Tactical Analysis: FC Dallas vs Sporting Kansas City

FC Dallas hosted Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night after a weekend off due to a COVID outbreak with Minnesota United. From the start Peter Vermes’ side looked to frustrate FC Dallas, rather than outright going for the win. They obviously saw FC Dallas struggle against Houston’s bunker and looked to exploit the same weakness.

Thankfully for FC Dallas, it seems as if Luchi Gonzalez has also been working out ways to break down a compact, deep-lying defense. Let’s take a look at how they managed to finally create quality scoring chances and even score a goal against a defense set up like this.

Balls Into The Box From Deep

Luchi loves himself some methodical buildup play. Unfortunately, this allows defenses to get set up and become more compact as the ball progresses into their end, thus making it harder for FC Dallas to get the ball into dangerous areas. FC Dallas has routinely struggled to get meaningful penetration into bunkered defense. These teams willingfully scede possession on the perimeter of their defensive blocks, knowing that they’ve got the numbers inside the block to cut off passes and sufficiently mark FC Dallas’ attackers.

In the past we’ve seen Gonzalez’ men attempt to counter this by dropping Ricaurte deep to be a creative part of that methodical buildup. However, in this match we saw both him and Tanner Tessmann dropping deep and sending balls to runners into the box.

Skipping lines like this prevented SKC from being able to collapse and become super-compact before they had to defend. Targeting the box on those long passes, rather than the wings, also prevented SKC from being able to set up defensively. The result was FC Dallas attackers with chances to get the ball in dangerous areas with minimal resistance.

Did something always come from these long balls into the box? No, but continually taking the ball into the final 1/3rd via the wings becomes predictable and allows the defenders to cheat a little bit — shifting to the side a little bit here and anticipating passing lanes there, being one-dimensional just makes things harder. Anything you can add to the arsenal to keep defenses honest is a good thing.

Overloading the Box

Another tactic that FC Dallas used to help break down the SKC bunker (and the one that ultimately provided the break-through) was getting an overwhelming number of players actually into the box to provide targets for the playmakers on the wings.

All too often, FC Dallas either has all of the players standing around the edge of the box waiting for some sort of cut-back pass, or they just have Jara in the box by himself with too many players committed to overloading the wings.

But towards the end of the 1st half, something amazing started happening. When crosses would come in from the wings, there were more FC Dallas players in the box than the defenders could handle!

You saw it again just a few minutes later, resulting in a Ryan Hollingshead goal. The buildup on the wings and the cross will get all the hype, but instead of watching the ball, watch it again and keep an eye on the box. FC Dallas committed enough players (4 again!) into the box that all SKC defenders were tied up marking them, allowing Hollingshead to slip into the box on the backside, unmarked, just in time for Bryan Reynolds to pick him out with the cross.

That having been said, FC Dallas was also vulnerable to this tactic as they looked to hold onto the lead late in the game. It’s a balancing act between bringing midfielders into the box to mark players, and opening up too much space in the dangerous areas just outside of the box.

Love Song to Tanner Tessmann 

This was arguably my favorite match from Tanner Tessmann yet. He got the start in the #6 position (Central Defensive Midfielder), presumably to give Thiago Santos a rest, and he made the absolute most of it. Rather than describing it all or gushing over him, I present to you a collection of Tessmann moments that stood out to me during the match. They’ll do the talking.

This one was so fun, it made this article twice!

Tanner’s not a finished product by any means, but I’m excited to watch him keep growing as a professional!