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Scouting Report: FC Dallas

Heath doesn’t want us to talk tactics... but here we are

MLS: Chicago Fire at Minnesota United FC Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

But first this...

I love “4D Chess”, and the timing of this is perfect from Heath. Too early in the season, and the desired response fades time it just right with a less then perfect performance. Seattle had a similar lackluster result and Brian Schmetzer had a similar approach, although with a much different tone.

The message is the same, but the way it is delivered is key, the players have heard angry Heath before. The effectiveness of the message will be judged on Sunday and into the playoffs.

So let’s dissect what Heath said because it is important, 80% of high performance is mindset. The desire to cover ground and fight to win the ball back, being comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is high performance nobody sees and talks about, it’s the hidden secret that is painfully obvious. Talent only gets you 20% of the way there, the other 80% is your mindset. (Listen to the High Performance Podcast if you want to learn more)

So instead of evaluating the tactics from the last game, lets evaluate the mindset. In the first half there was no pressure on the ball, and when you combine that with a higher line professionals hit balls like this.

I noted at the time in the tweet, maybe the tactics were off playing a high line. However that is on Molino for simply not giving effort for the team. Sprinting a bit harder 17’ into a game is something you have to do if you want to compete for trophies. If a coach, Schmetzer, who has been to three MLS cups in four years is focusing on those details, well Minnesota United should be too. Apparently Heath was too given the reports of him being very animated at halftime and it seemed to work. However that is not enough and the staff had to have reinforced these concepts before Sunday.

So what about the second half? Well this goal was simplicity, but it was simplicity because of effort...

Simply put when you beat someone 1 on 1 off of a set piece you want it more then them.

The team responded in the second half, and that should be commended. However making sure it doesn’t happen again is imperative if they want to win a playoff game and winning a playoff game is the expectation.

Players are human, and having lapses in concentration is normal. Which is why I’m not going after many individuals after the performance. It was (and still is in many ways) a stressful few days, and players were thinking and distracted by those things as well. That is okay, but if you want to perform at a high level and achieve things as a team now is the time to focus on what you want to achieve.

But I digress... this is a scouting report so Heath I’ll try to make this quick before I wrap up with a quote about mindset.

First off the game means a lot, even though both teams have clinched. Jacob did the math, so I didn’t have to.

So what challenges will the Loons face from FC Dallas?

First off the team has a defined style of play from Luchi Gonzalez that runs through the academy (which he ran). They run a similar shape to the Loons with two more holding midfielders and outside backs who attack in the wide spaces. Andres Ricuarte is the player who finds the ball and is able to act as the metronome in possession, however both players are functional in progressing out of build out play.

Ryan Hollingshead scored midweek when played as a winger instead of left back which is his more common position. Even though he can play anywhere on that left hand side, because a starting position is just a base, what matters more is the space you attack and defend. So yeah expect to see a lot of Hollingshead down the left hand side of the field on Sunday.

Oh yeah and he can defend in the 18 pretty well too when you keep watching in the highlights.

On the right hand side is the 19 year old Bryan Reynolds who has looked pretty good so far this year since filling in for Reggie Cannon. Reynolds is still a work in progress but looks to get involved out wide in the final phase of attack and generally makes pretty good decisions with the ball at his feet. From passes in possession to finding an accurate cross, Reynolds can cause just as many issues out wide as Hollingshead will.

Up front and in the half spaces they have a variety of players that can hurt you and are disciplined in the Dallas system. They tend to attack all of the vertical spaces, all the time and have a variety of options depending on the style they need in a fixture. In addition, Luchi is flexible enough to adapt the teams shape if he feels they need it.

While this is the same goal, it is a different time stamp and shows the shape Dallas love to counter with when they find the playmaker in space to turn up field and pick their head up. Defending this is a tactical decision but it is also an attitude decision the Loons players need to make.

That’s it those are the position battles to watch. If the Loons want to win this game the wingers will need to have the right attitude and defend these threatening attackers from the backline down the wings. Dallas looks similar to the Loons, and are a competitive playoff team so setting and controlling the tempo of the game from the start is a must.

Three things for Sunday:

  1. Confront FC Dallas midfield in build out play
  2. Do not give the outside backs time and space on the ball out wide
  3. Win your individual battles on both sides of the ball, and more importantly on set pieces

I think you’ll see a different approach with Boxall in the line up on Sunday, but who plays next to him will be an interesting choice from Heath. As well as how he chooses to play his two holding midfielders will be the lineup decisions I’m watching for.

However, Heath was right the problem with the Loons isn’t tactics... it’s mentality. It’s his job to have the right culture and manage it. That is what he is trying to do, so lets see how it works. After all the Loons are unbeaten in the last seven.

If you were to ask me how do you get a culture where you perform at a high level? It’s simple. Expect failure and embrace it, so you can learn from it. However a wise mentor once told me “all good coaches are good thieves” and when it comes to culture you need to steal from people outside your profession. I leave you with a quote from James Baldwin.