FRISCO – Believe it or not, we’re already halfway through the 2017 MLS regular season as we hit the CONCACAF Gold Cup break. Alright, well just past halfway with the 18 of the 34 games played. This week, we’ll dive into the different aspects of the FC Dallas opening half, break out the red pens and assign grades in our Midseason Report Card.
I’m a firm believer in #InPapiWeTrust, and largely for good reason. It’s not always conventional, but there’s a reason he is the reigning MLS Coach of the Year.
From a player personal perspective, the first half of 2017 is pretty incredible to look back on:
Pareja has used 23 different lineups in 25 matches across all competitions.
Only three players have not seen time: Anibal Chala (injured/loaned), Adonijah Reid (ineligible until he’s 18) and Bryan Reynolds (U.S. U-17 Residency).
The team played most of the first half without their best player in Mauro Diaz.
Dallas navigated the grueling opening stretch of the schedule with CCL play while maintaining form in the Western Conference race.
Atiba Harris, a preseason hunch convert to center back, has played five matches with international duty and injuries playing heavily on the back line.
Homegrowns Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira have made names for themselves before they even graduate high school, while Reggie Cannon made waves in Open Cup play (all part of the larger #PlayYourKids movement).
While there were a good amount of points left up for grabs in the opening half, I think the larger goal of getting hot late and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t early on will only continue to prove more vital as the season wears on.
I think the only thing preventing a near-perfect first half from the defensive face is the fact they much of the last six weeks it has been without several key pieces. With Walker Zimmerman injured and Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa and Kellyn Acosta spending time on National Team duty, this is a defense that has used eight different back line looks in the last eight league matches. In that time, the club allowed 12 of the 18 goals its given up this year – still a pretty incredible feat but there’s room for improvement.
Overall, Dallas has allowed the second-fewest goals this season, but given the shutdown form to start the year allowing just one goal in the run of play in the first six games, this defense has more in it than recent weeks suggest.
Aside from the final two games before the Gold Cup break, the offense left something to be desired for FC Dallas. Through June, yes, Maxi Urruti was already having an incredible season with nine goals, but outside of the Argentine, not much else was clicking. Kellyn Acosta, Roland Lamah and Tesho Akindele all had a handful of tallies, but by-and-large the attack wasn’t finishing the chances it had (a shot conversion rate of 12.58 percent – 16th in the league). The 23 goals through 16 games was the lowest of any playoff-positioned team.
The last two games, however, offer a big glimpse of hope and an improved feeling at the pseudo-halfway point. With seven goals combined – four of which from Lamah – the offense seems to have found some spark. The Toronto and DC games were two of the best three passing percentage games of the first half, thanks in large part to the return of Mauro Diaz. More importantly, the team is finishing the chances it creates, bringing its shot conversion rate for the year to 16.39 percent – 7th in the league.