The Margin Between Win, Draw, Loss in Major League Soccer
During his weekly media call, FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez acknowledged the razor thin margin in this league between results.
In three games in about a week of action, FC Dallas managed 7 points, something Head Coach Nico Estevez chalked up as a success.
Against Austin FC, FC Dallas grabbed a single goal and held on for the full three points, in Austin’s own house.
At home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, a mistake had the visitors in the lead, but FC Dallas battled back with 2 straight goals.
Again at home, against their longtime rival the Houston Dynamo, a late goal gave the visitors a road point of their own.
While nine points were there for the taking, Estevez and team acknowledged after the match that sometimes this is how soccer goes, especially in a league like Major League Soccer. Tell any coaching staff before three games in a short time period that they would come out with seven points, and they would likely take it without hesitation.
I asked Estevez midweek about the margins between those points in this league, especially with such parity constrained by roster budgets and limitations.
Nico agreed. “Margin between winner or loser and tie is very small… in MLS. The teams are really balanced. It's not like in other leagues with Real Madrid or Barcelona - not a huge difference between top and bottom. It's not like that. For us, we have to give credit to our guys.”
That doesn’t mean Nico is completely satisfied or that the team doesn’t have room to grow with another stretch of three games around the corner.
“If we know that margin of error, the difference between win or lose or tie, we have to be happy - we've got more wins. But we also have to keep pushing ourselves,” Nico said. “We had an okay game against Houston. Offensively, we created enough chances to win the game. This is our objective. We are not happy with 7 points out of 9. We can play better than we did against Houston.”
With FC Dallas not having much room to maneuver in the salary cap, it’s not likely the team will be a huge player in the summer transfer window, although never say never. Those razor thin margins likely come down to the coaching staff getting the most out of what they already have on the roster. And really, they’ve done a great job of this, despite some ups and downs and sketchy performances here and there.
The defense in particular came into the season missing the team defensive leader in Matt Hedges. Sebastian Ibeagha arrived as a free agent, fresh off winning the MLS Cup, but his underlying numbers had some wondering about his fit with this team. Jose Martinez has at times looked like a solid veteran and a liability. Nkosi Tafari seemed a lock for a starting spot at center back but has shared time with other players. In other words, there has been lots of rotation among that back line, making fans wonder if the team will lose its identity as a defensively sound unit.
And yet here we are, despite all that rotation, despite new faces, despite question marks, with the squad boasting one of the top six defensive records thus far in Major League Soccer.
It’s time to acknowledge that this team may not be as explosive or flashy as some other squads, but they are working week in and week out to build a campaign to put them in contention for hardware, utilizing every tool on the squad to keep those margins thin.
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