FOXBOROUGH - FC Dallas went into New England with a game plan in mind, and it paid dividends for Oscar Pareja’s side as they earned a hard-fought 1-0 win on the road over the Revs.
Here’s what we learned from the match.
Compact at the Back
Coming into the night, FCD knew that the Revs likes to play a high-pressing system that put pressure on defenders with the ball. Against Dallas, however, New England’s pressure was to little effect. That’s because of the tactical awareness Pareja brought into the night playing Jacori Hayes, the team’s best dispossessing midfielder through four matches, and Victor Ulloa, making his first appearance on the year, but an exceptionally defensive-focused player.
Any time someone on the Dallas back line got the ball, one or both of the defensive midfield duo was right there in support and giving relief options to the defenders. The back six field players combined for 75 completed passes out of 101 attempts in their own half - not a high amount, but decent considering Dallas only had 37.5 percent possession in the match. What is more telling is looking at those 26 missed “passes” in their own end. Looking at the chart below, almost none of them were passes at all, but rather booting the ball long and far away from danger. The completed passes, by contrast, are almost all shorter outlet passes under pressure.
Unsuccessful passes from FCD's back six
The support the defensive midfielders provided all-but squashed the Revolution’s high press effectiveness and forced the home side off their original game plan. Coming into the match, I believe this was Pareja’s number one goal with his lineup.
The Great Wall of Lawrenceville
Through five matches now, Dallas has allowed a league-low three goals with their re-vamped back line. While the foursome has improved game-to-game, the man standing in goal behind them has taken ownership of the starting role.
Jimmy Maurer registered a season-best six saves against New England and now has 19 total on the season. His 86.36 save percentage is the best among goalkeepers with more than one start in 2018 and he’s tied for the best goals against average among regular starters with a rate of 0.60.
He’s making the saves at the big moments for his team and unless something changes, Maurer is the starting man for FCD in net.
Putting the Pieces Together
It was very clear that the attack was not the focus for Dallas on Saturday, opting as we talked about for a defensive-heavy shape. The chances Dallas did produce, however, were from increasingly threatening areas in their 4-4-2 look.
FCD shots vs. NE
Of the 11 shots taken by the visitors, 10 of them came from inside the 18-yard box - the highest percentage of shots inside the area in a match this season. While the traditional volume wasn’t there in the lowest shot total of the season, the quality was at it’s highest point with Cristian Colman (3 shots) as the lead striker and Maxi Urruti (2 shots) playing underneath. Neither, though, could find the back of the net.
That being said, it was an unusual game for Michael Barrios, who completed just three passes and didn’t seem comfortable in the formation without building possession in the middle and overlapping with Reggie Cannon. Roland Lamah, on the other hand, benefited from more space to cut to the middle behind the strikers rather than being kept out wide in a 4-2-3-1.
FCD key passes vs. NE
The question that continues to be raised week after week is how FCD can start converting their chances more than just once a game. And on top of that, now, is how they can best line up to be the most effective given their personnel.