Episodes Archive

FC Dallas vs Nashville 8/12: Tactical Analysis

FC Dallas returned to play on Wednesday night for the first time since March 7th and suffered their first home loss in 13 matches. It was a match to forget for the Frisco side, but some sloppiness was to be expected and can (and probably should) be forgiven, given the circumstances. The frustrating thing for fans is that, with Luchi Gonzalez’ men working to maintain possession but not creating many meaningful chances, the match felt all too familiar.

On the back of that frustration, I want to take a deep dive into what FC Dallas was attempting to accomplish tactically last night, and where it broke down.

3-5-1-1: Different Formation, Same Philosophy

Dan Crooke over at 3rd Degree explained a lot of the minutiae of “3 at the back”, but the general idea is this: Adding an extra CB allows for greater flexibility for your Fullbacks/Wingbacks while also allowing for more bodies in the middle of the field at any given moment.

It’s not a surprise that Gonzalez set the team up this way. They were set to introduce the new formation against NYCFC the week the world shut down. It also wasn’t all that much different in philosophy from any other structural setup he’s used. They want to build from the back, have intentional possession, and systematically create scoring opportunities.

Because the buildup and possession is so intentional there’s also a lot of moving pieces, so bear with me…

Against Nashville, Coach Gonzalez positioned Santos and Acosta in front of the 3 CBs, with the 2 of them switching between defensive responsibilities. Once the team gained possession and started to build from the back, Santos would move into the space just behind Nashville’s forwards. The CBs main goal was to try to get him the ball. Whenever Nashville cut off that option, the CBs would cycle between themselves or even over to a FB/WB to try and draw the defender out of that passing lane. Most often, in the first half, this outlet was Reggie Cannon. 

In the first half, when receiving the ball from the other defensemen, he would either immediately pass back to Bressan/Hedges, or dribble a little bit to attract attention from Nashville players, and then pass back for the CBs to try and work the ball into Santos.

Once receiving the ball from the back line Santos then had a few options, but the main goal was to work the ball to Jesus Ferriera who was occupying the central space in between Nashville’s CBs and their midfield. He could either pass directly to Ferriera or hit Acosta to try and draw the defenders out of the lanes and space around Ferriera.

The next step in the progression was to push the ball out wider via Barrios or Hollingshead (who played more advanced than Cannon during this phase of the match) to pick on Nashville’s RB Brayan Beckeles before attempting to find new guy Franco Jara in the box.

Mo Possession, Mo Problems

Ultimately, the way FC Dallas wanted to attack broke down far too often and not many really good chances were generated. This is not new for them, but what is new is how it broke down.

In previous matches (most of 2019) the main issue Luchi Gonzalez faced in creating chances was simply progressing the ball through midfield. Frequently, teams were able to cut off passing lanes which meant that FC Dallas wasn’t able to move the ball up the field into the space around the opponent’s midfield. 

So far in 2020 Gonzalez has managed to figure out ways to start that progression and get the ball into the opponent’s half more often. For example, against Philadelphia they used long vertical balls to penetrate the defense. Even against Nashville on Wednesday Dallas was able to frequently get the ball well into the opponent’s defensive half.

However, that’s where the progression petered out on Wednesday. FC Dallas was really good about finding Jesus Ferreira in the space behind the Nashville midfielders, but once the defense collapsed on him he was plagued by a lack of creativity to create space and options for himself and by a simple lack of execution.

I’d be inclined to chalk it up to that “return to sharpness” that keeps getting talked about by coaches and players, except for the fact that this has been an issue with Ferriera playing in that position for awhile. This is not meant to disparage Jesus Ferriera in any way. He just hasn’t adapted to this role well. It’s just not who he is. (This is why I fully expect Andrés Ricaurte to be expected to compete for this role and not for a deeper lying one)

Acosta’s Back

Aside from his well documented tendency to take really…hopeful… shots from outside of the box, Bryan Acosta’s return to the team after missing the first 2 games of the season was problematic for another reason. It was his first match alongside Thiago Santos.

There were multiple times where miscommunication from Acosta and Santos created HUGE spaces in front of Matt Hedges and the other CBs and left them very exposed to being punished by turnovers playing the ball out of the back. In a “double-pivot” scenario, the two interchange over responsibilities depending upon game state, ball position, opponent position, etc. There were times in the match where it looked like there was confusion over who was responsible for staying home defensively and who was helping elsewhere on the pitch.

Abandoning The Middle

Shortly after halftime as the substitutions began to roll in, FC Dallas changed its plan of attack. Most people will point to the change in formation (as Ziegler yielded to Cobra), but the shift started around 20 min earlier. Rather than attempting to penetrate the defense through the middle of the pitch, the team began working the ball up the sidelines more. It seemed like every substitution brought with it a greater focus on wide play and less focus on the center of the pitch…to the point where by the time FC Dallas conceded a goal and were chasing the game, their buildup literally made a square from the centerline, down each sideline, and across the opponents 18 yard box.

