7.24 Crucial 10 Minutes Article
USA Today

The Crucial 10 Minutes Holding FC Dallas Back

FRISCO – MLS Matchday Central host Bobby Warshaw recently praised FC Dallas as “one of the best teams in the West, maybe the best team other than LAFC” because of the team’s free-flowing style of play.

“When you watch this FC Dallas team play, the coordination they have between the players, the reading, the understanding, the movements, they’re a little higher than most other teams,” said Warshaw, a former MLS player.

If you catch a few minutes of FC Dallas’ gameplay, there’s a good chance you’ll agree with him. Dallas has displayed sequences of beautiful attacking soccer this season—making them one of the most watchable teams in the league. But the optics haven’t always translated into points in the standings; FC Dallas sits in sixth place in the Western Conference, fighting with a handful of teams for a coveted playoff position.

The root of the issue can be traced to the crucial, final 10 minutes of games.

Nine of the 26 goals Dallas has conceded have come after the 80th minute, and those scores have cost them dearly. Had those goals not been conceded, FCD would be 10 points better off and sitting in second place with 42 points, just four behind high-flying LAFC.

“It’s about whether we can put a team away,” head coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “That’s always the challenge. We’ve done it well in Toronto, Salt Lake, we did in Kansas City [a 2-0 win]. That second goal was really important, and it could’ve been three.

“It’s good to push the opposition back, stretch their backline and make sure they’re still defending you.”

Ideally, Gonzalez’s approach to defending a lead is to continue to attack. Success, though, is dependent on the team capitalizing on those attacks—something that’s been a struggle at times. 

“At the end, we need to be putting away chances,” Gonzalez said. “Anytime a game is within reach, you concede late and the momentum can change. We’ve got some youth on the field, and they’re stepping up, but they don’t have 10 years of experience of closing out games—at least at the professional level. It’s all a process.”

But Gonzalez also is quick to highlight the benefits of a young roster full of hungry Homegrowns.

“We might be younger than the next team, but all of our young players have been through a lot of games at the Academy level, and youth international levels,” he said. “They know, they have the instincts. It’s not easy, and for me as a coach too, some decisions and tactical adjustments or subs, I’ve learned, too.”

Recent results show the positive side of that learning curve. This month, FCD earned two hard-fought 2-0 wins over D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City, and was able to maintain its level of play throughout the full 90 minutes.

“I think we’ve gained ground, but we have no time to relax or think that we can be satisfied,” Gonzalez said. “There’s no satisfaction here, the satisfaction is at the end of the season when you see who gets how far, and our goal is to get to playoffs, so we don’t have time to be satisfied."

“Are we growing and improving on it? I think yes.”