FRISCO, Texas — After a difficult 2-1 loss in the Texas Derby, FC Dallas is hoping to flip a switch and gain three points this weekend, returning home to face off against the New York Red Bulls (1 p.m. EST, Univision).
Dallas thought it had tied the Dynamo in the last final seconds of the match with a finish from Santiago Mosquera off a free kick, but the goal was negated due to a foul called on Reto Ziegler. After a strong 2-1 victory in Atlanta, Dallas has failed to get a victory in its last two matches, struggling to break Matias Almeyda’s man-marking system and not able to cope with Houston’s lethal counter attack.
However, the team has a challenge against a strong Red Bulls side. Even though it is sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, the Red Bulls are a team that is known for its press and relentless pressure on its opponents, making life difficult on the ball. Pressing and high energy is an attribute that Dallas has emphasized as well, but that’s where the similarities end between the two teams.
“I actually see glaring opposites,” right back Reggie Cannon told Pro Soccer USA when asked if he saw any similarities between the two sides. “Red Bulls has the energy component in the high press but they’re also a team that doesn’t try to play very much. They’re a very direct team. That’s no slight against them, that’s just how they play.
“They can hurt you more in behind, rather than building and playing out of the back or using the third man bumps. They’re more direct, they’re looking for diagonal balls and those threatening runs in-behind and that’s what makes them such a good team right now. Teams aren’t really used to that threat in behind, they’re used to the guy in front of them.”
The Red Bulls do play differently than FCD — the team from New York has the third-least amount of possession in its own third, at 24 percent, compared to Dallas’ league-leading 34 percent.
“We’re similar in that we want to try and press and win the ball and be dynamic,” coach Luchi Gonzalez told Pro Soccer USA. “I’d say the big difference in us is we can pick a pause, and take care of the ball and be patient. I think we’re a more patient team. We look on our passes on average, I know there’s a few games that we’re not happy about, but on average our passing I’d think different but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.
“I respect the way Red Bulls plays and they’re effective in that way. They’ve done it for the last three to four years. I know that we’re gonna try and counter when we need to and be vertical when we need to — but we’re also going to try and be patient and build with clarity and try to find the right player in the right spaces.”
It is a tale of two different play styles. As Dallas builds, the Red Bulls will press, making it uncomfortable to build from the back. But when there is a philosophy in place, teams must stick to it, and that’s what FCD will do, even when it meets difficulty.
“We just stick to our game plan,” Cannon said. “Our game play can beat anyone and we’re just going to stick to our roots. We’re gonna utilize third-man bumps and they have a very aggressive and high press, the key is going to be finding that opposite side wing. It’s gonna be a very important component, especially on the offensive side, going into this game.
“They all squeeze into one side of the pitch and that’s the important thing. They’re flying three players at you, four players at you, and there’s always a free-man open. We’re just going to have to keep our head up and look for that free man, and not panic like they make other teams do, and that’s the tough part about playing Red Bulls.”
Gonzalez has been implementing his philosophy of modern-day soccer into this team in his early days as a manager. He sees improvements and tweaks he wants to make throughout his system, including pauses in play by possessing the ball to help promote energy in certain phases of the match.
“They like the ball,” Gonzalez said of his players. “Our fronts have had to learn to be a little more patient knowing that not every ball is going to be thrown in behind. We want to have a balance of possession with penetration but we also want to balance our freshness. If we’re going to have energy to transition and press well, we need to take care of the ball better throughout a game because if we’re just giving the ball away, we don’t have the energy, the freshness to press well. That catches up to you.
“I feel we’re understanding that better. It’s just taking time and training and taking experiences in the league, where we’ve had to go for the game or had to hold onto the game. We’re going to keep trying to build that foundation but then get a result too, whether it’s Atlanta away or here at home against New York. I feel good about where we are in our fundamentals but I know that our staff and the boys want to improve. They want to press to be more clear, more consistent, more together, but then it’s connected to the freshness. We need to have more spells of ball possession, better shape to possess the ball, players in the right position in the right times. It’s all connected in the way we want to play.”
A positive result for Dallas would be huge, as the team’s next matches are a home and home against LAFC next week. Going into playing arguably the best team in MLS would be a lot better with a win, something Gonzalez craves after a difficult result last week.
“This is a good challenge,” Gonzalez said. “Red Bulls is an effective team. Verticality, high tempo, skipping lines, trying to win second, third balls. It’s a no BS team but this is a game we want really badly, especially after that feeling after Houston at the end there. We want this game badly.”