FRISCO, Texas– After a week of reflection, FC Dallas is hoping to move on from its 2-1 defeat against the Philadelphia Union last weekend and is eyeing a return to their attacking philosophies under coach Luchi Gonzalez.
Dallas only had 43.5 percent of possession, a season low and the opposite of what Gonzalez wants to see, during that match. The team did not have that issue in the 1-0 road loss against Columbus March 16, when it had 55 percent of possession and created opportunities late. FCD on average maintains 56 percent of the ball, the second most in MLS behind Atlanta United.
“I think the first half was more even,” Gonzalez said. “We created some good opportunities and had more of the ball, had better moments of pressure, played out of their pressure. And then the second half is where we have to be honest with ourselves and say, ‘Philly took it to us.’ That’s been the internal talk, and we don’t like that feeling.
“First half of the season, we weren’t able to completely have a good dictation with or without the ball. We need to know that even in an away venue like Philly, or whether it’s Atlanta, Portland, we have to be a little more stubborn and continue to attack and find spaces in behind the opponent and behind the lines, and getting the team up and putting the opposition under pressure. We dropped off early. We dropped off in the safe, defensive, low-block zones, and then we ended up having to do some other chasing.”
The lower block is evident through the average player position chart shown after the match. Dallas shifted ideology to deal with the Union press, which forced the team to lump the ball up the field instead of playing through the back.
“The idea going in during away trips is to play the same, but sometimes you have to adapt to how the game goes,” Paxton Pomykal said. “I think Philly, give all credit to them, they did a very good job to counter the way we play and counter our gameplan. Their 4-4-2, and we were not confident building out of the back as much as we should be, and the spacing, timing — it just wasn’t a complete performance from us.
“I think if you look at the positives of the game, we were good in the low block for a long time, but at the end of the day if you defend for 90 minutes straight you’re going to give up a goal eventually.”
With the lower block comes pressure. After Michael Barrios subbed off, Philly coach Jim Curtin elected to attack Dallas’ left side, going after rookie John Nelson and Ryan Hollingshead with Alejandro Bedoya playing as a wingback. The strategy worked. Bedoya scored the game-winner in the 91st minute.
“It’s always a tough situation to go there and implement your game, especially with a team that’s strong at home like Philly,” Reggie Cannon said. “We started feeling the pressure, especially in the second half. You saw it happen against New England, too, when the second half started; They started gaining momentum, getting free kicks, fouls, counters. We have to learn how to deal with that better. We can dominate the game. We get into this mode where we can build out of the back, we break the pressure, … We just can’t find that end product. They usually come back down our throats and kills us on the other side.”
For Dallas, the idea is to go back to what has made the team successful this season: possession and building from the back. The team has a chance to do that against a leaky Portland defense that has allowed 15 goals this season.
“We can’t sit back and defend for 80 minutes, or however many minutes we just sat back and defended last time,” Cannon said. “If we don’t press, we sit back and defend for 45 minutes, of course, they’re going to get a lucky chance.”