Things looked a little different for FC Dallas this past weekend.
Amid a long winless streak, head coach Schellas Hyndman made the anticipated switch to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield in Portland to shake things up. But what surprised many was that he put Young Designated Player Mauro Díaz at the top of the diamond and pushed captain David Ferreira (above right) out to the left flank.
This move was made because Díaz is still not fully match fit (he’s about 75 percent, according to Hyndman) and Ferreira was more capable of tracking back with Timbers players pushing forward from a wide position. While Ferreira definitely put in work on the defensive end (highlighted by a goal-line clearance), he had a hard time connecting with Díaz offensively.
The two creative midfielders found each other only once in the first half and combined seven times total in the game, an eventual 2-1 loss to Portland. Compare that with the 17 connections Díaz (below right) made with right midfielder Jackson.
Is this expected to be the norm for FC Dallas moving forward? Maybe not.
“It’s not the perfect place for David to help the team from there,” Hyndman told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday from Los Angeles, where FCD will face Chivas USA on Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“There was a lot of frustration because he wasn’t getting the touches on the ball and he worked awfully hard coming back. It’s hard to have two similar players play the same position when there’s only one [of that] position [on the field].”
Rather than sending the ball into Díaz in the middle, Ferreira fell into a pattern of finding overlapping fullback Michel and playing a two-man game on the left sideline. The two veterans passed to each other 16 times in the match, but did not often get the ball to the feet of FCD’s most creative players in dangerous positions. Of Dallas’ 13 attempts on goal, 10 came from the right half of the field, including the goal by Díaz.
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A telling statistic is that Ferreira, often the most fouled player in MLS and leading the league in fouls suffered again this season, was not fouled once against Portland. That can partially be explained by the change in position and the increased defensive responsibilities that came with it, but a player of Ferreira’s ability and his stature as a former MVP usually makes him a marked man wherever he is on the field.
“I think it’s that … he didn’t put himself in penetrating positions enough because he was having to run up and down the flanks,” explained Hyndman. “I think we’ve got to address those things, but it’s really one of the first times they’ve played that way.”