WHAT WE LEARNED: Three Takeaways from FC Dallas' 1-0 Loss to Columbus Crew SC

FRISCO - Coming off the first loss of 2019, FC Dallas has plenty to take away from their trip to Columbus. Let’s dive into just a few.

TWO HALVES

Dallas and Columbus both like to own the ball to dictate the game and press high to win it back when they don’t. In the opening minutes in Ohio, FCD struggled with a taste of its own medicine.

Over the first five minutes, Dallas was pinned deep in their own half, able to connect just one pass into the opposing half of the field. Over the next 10, they were able to grow into the match and find more frequency in Columbus’ end and then build from there over the remainder of the opening half.

LEFT: FCD Passes First 5 mins; MIDDLE: FCD Passes 5-15 mins; RIGHT: FCD Passes 15-45 mins

As a whole, though, FCD was largely unable to penetrate the final third through the first 45 minutes.

In the second half, largely as Dallas began to send numbers forward, the chances became more frequent - tripling the shot output from one half to the other.

CHASING THE GAME

For the first time this season, Dallas found itself trailing in a match and chasing a result in the second half. It was also the first time we’ve seen a shift away from the 4-3-3 that was used rigorously through the opening five halves of the year.

Luchi Gonzalez brought on Jesus Ferreira for Santiago Mosquera in the 70th minute and then John Nelson for Marquinhos Pedroso four minutes later. The Homegrown Ferreira occupied space in the attacking midfield while Michael Barrios moved up top alongside Dominique Badji at forward. Nelson and Ryan Hollingshead were pushed further up the flanks as Carlos Gruezo sat deeper in the middle without the ball, joining Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler in essentially three-man backline of a 3-5-2 shape.

The deeper role Ferreira played showed yet another element to the 17-year-old’s game as a creator. Look no further than this deft little touch into the box off a free kick late in the match. If someone's there to connect on a header, it could've been one of the best assists of the year. 

If he continues to impress and it’s not too far off base to suggest he could be in line for a start in the coming weeks if the scoring continues to be frustrated at goal.

Over the final stretch, Pablo Aranguiz came on for Bryan Acosta for a final dose of attacking spark and Dallas came close on several chances to netting the equalizer.

Aranguiz had easily his best showing of the year - preseason or otherwise - in just eight minutes plus stoppage of action. The Chilean led the entire team in crosses for the match with six, four of them coming in open play from the right. It’s just the performance he needed to keep his name near the top of the list for the attacking roles, despite Dallas playing without his usual true No. 10.

MIDFIELD DOMINANCE

Through the last two weeks of play, no midfielder in MLS has been more dominant regaining possession than Carlos Gruezo. Against the LA Galaxy at home, the 23-year-old (yes, somehow Gruezo is still just 23 years old) won the ball back 15 times and followed it up this weekend in Columbus with another 12 to his name - most of them coming in the second half as Dallas committed more numbers forward and left Gruezo’s job all the more crucial.

LEFT: Gruezo's first half tackles, interceptions and recoveries; RIGHT: Gruezo's second half tackles, interceptions and recoveries

To date, through three games, the midfielder has won possession 34 times, topped only by Atlanta defender Leondro Gonzalez Pirez with 36. In a system relying heavily on the No. 6 role to be able to play with dual 8s higher up the field in Bryan Acosta and Paxton Pomykal, Gruezo could be one of the single-most important assets FCD has had through the opening three weeks. Looking ahead to Saturday’s match against Colorado, it’s a big role to fill for either Edwin Cerrillo or Brandon Servania as Gruezo earns time with the Ecuadorian National Team.

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