FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas have implemented a new look through the 2018 preseason, rolling out a 3-5-2 formation.
Oscar Pareja's new system didn’t exactly shine in its competitive debut, Dallas' stinging exit from the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night, but hopes remain high as the team adapts to the change.
The 3-2 win over Tauro FC was a pyrrhic victory for FCD, as it left the aggregate series drawn at 3-3 after last week’s 1-0 Tauro home win, with the Panamanian side advancing via the away-goals tiebreaker.
Dallas showed both promise and puzzlement with the new three-man back line. Second-year fullback and Homegrown academy product Reggie Cannon may have been brought up to play the FC Dallas way, but is learning that timing is crucial in the wingback position.
"You never know if he’s [right winger Michael Barrios] going to take it one-on-one or two-on-one," said Cannon postgame. "Basically I’m right-hand cover and I have to figure out when to go and when not to go, so that’s something I need to improve on in my game."
Newly-acquired center back Reto Ziegler may feel more pressure when the back line is reduced to three. But the Swiss is keen to focus on the positives from the added width against Tauro.
"[In the away leg] We tried to play through the middle and they were waiting for us," said Ziegler. "Today we tried to go up the sides and we had a lot of chances … I think this is our style now, to play on the sides."
To Ziegler's point, the addition of the 3-5-2 is about flexibility for Pareja, especially with a midfield-heavy roster.
"It [the 3-5-2] allowed me to accommodate more of the best players on the field and provide flexibility with those players," said Pareja. "Today with the frustration of the result, it becomes difficult to see it, or it can become blurry, but there was a lot that I liked from that formation.
"We used it against Cartagines [in preseason] and I thought it was our best game of the preseason. We used the same model against New England. I didn’t like it [then], but I knew there would be a time we would have to use it. Today was a day where we felt we could go around Tauro . . . That change in the model just gives you more space."
FCD owned more than 70 percent of possession on Wednesday, and completed more than double the passes of the Panamanian side. It remains to be seen how consistently that kind of advantage will lead to chances in front of goal; the team averaged a mere goal per game through the second half of last year, whiile conceding nearly twice that many.
After Dallas conceded two goals while caught shorthanded against counters, Cannon briefly spoke about the adaptation required to track back from the overlapping runs that are a key feature for wingbacks in the 3-5-2.
"I’ve just got to get used to the running, mentally prepare, and be ready for it," he said. "I’m getting there, I just have to ask people to be patient with me."