MONDAY MAILBAG: Lessons From Saturday, Tactical Versatility, Goalkeeping Depth and More

FRISCO - Lots of good questions in the Mailbag this week, and one overarching theme - what is FC Dallas’ best look? Let’s dive into just a few points:

“Exciting lineup changes Saturday night which produced some fun soccer to watch. It was good to see Colman get some extended minutes. What did we learn from that lineup? What were the coaches’ thoughts on how they played together.” - Dave Kuite

Oscar Pareja spoke after the match about how that specific lineup was one to hit Philadelphia hard on the counter attack with four essentially forwards on the field. What did work, though was the combination of deep-threat wingers and an alternating playmaker-forward in Lamah playing higher up the field than say Maxi Urruti who is great at tracking back and sitting deeper. The new look created many quality chances, but still couldn’t find the back of the net, though FCD did tie a season-high 10 shots on target (only matched during an extended man-advantage vs. Seattle).

Late in the match, the team went back to a normal 4-2-3-1 look to close out the match and bring full-energy Maxi Urruti and Mauro Diaz on over the final half hour, eventually leading to both goals.

As far as what we learned, that remains to be seen. I think more than anything we saw that Dallas has even more options in an attacking look and still not a clear answer on who works best and where. I think it’s a step in the right direction with a target man up top (Colman) and an off-ball forward or playmaker (Lamah/Urruti), but I think we’ll continue to see a mix and match of looks going forward, especially as matchups are tailored for each individual opponent.

“Will we see a two-striker formation more often since we have a really strong back like with Hedges and Ziegler? And when can we expect to see Acosta even if it's a sub?” - Brandon Heyer

I do think the strength of the back line definitely helps the ability to play with the look further up the field. We saw two weeks ago against New England, a very defensive-minded 4-4-2 with the defensive midfielders staying deep as help for the back line. Later in the match, Carlos Gruezo came on for Urruti and Dallas went to a 4-1-4-1 that was even more defensive minded. This past weekend we saw a 4-4-2 that functioned more as a 4-2-4. For as much as the offense gets credit, this is a defense-first team. Pareja has said time and time again that they want to continually be better defensively. There’s an ability to move some focus to the offensive face like we’ve seen in different looks recently, but if it impacts the defensive shape, they will put more numbers back and take care of business there first and foremost.

“New keeper is not to be underestimated. Don't think I've seen judgement losses. The PK call was very lucky to get called. Urriti made it up though.” - Brent Gaynor

While more of a statement and not a question, I wanted to touch on this one for a very specific set of reasons. Yes, Jimmy Maurer should not be underestimated and has played phenomenal to start the year. Right now, he’s the league’s best goalkeeper. He deserves every accolade and credit for what he’s doing and his desire to continue keep getting better. He told us after the game that he was actually frustrated because he wasn’t as clean as he wanted to be over the final stretch of the game. That’s what you want from anyone in a starting role: the drive to get better.

On the other hand, Pareja knows there’s a looming question of ‘What happens when Jesse Gonzalez is healthy?’ We know there’s always the desire to play the best option in goal and that competition in training fuels growth, but Gonzalez is also the young future of this club in goal and was signed to a multi-year extension last year. It isn’t the first time he’s been supplanted by a veteran because of some unfortunate timing and otherwise, but if he is the man down the line, he needs to take ownership of that role. That is, after all, how he got the role to begin with way back in 2015. At some point, it’s going to be the topic conversation for not only the now, but the future.

The other point here is that luck is only a thing if you take advantage of it. Yes, the PK call might’ve been a little questionable, but regardless, Mauro Diaz converted his chance. Good teams make the most of their opportunities. Urruti simply provided the insurance of a much-needed converted opportunity.