With FC Dallas set for formation switch, fullbacks preparing for more work, more fun

Kellyn Acosta in action against the LA Galaxy

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USA Today Sports

FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas’ fullbacks could soon be in store for a lot more involvement in the offense. If the club makes the anticipated switch to a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, the entire shape of Dallas’ attack will change.

“What ends up happening [in the diamond] is the outside midfielders will have the responsibility of really being tucked in, [they] will be a little bit more central with the responsibility of going out where before, they were out trying to come in,” head coach Schellas Hyndman explained on Wednesday. “The biggest responsibility will  be on the defending side because now what you’re going to give up is the flanks.”

This translates into a lot more movement up and down the pitch for the fullbacks, who will be trying to create space and serve balls into the box from the outside while defending service back in their own end. Kellyn Acosta, who played both right and left fullback (in addition to defensive midfield) against the LA Galaxy last weekend, says playing as an outside back in a diamond is a lot more work for his position, but it can also be a lot more fun.

“A fullback has more of a role to get up and down the field more often because in a diamond, [the midfielders] are more central, so that flank is wide open for fullbacks,” Acosta told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “It’s an opportunity for myself to get forward and create chances for my teammates.”

With regular starter Zach Loyd not with the team for their two-match road trip on the West Coast due to a knee injury, Acosta is likely to see a lot of time at right back in Portland this Saturday (11 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) and then in Southern California against Chivas USA next Wednesday. The young Homegrown signing and US U-20 national team player says he looks to Barcelona’s attack-minded fullback Dani Alves for inspiration when playing that position.

Michel's natural position is left back and he agrees with Acosta that playing fullback in the diamond 4-4-2 can create space for them to make more attacking runs, but they also have to be cognizant of counterattacks because of the more open flanks. He says that’s where newcomer Erick can show his quality on the pitch.

“Erick’s a great [holding] midfielder,” Michel explained through an interpreter. "What he does best is stay in a defensive position and we didn’t really have that before, a true defensive midfielder. It gives us more confidence going up, knowing that Erick’s in that position."

Michel had seemingly fallen out of favor with Hyndman after being pulled at halftime of FCD’s draw with the Montreal Impact on July 20 and then did not start the subsequent two matches. Hyndman emphasized that the issues with Michel had nothing to do with a rift between the two, but that they were more to do with the 31-year-old’s fitness. 

The Brazilian admitted that not being used to the unforgiving Texas heat was a factor in his recent tiredness, but he feels that he has worked through those issues in training and the workout room. He came on at halftime of the Galaxy match and served two free kicks that ended up going into the back of the net, displaying once again the value he brings to the squad.

“Yes, absolutely it showed the importance of having him on the field that we’re back into scoring on set pieces,” said Hyndman. “I think it was a combination of getting him back on the field with great services and also our attacking players.”