FRISCO - It was a banner day for the FC Dallas Homegrown movement, but what else did we learn from Saturday's 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake? Let's dive right in.
PASSING WITH A PURPOSE
In Salt Lake, Dallas had its best night of the season with highs in passes (688), accuracy (88.52%) and, most importantly, successful passes in the opposing half (262) - 80 more than the average over the first four matches.
Yes, playing the majority of the match up a man gave the visitors a heavy advantage, but it’s a trend that continues to dominate MLS.
We know that Luchi Ball, as it’s come to be known, relies on passes and increased possession. Through the opening month of the season, FC Dallas has completed 500 more passes than any other team in the league with 3,131 over five matches. Not only is FCD passing more, they’re completing them at a higher rate than anyone else at 86.27 percent.
Possession is nothing without chances at goal - something that also trends in the right direction for Luchi & Co. In consecutive weeks, the team has put up its highest totals to date in shots (15 vs. COL, 12 vs. RSL), shots on target (6 vs. COL and RSL) and shots from inside the 18 (11 vs. COL, 8 vs. RSL).
Now showcasing more danger in the final third over the last two matches, it’s all coming together as the calendar turns to April.
It’s hard not to write about Paxton Pomykal when the Homegrown continues to take his game to another level week after week. What was already expected to be an important year for the 19 year old is now showing early signs of a breakout campaign.
Yes, Pomykal scored his first two MLS goals in Utah, but his stellar road performance goes so much further than that. He had twice as many duels (20) as any Dallas player, made six tackles and won a game-high three fouls.
Just look at No. 19 winning the ball back in the opening seconds of the match leading up to Carlos Gruezo’s opener just 45 seconds in:
Over the last four matches, Pomykal has asserted himself as a starter in the midfield and continues to be perhaps the most important piece for FCD in that part of the field, despite Gruezo’s standard effectiveness. The flexibility to play the 10 as he did Saturday, the 6 role he played last week against the Rapids, the dual 8 role he played in weeks prior and even moving out to the wing late in matches shows why he’s the most exciting young player to watch in MLS.
I don’t know how he can top his latest performance, but I won’t be the least bit surprised when he does.
It’s easy to be high on the team after a dominating road performance, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on the one area of concern for Gonzalez and his staff: goals allowed off set pieces.
On Saturday, Marcelo Silva’s header off a corner was the third goal allowed off of a set piece this season. Gonzalez will tell you in reality it’s 3.5 goals, as Carles Gil’s strike in the season opener was off a second ball originating from another set piece. Either way you count it, no other team has allowed more than two goals from set pieces.
When you’ve allowed 12 goals, 3.5 off of set plays isn’t horrible. When you’ve allowed just five as Dallas has this season, 3.5 is cause for concern. In 450 minutes of action, allowing just one run-of-play goal showcases some stellar defending and organizational shape across the majority of matches. If they can clean up the dead-ball woes, the FCD defense will again be one of the league’s best.