I won't always be able to do this, but with a little help from Steve Fenn(aka Fennsk) we've been able to spotlight a few things that decided this fascinating game of football played at FC Dallas Stadium on Sunday.
A microcosm of the season?
I think the first thing that really stands out to me about this match is how we basically saw every strength and weakness of FC Dallas that we've been talking about in the pre-season, shrunk into 90 minutes. The first 30 minutes, FCD was absolutely devastating the Red Bulls with wave after wave of attack from Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea on the wings with Blas Perez wreaking havoc in the middle. Insert David Ferreira into this thing for Ricardo Villar and it becomes scary good going forward.
The flip side, however, is the fact that Dallas is so thin offensively, like we talked about. Once Fabian Castillo came out of the game, Dallas, while still dangerous, was not quite the attacking team that they were before the Colombian was forced off and that allowed New York more freedom to push forward. Carlos Rodriguez was very serviceable at left midfield, but it's still very clear that it's not his natural position.
When Schellas Hyndman was forced to sub off Ricardo Villar in the second half, his only option for midfield was Bobby Warshaw, forcing Dallas into a situation with three defensive midfielders and nearly costing them the game. I suppose Bruno Guarda is still in the doghouse which kept him out of this one, but I thought that would have been a much better sub if he was available.
It seems pretty clear right now that as we suspected, the FC Dallas starting XI is about as good as any in the league and this team is absolutely an MLS Cup contender. However, if the injury bug hits, this thing could fall apart. It will be so interesting to watch all season.
Keep reading for two more things that really decided the game
Defensive turnovers will kill you
Sunday's game was basically won and lost on poor clearances and slack passing from the back four. Dallas really struggled in the second half to hold possession, but what they didn't do was turn the ball over in dangerous areas. FCD was content to simply clear the ball out of danger and dare New York to try and break them down with Thierry Henry receiving the ball from 40 yards out with his back to goal rather than running at the goal from close range. It was a tactic that worked brilliantly, save for one busted offside trap, as Henry and Agudelo were for the most part held very silent.
On the other side, the relentless work from Blas Perez, hassling the back four all afternoon, produced both goals for Dallas on defensive miscues. One poor clearance was guided into the net by Zach Loyd while Perez was sent off towards goal in the run up to Villar's winner due to an extremely poor turnover from Roy Miller. MLS is a league of parity in which teams thrive on errors from the opposition and today it was the errors that New York made, and Dallas didn't make, that decided the game. Steve Fenn dug up some fantastic Opta stats from the game that back all of this up.
On the surface, completing only 73% of passes is alarming, but the location of the passes are vitally important. Of the 102 unsuccessful passes, only 4 were in FC Dallas' defensive third, and none within 10 yards of their penalty area. Brek gave away the ball there in the 93rd and Jacobsen, Rodriguez, and Pertuz incredible had one each all in the 43rd minute (I double-checked on DVR and remembered that this sequence led to Henry's quick free kick off the post).
Meanwhile, they had 14 unsuccessful passes within the penalty area they were attacking, while only 5 passes were completed inside the box. Sure, the attacking sloppiness is frustrating, but at least they were being aggressive. High hopes for improvement there when Ferreira returns.
A new pairing?
Hernan Pertuz, what a debut. The Colombian center back was composed, tactically always in the right spot and showed off some silky smooth passing. I applaud Schellas Hyndman for starting Pertuz, who earned his spot in the pre-season, and it's going to be a major battle for George John to win back his spot.
Ugo Ihemelu and Pertuz seemed to form a very good central defense partnership and huge credit goes to Steve who found the fantastic stat that neither of them committed a foul in the entire game. As much as we worry about the attacking depth, having either John or Pertuz coming off the bench for games, with Rodriguez an option for the back four as well, is going to pay off huge down the stretch.
Ihemelu & Pertuz had 36 successful passes. Of their 11 unsuccessful passes, only one was in the final 3rd. They also had 17 of FCD's 34 clearances (worth noting that George John had two in his 5 minutes).
Pertuz blocked 4 shots, Ugo blocked one (as did Shea and Warshaw, but that;s it for the team). The two of them accomplished this without committing a single foul.
Super Raton's day
So everyone's on the Blas Perez bandwagon now right? A man of the match performance from the Panamanian who was just relentless in his pursuit of loose balls in the back while putting in the effort to come deep and receive the ball as well. If he can put out this effort all season, he could be a dark horse for MLS Best XI and will completely change the dynamic of where FC Dallas can go this season. A few interesting notes on his performance from Steve...
Blas perez attempted 26 passes, only 5 were unsuccessful, and 3 of them set up a shot (2 assists). Great to have a striker that helps others join the attack. The only problem for Blas today was that he wasn't getting the ball in attacking positions very often. Only 7 of his passes originated in the final third, and his heat map was much more concentrated around the middle of the pitch than you'd generally prefer. If Ferreira can get healthy and help him push up the pitch, watch out.
Also, Blas posted a link on Twitter to his adidas miCoach tracker which has some fascinating stats on his game. What's amazing to me is how it seems he was running the exact same at the 90th minute as he was the 1st minute. And there were questions about his fitness coming into camp?