Coach Gonzalez said in the postgame press conference that he thinks the team created more chances after the shift. And it’s true. They were more threatening when playing down the sidelines, and here’s why: their most creative players (Paxton Pomykal, Ryan Hollingshead…yes, Hollingshead) and longest running tandems (Reggie Cannon interplaying with Michael Barrios) were playing on the sides.


There’s an idiom in sports that is used by pundits and coaches alike. “We have to find a way to get our playmakers more involved”. It certainly appears to be applicable in Frisco at the moment. Luchi Gonzalez said after the match that “the foundations and the intentions on how we want to play are there. That last little detail is the hardest part. We have to add ingredients to reward ourselves.” Those fine margins are the intangibles that can take a good game-plan and make it a great game-plan. Its the difference between an attack falling apart just before it becomes dangerous and being a constant threat in possession. They’ll get another chance at it on Sunday as Nashville returns to Toyota Stadium.

Match Buildup: FC Dallas vs Nashville (x2!) with Nico Mendez

Nico Mendez of 3rd Degree and Dallas Sports Nation joins Dustin and Jonathan to preview both matches in FC Dallas’ return to play against Nashville.

They also talk about the schedule, rules, and protocols that MLS and FC Dallas have adopted as they look to restart the regular season, as well as some news on the personnel side with the departure of Jesse Gonzalez and a potential replacement!

North Texas SC Preview with Matt Denny and Garrett Melcer

North Texas SC General Manager, Matt Denny, and Media Coordinator Garrett Melcer join Dustin and Jonathan to preview the USL-1 season that kicks off on Saturday!

Garrett shares some of his experiences in Orlando, Matt discusses life at NTSC since COVID, and they both discuss players to watch out for and some of the new faces in the squad!

#MLSisBack Preview! with Cheyenne Foster

Dustin, Tristan, and Jonathan are joined by Cheyenne Foster (@btwncleansheets) to talk about FC Dallas’ COVID-19 outbreak and preview the MLSisBack Tournament.

What’s the format? What’s at stake? What groups should we pay attention to? Who has a good shot at winning?

All these questions answered, and MORE!

How To Watch Soccer: Tactics – with Joseph Lowery

Soccer is a game of chess played on a grass field and won by the thinnest of margins. There’s going to be A LOT of MLS on TV in July, so Joseph Lowery of the MLSAssist Podcast drops by to educate Dustin (and you) in how to watch soccer with an eye on tactics.

Jesse Gonzalez Suspended Indefinitely! Plus: News Roundup

MLS and FC Dallas announced the indefinte suspension of GK Jesse Gonzalez on Friday due to allegations of domestic abuse.

Dustin and Jonathan break down what we know about that situation, as well as talk over the recent FC Dallas COVID announcements and the league’s return to play in July in Orlando.

MLS Constitution – Player Misconduct (SABH)

Sidekicks Happy Hour with Juan Gamboa and Freddy Moojen

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WxsMe6iRyG0

Dustin and Jonathan are joined by Dallas Sidekicks goalkeeper Juan Gamboa (@elbrody1) and forward Frederico Moojen (@FredMoojen) for a chat about life in the MASL and at the Dallas Sidekicks.


Juan Gamboa -Gometta GK glove line

Freddy Moojen – Montreal College Showcase

Meeting Jimmy Maurer (an interview)

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/GXKX1RP6QBY

Jimmy Maurer took a break from family, training, studying for an MBA, and working out to chat with Dustin and Jonathan.

They talked a little about shelter-in-place life and a lot about Jimmy’s journey to Dallas.

What MLS keepers did he take lessons with? Who was his GK coach as a kid in Atlanta? How close was he to signing with Oscar Pareja in Colorado? How many times has he watched the HGTV episode he was on in Chile?

All this and much more!

Lower League Happy Hour with Michael Hitchcock, Damon Gochneaur, and Jonathan Collura

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cveMWsXgChA

Dustin and Jonathan are joined by Michael Hitchcock (@hitchnewbiz) of the Ft Worth Vaqueros, Jonathan Collura (@JonathnCollura) of Bugeaters FC, and Damon Gochneaur (@DamonGochneaur) for a drink and some lower league soccer chat.

This conversation has everything from English pro/rel scenarios, to FC Dallas concept kits, to development philosophies!


Michael Hitchcock – Kick COVID19 local giftcard giveways

Jonathan Collura – 100% of all online club shop sales to the Omaha COVID-19 Response Fund

Damon Gochneaur -Eastside Denton, Serve Denton, Denton Community Food Center

Virtual Happy Hour with Mark Followill, Steve Davis, and Jon Arnold

Dustin and Jonathan met up (virtually) with FC Dallas TV personalities Mark Followill and Steve Davis, as well as with columnist and CONCACAF expert Jon Arnold for a Happy Hour!

Grab a bevy, kick back, and take your mind off of things with some of the biggest soccer brains in DFW (and Dustin).

This episode was recorded as a YouTube LiveStream that can be found here: youtu.be/RSTxUr6kVFU


Jon Arnold’s “Get CONCACAFed” newsletter: https://getconcacafed.substack.com/

Mark Followill’s Go Fund Me for helping broadcast support staff: https://www.gofundme.com/f/dfw-sports-television-broadcast-freelancers