In the biggest match of the season and on the biggest broadcast stage MLS has to offer, FC Dallas struck down the LA Galaxy. With the reigning champions walking defeated off the field, the Hoops plunged their bull-bearing standard into the summit of Mount Soccer and laid claim the title of "Undisputed Leaders of The West".
Going into the game, the two major questions were concerning the Galaxy's fitness and whether or not FC Dallas were "for real". The first half was a relatively quiet affair, but the second half had fans of both teams on the edge of their seats, spilling beer and coke, swearing and yelling and grabbing their hair all in equal measure.
If you by any chance missed it, read Drew's recap from last night here.
- Andrew Jacobson had another solid performance in midfield, holding down the middle of the of the park defensively with force and calmly distributing the ball under pressure. Playing further to the right, he combined regularly with Ferreira and Loyd. He even had a few slick passes beyond his standard distribution, tricking LA's defenders and catching them by surprise. In possession however he was pretty wasteful, being dispossessed nine times. Overall his showing was decent if not good.
- Michel did not have his strongest game during the final ten minutes, which saw him giving up the ball in several awful spots, but he was otherwise a distributive force of nature. Just take look at his passing/defensive map below. It's so ridiculous I don't even know how to describe it. My best efforts to find the right words with a thesaurus saw the poor book go up in flames. Such was the power of Michel's presence.
- The green dots are successful passes while the black dots are successful interceptions/tackles. Have you ever seen Bugs Bunny draw a map to try and confuse someone? Those maps are less complicated than this mess. Michel had a massive influence in this game; his distribution spread out the attack and stretched the field, while his tackles and interceptions settled down the midfield against a determined Galaxy side, at least until the final minutes where he decided to go on vacation. Those cross field passes were a work of art, made more impressive by the fact that he completed so many of them.
- Raul Fernandez came up huge tonight. Except for one fairly weak punch early on, Raul was firmly in command of his area. After an early restart, his awareness was the only thing that kept Mike Magee off the scoreboard. A quick pass from a restart saw him in on goal, but Fernandez charged in the ball before it could get ugly. He made several important saves after that, none more so than the fantastic diving save on Landon Donovan's rather weak penalty attempt.
- Fernandez also bailed FCD out after a HORRIFIC moment that saw Michel switch off for a second. The ball was stolen right from under Michel's nose and it resulted in a breakaway. Only the combination of a so-so strike and a desperate lunge from Fernandez kept the ball out of the net.
- Our keeper's confidence is improving with every game that passes, and during this match there were fewer communication issues with his back line. Did I mention he was playing hurt? Raul Fernandez: synonym for "He-Man".
- This team's propensity for lackadaisical distribution out of the back has almost resulted in self-inflicted wounds for several games now. This "playing out of the back" bit that they are trying to accomplish requires a combination of good decision making under pressure and precision, and lately one or both of those elements have been lacking. It is borderline miraculous that Dallas did not give up a goal to the lethal Galaxy counterattack. Drew mentioned in his preview that not giving up silly balls in the defensive third would go a long way, and yet that's exactly what happened on more than one occasion.
- Baldomero Toldeo is not a referee I am particularly fond of, and tonight is a good example as to why. Marcelo Sarvas' thuggish behavior earned him five fouls before the first half. Five fouls. He escaped with "warnings" each time he transgressed, and one particular tackle on Ferreira was very reckless and should easily have been a straight yellow card, independent of prior fouls. Toledo's warnings had all the effectiveness of a strongly worded letter to North Korea, which is to say none at all.
- Toledo could have (and did) change the game several times last night. While Blas did sell the contact from Leonardo a bit, few people will say that's not a penalty. The last defender remaining who fouls the attacker gets a red so, by the letter of the law, the ref was correct to eject the Galaxy defender. Bruce Arena seemed to think it was not a foul, but you would expect that from the coach of the losing side.
- Toledo's PK call on George John was a bit suspect, but since there was some (miniscule) contact, the decision to award a spot kick could be forgiven. The penalties awarded were understandable yet, as mentioned before, his single biggest fault was not controlling persistent infringement. His "make up" call awarded a yellow card to Omar Gonzalez, a man who was hardly deserving of a booking compared to the other things that occured on the field.
- The fans were loud and made their voices heard, silencing critics of FC Dallas' attendance. I felt like I was right there on the grounds, a feat difficult to accomplish through TV. Excellent work from all you at FC Dallas Stadium.
Yes, Los Angeles was missing Robbie Keane, but they did field a pretty strong squad and fought furiously after going down a man. The Galaxy did not exactly roll over and give up on the game, and teams down a man usually fight back with intensity. The Galaxy faithful can roll out some standard excuses: LA had tired legs from a strong CCL showing, they had a red card (fairly issued) to Leonardo and Robbie Keane was absent, but none of that matters as of right now.
Last night, Dallas won.
Dallas won on national television, shutting out and defeating the two time MLS Cup champions in a dramatic, late-game fashion that made for great TV and even better sports drama.
Today, Dallas is the best team in the league, and all us fans can say that with authority.
Food for Thought
- Does any one else think that Toledo looks like a Hispanic Dracula?
- How good was Omar Gonzalez tonight? His only major "derp" moment came from losing George John in the kerfuffle that led to the winning goal.
- What was your opinion of Kenny Cooper's performance?
- Did you expect Dallas to beat LA?