Draws on the road are something of an acquired taste.
There are those that only want the best, and nothing less will do. This is a commendable approach, as winning is the neverending goal of every team. But just as every vintner can't always produce the greatest cask of wine, even the best teams put out average performances that are not incredible, yet worthy of sitting alongside the shelf with other, greater performances.
That's not to say the game was poor, or that FC Dallas should have done better. Having come off of a (unnecessarily) difficult match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on Tuesday, Dallas was not as fully rested as they could have been coming into a match at altitude. Colorado can claim the same, but their comfort with playing at altitude gave them a natural advantage the FCD lacked.
The altitude and fatigue was the most important factor going into the match on Saturday. Facing a team that relies on speed and quick passing, Schellas Hyndman set up his team in a way that would minimize Colorado's advantage with speed and skill on the flanks, and for most of the game this strategy worked as well as could be expected.
Defense and Stamina
This was quite a different Dallas performance than we're used to seeing. Instead of Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez bombing down the wings the entire game, they patrolled their flank far more cautiously than average. The two fullbacks had their odd run down the field, and even put in a cross or two, but it's clear their primary concern was containing the Rapids' assault down the wings.
Further changing the strategy for Dallas, who are a team that move quickly and attack quickly, was slowing the pace of the game. FCD are not a team that tend to slow down the pace of the game. Speed and one-two touch passing plays to their strengths and is their preferred method of attack. In this game though, not only were the fullbacks restrained, but the builup by Dallas was far more measured and cautious in its approach. Even Jackson ocassionally slowed his runs down a bit and waited for reinforcements to arrive.
This strategy paid dividends.
The Rapids created very little from the center of the pitch. Pareja's team continuously tried to work the flanks, be it through long balls, playing it out wide, or by cutting inside from the wings. However, because Dallas took a more defensive approach, they were rarely exposed to the extent that we saw in their first meeting with Coloado. In that game, long balls sliced through a higher Hoops defensive line with ease, and theirs wingers cleaved through our fullbacks like butter. In this game, Colorado had a much, much more difficult time getting in behind the defense, mitigating their strengths and allowing Dallas time to breathe and regroup after they lost possession.
While the defense had a few hiccups (Atiba Harris should never be scoring two goals against anyone, much less the #1 team in MLS), it was a solid performance overall against a team playing in front of a great home crowd. If only some composure could magically gifted to our back four, then all would be right with the world.
The attack did not have a poor night, though it wasn't a showing we'll be raving about anytime soon. If Fabian Castillo had any finishing touch to speak of, the game could have ended in a victory for Dallas. The Toros created several decent chancesand dictated the flow of the game for large portions. That's impressive when one considers that, as Drew mentioned earlier, Dallas struggled for possession. The simple (and correct) explanation would be that Dallas was far more dangerous then Colorado when they were on the ball.
All those solid signs would have counted for absolutely zilch had Blas Perez not come to the rescue.
Pérez is a singularly gifted man when he aims at the goal with any part of his body. Whether he chests a through-ball to a teammate, strikes it first time while on the run, or turns and buries a ball in a goal he has had no time to focus on, his accuracy is impressive. The few times our defense fell asleep and conceded a goal, he was there to put the Hoops on his back and carry them to the finish line. Whatever momentum the Rapids could have built off of their goals was quickly killed. While the fans were still busy cheering, Super Ratón plunged a shiny Canalero dagger into the crowd's heart just minutes after each Colorado goal.
It's important not to underestimate the kind of confidence-busting those quick response goals can cause. After much hard work that had borne no fruit for Oscar's men, an easy goal was allowed to an elated Rapids squad. That happiness would last but seconds.
Staring right back at square one moments after finally getting a lucky break (the first goal was a gift from Dallas to Colorado) will take the wind out of most players' sails, and Blas is the one to thank for that.
All in all, it wasn't a great performance, but as the media loves to say: "Champions find ways to get results".
I think that performance is something Dallas will happily put in their back pocket and refer to every time they are down a goal while away. A morale boosting draw doesn't come around often, but they are vaulable building blocks of a championship team.
Food For Thought:
- Other than Blas (because duh), who was your MotM?
- The international matches approach: Who will we miss the most?
- What are your overall thoughts on the match? Did we stand a real chance at winning this game?