Lineups. Inconsistent lineups.
Part of the problem that FC Dallas has faced so far this year has been inconsistency in the starting XI and their role on the field. Shea has been moved from CB to LB to LM. Jackson, Loyd and Benitez have been in and out of their starting spots. Dax’s role has been tried with Villar, Avila and Jacobson. In short, the lineup has been all over the damn place.
A major contributor to this issue was no doubt the injuries to both our centerbacks in the opening of the season, but also the departure of Dax and Harris. While most of the media focused on how much more weakened our midfield was without McCarty and how much our front line would suffer without Harris (this assessment I’ve heard everywhere and is easily the most ludicrous), I submit that the media had no idea about their performance over the course of the season and it shows in the way they perceive the team. Heath Pearce’s loss is another matter altogether which I will discuss perhaps at some other point.
Here is the media perception vs. reality.
Perception: Dax was a major contributor to the attack and midfield defense, his creativity and linking gave Ferreira space to operate and the wings a chance to run into he box or stay wide and provide service. He was the anchor of the midfield. Losing him greatly weakened the strength of the midfield and space available for assault from all angles as was the team’s strength.
Reality: Dax spent some time injured. Come to think of it… didn’t he spend a LOT of time injured? 2 months thereabouts. Coming off the injury he spent a good 3 match days getting back to fitness and being ineffective while regaining his sea-legs. The reality is that when Dax was healthy and in form, he was a force to be reckoned with. However he wasn’t always in his best form and throughout his career has battle health issues.
He had a ridiculous persistence to get to loose balls, fought much larger midfielders for the ball effectively and provided precise passes to the flanks. He was damn hard to knock off the ball and if he lost it he hurried back to ensure difficulty for the player who stole it from him. All in all he was solid. He had his flaws, and that was partly due to his inconsistency: Dax would go from solid cog and linking player in one game to invisible the next. He rarely committed stupid mistakes though in more than a few games his effectiveness would be limited.
The problem is that the media's analysis omits McCarty’s absence during a large portion of the team's massive run in the summer and that during his injury Alexander stepped up in a big way. The summer of 2010 FCD team was damn near unbeatable and Dax had little to zero to do with it. While his contributions were important, mid-season 2010 Dallas that everyone now regards highly (in hindsight of course, not then) did NOT suffer greatly without the ginger ninja in the lineup. For some reason when predicting our current season analysts forgot this. The bigger issue currently is that Alexander has not quite reproduced his consistent results from last year, but recently he has improved and one can only hope the bold, darting runs from him last year will return. Alexander’s goal against NY last year was a thing of beauty and so I hold out hope.
The other issue the media has with their perception of our midfield is that because the mainstream soccer press ignored FCD until AFTER we beat RSL, few writers saw Dax often during the regular season. Dax was important but he had his flaws. The REAL anchor of the midfield was the skipper Hernandez, not Dax. Fans that saw and lived and breathed every moment of every game, like ourselves, know this; the media saw Dax's performance against RSL and LA and assumed it was at that level all season, ignoring his little slumps and health issues. When he was on he was really good, but he wasn't on all that often. The Soccer Sensei Schellas gambled with health and consistency from Alexander and we will see if it pays off in the long run.
It sucked losing Dax but the fact is his salary went to paying Ferreira more (that man can have a damn ocean liner if he wants) and towards grabbing Castillo. Can we argue against Ferreira and Castillo? I think not. While keeping Dax would have helped stabilize the midfield, it was clear him and Schellas did not see eye to eye and the front office wanted a cheaper, more agreeable and seemingly equally-talented youngster in Alexander. If he steps it up soon, then this discussion will be forgotten. If he doesn't... we'll be hearing about the McCarty issue for the rest of the season.
Atiba Harris coming up next.
Note: Now that I think about it, Villar’s salary needs to be justified soon. He was bought to play a role similar to Dax and so far… zip. He has potential no doubt but so far that hasn’t translated into results.