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FC Dallas looking for offensive spark after two consecutive shutouts

Luchi Gonzalez wants his team to play more direct and not let opponents get settled defensively.

Aug 3, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges (24) and defender Bressan (4) react during the second half against the Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 3, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges (24) and defender Bressan (4) react during the second half against the Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

FRISCO, Texas — Offensively, it’s not been a strong 2019 for FC Dallas.

With the second-fewest goals allowed in Major League Soccer, Dallas’ defense has been holding up well. However, FCD’s offense ranks fifth in goals scored in the league, ahead of FC Cincinnati, the Columbus Crew, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and the LA Galaxy.

The team struggles in the final third despite the play of winger Michael Barrios, who sits ninth in expected assists (xA) per 96 in open play among MLS players who’ve played 1000 minutes. His number is just above that of Los Angeles FC’s Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, yet Dallas sits at the bottom of the Western Conference in expected goals per match, with only Vancouver and Real Salt Lake worse, according to American Soccer Analysis.

With the team has been shut out in three of its past four matches, the burden is felt by those tasked with creating the attacks.

“It’s frustrating,” midfielder Paxton Pomykal said. “Part of my responsibility is to get guys in opportunities to score goals and myself to score goals and get on the scoresheet. It’s frustrating to be shut out in three of our last four games. It’s frustrating to go to Orlando and play the way we did personally and as a team. This week in training, we’re working hard, and this team bounces back.”

Head coach Luchi Gonzalez wants the attack to be diverse and not just oriented on having the ball and passing through a defense. He wants a variety of methods and knows the team can’t lose track of the overall objective of scoring a goal.

“I think when you have the ball, it’s important that you don’t limit yourself to just scoring when the opposition is organized and in the low blocks because they get a lot of numbers behind the ball or in the box,” Gonzalez said. “So, it’s important that just because we want to dominate the ball, we don’t lose the ability to score and hurt with open space and counters and transitions. In fact, some of our best goals have been when we don’t have the ball and transition. It wasn’t that we made 20 passes. Some of the goals have been from winning the ball in a lower block and countering into open space.”

 While Dallas often dictates possession, Gonzalez implied that he wants the team to play more direct, skipping lines to prevent the defense from getting set.

“I think we’re giving the opposition too much time to set, to organize,” Gonzalez said. “It’s ball speed, passing rhythm and taking advantage of open space and being more aggressive. We’re developing through our experience, especially from Orlando, to be free during the attack. Let’s take more risks, let’s get numbers forward, let’s go for it. You can’t force that. It has to come naturally, but like I said, we’ve yet to show our best. We’ve yet to show our best. I look forward to showing our best.”

Even with the recent shutouts, the team is not worrying. Sitting two points above the Portland Timbers, who have two games in hand, for the seventh and final playoff spot, Dallas knows that it just needs results.

“I don’t think we need to look too much into it,” Pomykal said. “It’s not like we’re on a seven-, eight-game losing streak. There’s no reason to panic. We’re in a good spot right now and we’ve progressed this year and we’ve played a lot better football from the beginning of the year.

“For myself, I just need to continue that. I need to try and get on the ball more, be in more dangerous positions. In the Orlando game, we played a lot better when me and Jesús [Ferreira] got higher up the field and we left Jacori [Hayes] alone back there, and I think that’s something we need to do more of this week: be occupying the right spaces. For myself, that’s very important.”

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