PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 17: Timber Joey, mascot of the Portland Timbers, saws off a slab of the log to celebrate a Timbers goal during the first half of the game against FC Dallas at Jeld-Wen Field on April 17, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Finally back home after the trip to Portlandia. My thoughts on the game...I will have a lot more on the whole Jeld-Wen Field gameday experience in my travel diary coming later, but for now the thoughts on the game.
Same Song, Different Verse Just another super frustrating result for Dallas in a game they very well should have won. FC Dallas had the Timbers pretty locked up in the first half, limiting them to just one shot on goal. The game plan was working and Dallas had just taken the lead when just about the only thing that would've prevented Dallas from seeing through the result happened.
I saw nothing from the first half that indicated the Timbers had any clue how to break down FC Dallas when at full strength. Franck Songo'o was the only player with any sort of attacking danger and Kris Boyd literally touched the ball less than five times in the hour that he was on the pitch. Dallas has to absolutely the the worst team in the league at playing with ten men, however. 0-4-1 when dropping a man this year.
The game obviously completely changed after that red card and with the crowd behind them a Timbers goal was inevitable. If it wasn't for Kevin Hartman being Kevin Hartman, Portland probably would have won the game.
Loyd has been arguably the most consistent player this season, but this is the second time Dallas has dropped crucial points this year when leading a game and Loyd picks up a silly second yellow, even if it was soft...Emotional intelligence.
De Guzman MOTM For me, Julian de Guzman was the man of the match for FC Dallas. He was simply fantastic playing as a calming presence in defensive midfield. According to the post-game OPTA stats, de Guzman had 38 completed passes and just 4 incomplete, committed just one foul while just four times was he tackled and lost the ball. Compare that to 19 times for Ferreira and 12 times for Jacobson.
When you have a defensive midfielder complete almost 90% of his passes and doesn't get caught in the possession, it kills most counter-attack opportunities for the opposition and gets the rest of the players in their positions to shine. For me, there is no question who the better defensive midfielder is at this point in the season.
Brek's Return The more I thought about it today, the more I was pleased with Brek Shea's performance last night. It was the kind of performance you want from Brek in that he was making incredibly smart runs off the ball letting Ferreira do the hard work in getting him the ball. Things go south when Shea tries to beat four defenders, but when he can make a smart run and get isolated 1v1, he's deadly.
Shea had a chance early in the game barely saved by Troy Perkins, hit the post with another, sent another just wide and had a tougher-than-it-looked assist to Sealy. That Brek Shea, with a little bit more confidence that will inevitably come, is a player who could build some real momentum late in this season and earn FC Dallas some major money next summer. Just keep working hard, be yourself and don't listen to the hype...
As I wrote for MLS yesterday, perhaps my favorite part was the smiling and laughing Brek that we saw after the game, it's something that hasn't been present for months.
Center Back Combination I thought Hedges and John did a very good job on Sunday. They combined for a very good passing percentage and literally played Kris Boyd out of the game. It's going to be fascinating to see how things play out with George John as another good performance or two could make him a real trade piece for a top MLS team heading towards the end of the season. You can't just let him walk, must find a solution now.
The Other Turning Point I loved the lineup from Hyndman and I think the original tactics were spot on, but I thought the gaffer made a huge mistake in bringing off Julian de Guzman for James Marcelin. De Guzman, as I showed in the stats earlier, was doing an incredible job at working the ball out of danger and passing to the right man even when Dallas was down to ten men. Bringing him off for a pure athlete like Marcelin who simply hoofed the ball right back to Portland was a huge mistake and kept Dallas under pressure. Also, Marcelin needed to do better closing down Jewsbury on the shot...it was a great shot, but James could've done better.
Scattershooting Jeld-Wen Field, wow.....Brek is going to finish the season with a few more goals and assists...I'm very excited to have Matt Hedges as a cornerstone of this team for the future...probably 9 points that were left on the pitch this year by cards and another 6-9 lost by injuries. Frustrating...Figure out how to get JDG back in Dallas next year, I'm sold....Whether you like how Sealy plays or not, this fella has earned these guys by working hard from the first moment of pre-season. Couldn't be happier for the guy.