What Are They All About? FC Dallas
Unacceptable. This past Wednesday the Chicago Fire dropped a result at home, losing 4-3 against the Philadelphia Union. The match was full of fireworks and was certainly fun to watch for neutrals but Chicago’s inability to close out matches surfaced once again as they allowed Philly’s winning tally a little more than a minute after equalizing in stoppage time. Poor defending, a lack of creativity outside of Katai’s individual brilliance, and the absence of quality depth were the other factors that lead the hosts to trail on four occasions throughout the encounter as a sparsely filled stadium booed the result at the final whistle.
Additionally, while other teams in the league now have the ability to add appropriate reinforcements to their squads, Chicago is once again reliant on the approach of signing free agents from lower divisions hoping that they pan out on bargains. The arrival of Argentine center back Nico del Grecco fits this model and the former Torneo Federal A player will be looking to make an impact once his visa clears. He certainly can’t be much worse than what is on offer currently, but it is going to be a long season if these are the types of additions fans can expect.
Extra emphasis for urgency will be added this Saturday as Chicago takes on Western Conference leader FC Dallas in Texas (7:00 CT ESPN+), a match that is not looking hopeful for the visitors. Oscar Pareja and his charges play beautiful attacking soccer at a high speed, just the style that Chicago has struggled against all season. Matches are coming thick and fast in July but if the Fire continue to drop points at the rate that they have, their playoff hopes could very well be over before the leaves in the Windy City change color. Will they be able to salvage something from their away encounter, or will it be more of the same from Chicago? Let’s see what’s in store for the Men in Red.
Dallas Form Guide (all competitions): L-W-W-L-L
Previous Result: A 2-0 away loss to Real Salt Lake.
Formation: 4-3-3; Gonzalez; Reaves, Ziegler, Hedges, Cannon; Gruezo, Ulloa, Acosta, Twumasi, Akindele, Barrios
Strengths: You don’t get to the top of the Western Conference by accident. This Dallas side is lethal on a number of levels and have the defensive ability to shut down matches once they are in the lead. Let’s see where they might succeed on Saturday.
The Trident of Doom: Dallas’ typical front three of Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti, and Mauro Diaz has been phenomenal all season. Speed, lethal finishing, undeniable chemistry, and understanding of Pareja’s system, and a sheer will to win have resulted in fifteen goals and fourteen assists from that trio. Although Diaz is now plying his trade for Al-Ahli (more on that later), the plug and play style of FC Dallas ensures that whoever fits into his spot has the potential to succeed as well.
Squad Depth: In MLS, the most successful teams are not only good in terms of their starting eleven, they also have a deep bench. Long travel, grueling weather, a ten-month season, and the physical style of the league means that the entire squad must have the ability to step in when needed. Dallas’ success in recent years has revolved around Fernando Clavijo’s ability to navigate MLS roster rules and his utilize his extensive Latin American connections to build a complete roster.
As an example, in their recent loss to RSL, Pareja was able to rest his regular starters after eight matches in just over thirty days while still fielding a competitive side. In the end they were a few RSL goal line clearances away from earning a result using their B team; a luxury that other MLS sides dream of. It means that their typical eleven will be fresh and ready to go at home against Chicago.
Mandatory Water Breaks Won’t Help You Here: Although Toyota Stadium in Frisco has its own attendance problems, they certainly don’t have any issues with results. FC Dallas is undefeated at home this season and whether it is the hot conditions, the comfort of Dallas playing at home, or just some good old-fashioned MLS voodoo, that stat doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.
Dropping like Flies: Injury woes have been the norm for the Fire this season and the disabled list grew again on Wednesday. The long-term absences of Michael DeLeeuw, Djordje Mihailovic, and Matt Polster continue while Patrick McLain, Luis Solignac, Grant Lillard, Rafael Ramos, and now Kevin Ellis join them on the short-term injury list. With just twenty-one eligible players and a potential stretch of seven matches in July, things are not looking good for this Chicago side.
Weaknesses: They may be at the top of the West, but this FC Dallas side has lost three of its last five encounters and has shown various weaknesses in those matches. Let’s see where they might struggle on Saturday.
Dubai, Mauro!: While Pareja’s system seems to be flawless on paper, tactics and formations are only as good as the players that put them into effect. Mauro Diaz’s departure to Al-Ahli Dubai has been met with mixed emotions in terms of what it might allow Dallas to do in the future with renewed cap-space, but the on-field cost of his absence has been all too visible.
As negotiations with Al-Ahli Dubai were ongoing (beginning sometime in mid-June), Diaz did not feature in the match day squad. In that time, Dallas has lost three of their last five matches, including being ousted from the US Open Cup, a competition that has had a particular meaning for Dallas in recent seasons. Chicago will be hoping that they are catching Dallas at the right time as the hosts continue to figure out how to play without a player that could change the course of a match in an instant.
Prediction: This Fire side lacks consistency, defensive cohesion, and the mental strength to stay in matches against better opposition. This one won’t be pretty. Dallas 4-1 Chicago. Take your pick for the hosts, Katai for the visitors.