MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs Montreal Impact – tactical analysis

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Urruti's run to position himself for a shot.

After emerging victorious in their first MLS fixture under Thierry Henry, Montreal Impact travelled to Toyota Stadium to face Luchi Gonzalez’s FC Dallas. Looking to make it two victories in two, the Montreal Impact side had quite a job at hand, as FC Dallas are looking very good under Gonzalez. After beating Philadelphia Union by two goals to nil, FC Dallas headed to this fixture to continue their promising home run this season. The match ended with two goals on either side with FC Dallas pulling off an emphatic comeback to neutralize Maximilliano Urruti’s brace.

In this tactical analysis of Thierry Henry’s Montreal Impact versus Luchi Gonzalez’s FC Dallas, we will look at how the teams lined-up, how the play progressed and how FC Dallas managed to counter the low-block set up by Henry and pull off a late comeback to snatch a point from the Impacts.


FC Dallas lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation ahead of Jesse Gonzalez, the homegrown goalkeeper. The back four consisted of Reggie Cannon, Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler and Ryan Hollingshead. Luchi Gonzalez’s double pivot consisted of the 18-year old Tanner Tessmann and Thiago Santos. The 3-man midfield ahead saw Michael Barrios, Jesus Ferreira and Fafa Picault start with the Czech striker Zdenek Ondrasek leading the attack.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The line-ups []
Thierry Henry started off with a 5-4-1 on papers. Clement Diop was the shot-stopper for Montreal Impact, shielded by a 5 man defence. Zachary Brault-Guilard started from the lower right supported by Joel Waterman, Rod Fanni, Luis Binks, Jorge Corrales to complete the fifth man on the defence. Maximiliano Urruti started on the midfield with the likes of Saphir Taider, Samuel Piette and Romell Quioto supporting him to feed Anthony Jackson-Hamel upfront.

FC Dallas’s style of play

FC Dallas started off with a 4-2-3-1 formation and looked to dominate possession from the early stages of the game. As a result of their attempts to be in possession by frequently interchanging passes from the defence to the midfield, Luchi Gonzalez’s side looked to build from the back, with the likes of Tessmann and Thiago Santos acting as the transition to supply the ball to initiate moves for the attacking midfielders.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The double-pivot which was deployed throughout the match.

The player to watch, during FC Dallas’s build-up play and fluid transition was the 18-year old Tanner Tesmann. The homegrown player was metronomic in Dallas’s control of possession and was supported well by the other pivot – Thiago Santos. The 18-year-old frequently interchanged passes from the centre-backs and completed 42 out of 44 passing combinations that he attempted. As a result of his involvement in the play, FC Dallas could afford to attack through the middle, attempting to counter against the two layers of blocks that Henry laid-off without the ball.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The pass-map, showing Tanner Tessmann’s involvement.

Another key figure in helping the FC Dallas side maintain their shape and keep them intact despite two goals from the boots of Maximiliano Urruti was Matt Hedges. The American centre-back boasted a pass accuracy of 92% and was often linking-up with Thiago Santos to move the ball further ahead. He was well supported by the fellow centre-back Reto Ziegler, who had a good understanding of the American despite committing an error that led to Urruti’s first.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Hedges here defends with positional awareness and manages to lay off an interception to move the ball forward.

The instance, shown above, ends with Hedges defending smart with the help of his positional awareness:

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics

The main aspect that stood out for FC Dallas was their composure and ability to concentrate despite being 2-0 down till the 20th minute. FC Dallas maintained their healthy spell of possession and were able to keep the ball moving, inviting Montreal Impact’s five players forward to press against them. Since Montreal Impact emphasized on keeping their defensive block intact, Dallas’s healthy run of possession demanded a higher work rate. With the presence of centre-backs like Matt Hedges and the double pivot up-front, FC Dallas laid-off a path to their comeback.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
FC Dallas’s attacks were frequent in the last minutes, as the graph suggests.

As a result of the opposition player’s fatigue, FC Dallas finally capitalized on their dominance, as they were able to pull off five shots during the final minutes, with three on target and two-goal on the back of the net. Ondrasek, who was struggling to beat the five-man low block and looked to emphasize longer shots finally had the space to capitalize, followed by young Pepi’s strike in the stoppage time to snatch a point for FC Dallas.

Montreal Impact’s style of play

Ever since Thierry Henry has arrived at the club, the team has been on a tactical evolution. Despite preferring a 4-3-3, the Frenchman played with a 5-4-1 formation, keeping FC Dallas’s love for possession on the mind and looking to cause problems by defending deep with five men intact on the setup.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
The five-man setup of the deep block.

The interesting thing to consider from Montreal Impact’s shape was that they frequently took advantage of the three centre-backs set-up, switching to a three-man backline while on possession. The wide players, Zachary Brault-Guilard and Jorge Corrales were allowed to move to advanced places to help the side attack from the wider areas. As a result, most of Montreal’s attempts came from the incoming balls from wider areas and players playing from the wide areas were looking to really get into the game.

The player to watch in Montreal Impact’s set-up was Jorge Corrales, who, from the left side of the attack was instrumental in linking up with Quioto and Saphier Taider. Due to the frequent change in plays, the player put on an optimal display of work rate, dropping deep to complete the five-man set-up and complimenting the attack frequently.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Montreal’s pass map, with Jorge Corrales.

As a result of brilliant positioning ability that Maximilliano Urruti possessed, Montreal Impact were able to notch up two goals against an FC Dallas side that looked to take command of the game whenever possible. The Argentine was well-rounded against his former side and was able to get the ball in dangerous places, dragging defenders in the process. As a result, Montreal Impact were able to manage an xG of 1.08 despite attempting less frequently.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Urruti’s run to position himself for a shot.

In the above instance, Urruti placed himself in the void amidst a run that invited defenders with the ball. The move resulted in an easy finish for Urruti.

MLS 2020: FC Dallas vs. Montreal Impact - tactical analysis tactics
Urruti’s second goal.

Montreal Impact pressed inside the opposition half relentlessly, working hard during the entire game. As a result of the fatigue that the intense work rate carried on, Montreal Impact could not hold on to the lead as FC Dallas exploited the spaces that their mistakes created to score twice during the final minutes. Montreal were forced to sit back and defend but lacked composure that they showed throughout the game with a five-man set-up.


Had it not been a very well-executed defensive display throughout the game with a deep block from the Montreal Impact side, FC Dallas would have bagged three points from the control that they had in the game. Luchi Gonzalez’s tactics look to advance this FC Dallas side that are playing attractive possession-based football. Montreal Impact, on the other hand, will be disappointed as they blew a two-goal lead in just minutes after a game under pressure.

As this tactical analysis walked through, the teams put on an attractive brand of football and a thrill towards the end, with two quick goals to square things off.