FC Dallas; are they for real this year? You Bet – and here’s why…

Coming off a comprehensive thrashing where FC Dallas dominated to San Jose (5-nil this past weekend) Dallas has thrown down the gauntlet that the woeful run last year, and missing the playoffs, is not a likely scenario this year.

And some might offer that San Jose aren’t exactly ‘top flight’ this year – I disagree – up until this last weekend, the Earthquakes were one of the top five defensive teams in MLS – read here for those details…

Possession with Purpose:  So just how comprehensive have FC Dallas been, compared to others this year, in both team attack and team defense?  

CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23
CPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Fourth best in all of MLS – lagging behind Sporting, LA Galaxy, and Seattle…

Before digging in there have been some questions offered up in the past that folks might think this Index is biased towards ‘possession-based’ teams.

I think the results you read here should pretty much prove that is not the case.

I can’t find a better example, this year, where the lack of possession and passing accuracy, for a team, has absolutely nothing to do with how effective they are in this Index.

Follow along for the examples and strategic team performance data as I show you why…

Attacking Possession with Purpose (APWP) Index:

APWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

Second best in all of Major League Soccer…

Peeling back on the ‘why’…

  • Possession Percentage – FCD are 5th worst, on average, at 47.06%
  • Passing Accuracy across the Entire Pitch – FCD are 7th worst, on average, at 76.03%
  • Passing Accuracy within the Final Third – See Below…
  • Percentage of Successful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • FCD are 3rd worst, on average, at 61.72%
  • Penetration Percentage per Completed Passes – FCD are 2nd worst, on average, at 19.74%
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Possession – FCD are 4th best, on average, at 20.71% (the tide begins to turn)….
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – FCD are 5th best, on average, at 38.35%… the tide continues…
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – FCD are BEST in MLS, on average, at 44.09%…

All told – Possession and Passing Accuracy, both within and outside the Final Third, are simply not great indicators for how well this team attacks.

Bottom line at the bottom with respect to attack – it simply doesn’t matter how this team gets the ball into, or around the 18 yard box, when they do – they are dangerous… full stop.

Before moving on to Defending Possession with Purpose (DPWP) two other views for your consideration:

Here’s how those same APWP team performance indicators look when their opponent averages 85% passing accuracy or more:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 42.56% Possession; 6th best
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 79.48% accuracy; 4th best
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 64.38%; 3rd best
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 21.50%; 6th best
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 21.85%; 2nd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 38.05%; 6th worst
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 40.37%; 5th best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is better in their overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are less effective in scoring goals but their average points per game against teams who meet or exceed 85% passing accuracy is 2.33; compared to 1.63 as a whole.

Bottom line here is that better teams (in passing and possession) will NOT do better against FC Dallas than teams who are weaker in passing and possession.

So here’s the APWP information for teams who average 68% passing accuracy or less against FC Dallas:

  • Possession Percentage – FCD average 58.75% Possession; 2nd worst
  • Passing Accuracy – FCD average 74.57% accuracy; 5th worst
  • Percentage of Successful Passes in the Final Third 62.34%; 7th worst
  • Penetration Percentage per Complete Passes average 13.99%; worst
  • Shots Taken per Penetration Percentage average 20.83%; 3rd best
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken average 50.00%; best
  • Goals Scored per Shots on Goal average 60.00%; best

All told – it would appear that when the opponent is far worse in overall passing accuracy FC Dallas are pretty much unstoppable; they average 3.00 points per game when the opponent is piss-poor in passing…

Bottom line here, as noted earliet, FC Dallas are dangerous in attack no matter how successful or unsuccessful their opponent is in passing – so how can they be beat?

Here’s their DPWP Index – is their a clue here on solving the FC Dallas attack?

DPWP Index 2014 Through Week 23

I’m not so sure.  They are tenth best in all of Major League Soccer…. not really earth shattering – nor pathetic… but perhaps some clues to beating them?

Peeling back on the ‘why’… recognizing that passing accuracy, by the opponents, is not really a good indicator on how to beat them.

  • Possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 52.94% possession; that is the 5th highest amount of possession ceded in MLS
  • Passing Accuracy within the FC Dallas Defending Final Third – Opponents average 68.16% passing accuracy within the Dallas Final Third; that is the highest opponent average in passing accuracy of any team in MLS
  • Put another way here’s the diagram on Opponent Unsuccessful passes in the Dallas defending Final Third:
  • Percentage of Unsuccessful Passes Final Third Week 23
  • In other words the opponents are very successful in completing passes within the FC Dallas defending third
  • Shots Taken per penetrating possession – Opponents of FC Dallas average 18.89% – 9th best in MLS in limiting their opponents Shots Taken per penetration
  • Shots on Goal per Shots Taken – Opponents of FC Dallas average 34.42% – that is the 5th highest percentage yielded in MLS
  • Where it counts – Goals Scored per Shots on Goal – Opponents of FC Dallas average 25.91%; that is the 3rd lowest success rate by opponents in MLS.

I don’t see compelling information here, pointing one direction or another, that would show team weakness in defending.

All told – Dallas appears to cede possession, penetration and higher rates of passing accuracy to their opponents than other teams in MLS.

Bottom line here is they are average/solid in defense…  but a good average – no real compelling clues in this data to be sure.

If there’s a chink in the armor perhaps it’s in Red Cards or Fouls within their own Defending Final Third?

Red Cards:

  • FC Dallas have the second highest total of Red Cards of any team in MLS (eight) – only Sporting KC are worse (with 12).
  • Their sum of Points won is seven when garnering a Red Card and 1.17 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 32 when not garnering a Red Card and 1.78 Points per game

Fouls in their own Defending Final Third:

  • FC Dallas average the fourth highest number of Fouls in the Defending Final Third (3.29)
  • Their sum of Points won is four when conceding five or more fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.33 Points per game
  • Their sum of Points won is 35 when conceding four or fewer fouls in their own defending Final Third; 1.67 Points per game

Bottom line here is yes, there is a weakness; a huge weakness in my opinion.  When Dallas get Red Cards or when they exceed five fouls within their own defending Final Third they are very (highly) likely to lose… (drop points).

In Closing…

In attack it’s pretty clear to me that this team is all about goals scored regardless of what approach is used by either team…

In addition – it’s also very clear to me that when FC Dallas lose they lose because they beat themselves…

I’m not sure I’ve seen any team this year provide such a clear message than when they lack discipline they lose – and when they display and execute discipline they win…

Bottom line at the bottom:  If a team were looking to win against Dallas I would have thought their best bet is to make it a physical game that includes a wee bit of psychological drama… ‘get into the head of the Dallas players and you have a better chance of winning’…

In looking back at my original question – Are they for real? – I’d say yes…

And are the PWP Indices biased towards possession and passing accuracy?  No…

Best, Chris

Retweets welcomed…

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