Writer’s note: Going forward, instead of a league-wide recap, I will be honing in on a particular event or player’s performance from the prior weekend’s matches. I will still, however, provide a link to a summary of the weekend’s games for those interested.
For those who are interested in a full recap of the weekend's action, you can find the round-up posted by TFC here.
So long as he remains a member of the Canadian men's national team, FC Dallas midfielder Kyle Bekker will continue to be discussed, at least on a semi-regular basis, here at Waking the Red. The truth is, since Bekker was shipped down to the Lone Star State, many in our community have grown to miss him. We miss having another Canadian on the fringe of the starting lineup, we miss having a player who could occasionally stick a 40 yard pass with pinpoint accuracy (although Cheyrou has proved a most capable replacement), and most of all- we miss debating his qualities and shortcomings, both on the pitch and atop his head. It only seemed fitting that Bekker be the topic of this first edition of "In other MLS action"... not necessarily to put him down, but simply to look at whether, on this weekend in particular, he demonstrated some of the same (good and bad) tendencies that he showed while he was with TFC.
As another former Red Richard Eckersley would put it, Kyle Bekker is no ordinary midfielder. The young Canadian can wow you one moment with a brilliant long pass or set piece, and then leave you pulling your hair out the next with sloppy defensive coverage or a miscue that hands the ball over to the opponent. In last Friday's match, after a poor first half performance, FC Dallas opted to field Bekker for the entire second 45. While the team overall played miserably throughout the game, let's focus on Bekker's contribution, and see how he performed in this home encounter.
Let's start with the good. If you watch only the first 10 seconds of this video, you'll remember why many appreciated Bekker in Toronto. His vision to send through the lob pass, and the delicate touch with the outside of his right foot that few could duplicate, resulted in a decent opportunity (for none other than CMNT holdout Tesho Akindele), forcing Clint Irwin into making a save.
Unfortunately, if you watch the highlight in its entirety, you quickly realize that just like with Bekker himself- you have to take the good with the bad. When the rebound pops out to the young midfielder, he has a great opportunity to blast the ball back toward goal, with Irwin still out of position. But he doesn't do that- and instead with a seemingly awkward touch Bekker sends the ball three feet behind his teammate. When a player is renowned for their kick accuracy, an opportunity to get a shot off (with a decent probability to score) should always be taken. An acceptable option B would have been to place the pass ahead of teammate Fabian Castillo, which may have also led to Dallas getting on the board. Unfortunately, Bekker opted for neither of those, and his impressive lead pass to start the sequence was negated by his poor decision-making and execution at the end of the play.
Roughly 15 minutes later, Bekker reminded us why many were glad to see him shipped out of Toronto. It's difficult to tell exactly how the formation adjusted when he came on in the second half, but it would appear Bekker was playing as a holding mid in a 4-2-3-1 formation (to the left of center as one of the "2"). I would imagine he was advised to play a little more attacking by coach Pareja based on Dallas being on the wrong side of the scoresheet at halftime, and Bekker's opta chart seems to indicate that while he indeed was playing left of center, it may have been in more of a box-to-box type role. Regardless, the following goal, Colorado's third, should bring back some bad memories for TFC fans:
Bekker's lack of awareness of the trailing attacker was a direct contributor to the goal. Dallas' defending on the entire play was suspect- their left back had drifted too far inward, and despite having five defenders in the area, they left a man open in front of goal, and stuck 3 on the Rapids attacker in possession of the ball. But with Bekker roaming around the top of the box for much of the play, when he finally did decide to get involved he chose to do so by lending support and "quadrupling" up on a man with his back to the goal, rather than covering Gabriel Torres and preventing the outlet pass. A poor defensive decision, among others made by Dallas defenders on the play, allowed Colorado to go 3 ahead in an ugly game overall for FC Dallas.
Beside that significant gaffe, Bekker's defensive play was passable on the night. While he looked disinterested at times (take a look at Colorado's fourth goal for reference), with a couple successful tackles and three recoveries (and no tackles lost), Bekker was mostly reliable in the middle of the pitch as Dallas tried to stop the bleeding in the second 45.
Surprisingly, beside the pass leading to the opportunity highlighted above, Bekker's offensive play was lacking on the day. Aside from the ‘should-have-been' shot that he managed to do little with, let's look at a couple other Bekker passes, highlighted by our friends over at Big D Soccer-
With 15 successful passes and 11 unsuccessful (a meagre 57.6% passing), it's unsurprising that Dallas fans are calling for his head... right??
My god. They're starting to sound like some of the WTR contributors over there! Here's the thing about Bekker- he has the vision. That's undisputed. But he's lacking the confidence that comes with playing regular minutes, and he often tries to make the fancy, impactful play instead of looking for an open outlet. Take his opta chart for passing- it clearly shows, at the very least, that he can't be faulted for not moving the ball forward. Just look at his unsuccessful passes below-
Only one of them (arguably two at most) was sideways- his poor passing numbers were mostly a result of trying to be too aggressive, attempting to act as a catalyst for the Dallas attack (which could very well have been instructed by coach Pareja). Regardless of whether the coach asked him to do so or it was of his own accord, it's not a terrible trait at all... if he ever gets his confidence back and becomes a consistent, capable midfielder. But how much playing time would it take for him to feel comfortable with the ball and make better decisions? How patient can Dallas fans be?
"Kyle Bekker - He needs more minutes and chances. Yeah, those misplaced passes were ugly but the idea and vision were there. The timing was off which can be fixed. Need to see more before writing him off." (comment from @jasonhpoon , chalkboard nerd for Big D Soccer)
Hmmmm.. that last sentence sounded alarmingly like his defenders over here at Waking The Red. Now to be fair, it was but one game- and a particularly brutal one at that, for the Canadian midfielder. He could very well take the pitch and dazzle next week, and all will be singing a different tune. Let's just hope that one day, at one of the many clubs he'll inevitably be transferred to, Kyle Bekker will be given enough playing time to develop chemistry with the players around him, gain some confidence, make the right decisions, and become a significant contributor for both club and country.