rUG9PgbUVO— Harrison Hamm (@harrisonhamm21) May 26, 2017
They have to get better at this before they can start winning on the road. Teams have them figured out, and now it’s time for Wilmer Cabrera to counter.