FC Dallas would have made the playoffs if Blas Perez had been healthy for 30 games this season. There's not a doubt in my mind.
When FCD signed Perez back in January, they finally locked down that #9 target forward Schellas Hyndman has been searching for practically since he got to Dallas. He costs Dallas a pretty penny, likely moving near DP range in the 2013 season, having made nearly $300k last year, but FCD can't do without Super Raton.
The Panamanian scored 9 goals in 19 starts this year, a rate that would've seen him bag 15 goals in a full season, and he was extremely efficient with his chances as well, with the third fewest shots on goal of any player with at least 9 goals this season.
What I wanted to do was look back at each of his nine goals this season to try and find some patterns behind what makes him so effective. I'm going to go kind of opposite way and post my observations and some numbers before looking at each individual goal .
The opposite post run Probably the biggest thing I noted, and I hate to expose this to other teams, is that Perez does something you don't really expect from a target forward. Look at the free kick goals where Raton scores...every single time he makes the opposite post run waiting for a flick on from a teammate. With some of the towers FCD has in Jacobson, John and Hedges, it's a smart strategy and something that worked very effectively.
The six yard box You and I probably work in an office. Blas Perez's office is the six yard box. Seven of Perez's nine goals were scored either in the six yard box or just outside of it. He's not gifted with good speed or a cannon of a shot, but what he has is an extremely innate sense of knowing where a rebound is going to land while never giving up on any possible chance.
He's not your typical target forward While Perez is certainly a target forward in the sense that he's good with his back to the goal, passes well and creates havoc in the box, he's not a typical target forward in the sense that only once this year, in San Jose, did he finish a cross first-time that was intended for him. He's not a player that you're looking to get the ball out wide and send crosses in.
The interesting thing about this This isn't really the type of player he was down in Mexico or with Panama. Look through his YouTube highlights and you'll see some really amazing goals. But that's not really what FC Dallas is looking for out of Perez with Jackson/Castillo/Shea dominating the wings.
That's why he works so well FC Dallas is not a team like SKC or San Jose that likes to pump the ball into the box. They're a team that likes to attack on the ground with slow buildups, and 1-2 play with wingers who would rather fire a shot in(Castillo, Jackson & Shea) than whip in a cross. That's why Perez works so well, because he's adapted to FCD, becoming the guy who's cleaning up those chances rather than providing a target in the box that's never going to get service in the first place.
Not exactly an expert play, just right spot at the right time. When it happens 10 times in a season, however, it's not lucky or an accident.
Vintage Perez. One defensive mistake, one goal.
The first instance of the far post run this year. Blas doesn't even look at the initial free kick, he's simply waiting for the header across the box. It wasn't exactly orthodox, but same result.
Another Perez far post run. Corner kick, flick on by one of the towers, Perez unmarked far post. Goal. It's that simple.
This is the one that doesn't really follow the rest. A goalkeeper mistake, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
This is the one cross Perez finished first-time in 2012. He's a good finisher so he can do things like this and you'd ideally like to see more plays like this, and I think we will with those two on the field together for an extended amount of time next season.
A poachers goal. Good first touch on the pass, second touch is in the net. Perez's goals generally aren't pretty, but they all count the same.
You know this goal seems very simple, but look at it a little closer. An inexperienced forward probably makes a near-post run there and occupies a defender which allows the other defender to latch onto that rebound and clear it out. Blas, knowing Ferreira's tendencies now, peels off and finds the gap in-between the two defenders to put himself in a perfect position for a rebound. It's subtle as hell, but that play didn't happen by accident. Not when it happens 10 times a season.
Opposite.Post.Run....It's almost so obvious by now, MLS defenses will adjust next season. But any time you take a defender out of the mixer on a free kick, it's a good thing.