FRISCO - FC Dallas returns home from its own tactical shift in last week’s win over Atlanta facing another week of preparation for a unique approach - this time though, not one of their own doing.
As the San Jose Earthquakes come to Frisco for the first of two meetings on the year, Luchi Gonzalez and his staff are preparing their players to deal with the rare man-marking style of play that Matias Almeyda and the Quakes have found success in over the last few weeks.
“They'll close down time and space from our players,” the head coach said as FCD works on how to play against a man-marking look this week in training. “We just have to move smart and move well and synchronize our movements so that we can create space for each other in our build play, in our penetration and our attack.”
“Man marking is different. Not a lot of teams do that,” Dominique Badji added, looking to make his return from a hamstring injury that’s kept him sidelined for the last month. “But if we execute correctly and stick to Luchi's game plan, we're definitely going to create a lot of spaces. We have the ability to do that if they want to stay man-to-man and exploit them behind and definitely create a lot of chances.”
The onus for FCD this weekend will largely come in the midfield, with time and space becoming a rarer commodity. As MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle explained out this week, Anibal Godoy and Jackson Yueill are essentially non-factors in the Quakes’ attack, instead finding a sole purpose of winning the ball back defensively in the middle.
With a San Jose shirt set to follow each player’s movement as Dallas begins its build play, rather than taking ownership of a certain area on the field in a zonal approach, off-ball movements become crucial in finding space for an outlet pass. It’s a commitment that, if schemed against correctly, FCD feels they can take advantage of.
“I think winning your duels is very, very important in a man-to-man team because ultimately if you beat your guy and you win your duel, then someone else is going to have to break off their guy and that creates space,” said Paxton Pomykal, who is quickly becoming one of the most fouled players in MLS with his play over the opening two months. “When you beat your first guy, that's going to open up opportunities for us to go forward and break them down. I think our 1v1 battles in the midfield are going to be important.”
“We know every team is going to come in our stadium and be hungry for more, just like we are,” midfielder Edwin Cerrillo said. “We're going to take it game-by-game and come out with that same mentality of getting three points at home here against San Jose.”
FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes kick off Saturday at 2:30CT on Univision, Twitter, FCDallas.com/Radio and 1270AM