Rare are the losses where one feels as good about their team after losing as before the loss. Rarer still is the loss where I am not seething or brooding in that familiar way that fans do after a defeat.
I found myself oddly at peace on Saturday afternoon.
It took a moment of absolute magic to beat our beloved Toros on Monday. In the build up to the play, and on the strike itself, Dallas barely put a foot wrong. Yes, one can nitpick and find a dozen different things they could have done differently. But once you set aside your hindsight spectacles and remember that our players are, in fact, creatures of flesh and bone, it's hard to find fault with the defending and positioning that led to the goal.
What we saw from Dallas were, oddly enough, very encouraging signs. They played far better than the team that drew level with Portland a few weeks ago on our home turf. There was more organization throughout, and several players had outstanding games. George John, Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd were all part of a hive-mind.
They moved together in sync, communicated frequently, and intercepted about 6 very dangerous passes. I criticized Zach's positioning early in the game (as his pinching in allowed Michael Harrington free run of the left wing), but as Drew noted, it was likely an instruction to trail Nagbe. Given his instructions, Loyd did as well as he could have hoped, limiting Nagbe's damage to the best of his abilities. George John had one of his best games, as did Matt Hedges. It's cruel to lose a game where your players have standout performances.
The same couldn't be said on the other side of the field for FCD, but that's a different story altogether. The simple and valid excuse is that missing three potential starting strikers has consequences. Jackson was quite dangerous in the middle, but the Hoops were sorely missing the skill and size of Blas Perez, Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli.
Some Timbers fans were saying that Dallas deserved (emphasis is mine) to lose by more, and that Superman is the only reason Dallas wasn't embarrassed. Dallas clearly deserved the loss, or so goes the argument, because Raul kept out several sure-fire goals.
It's true that Raul Fernandez carried the team on his back for portions of it, but he is no less part of the team than the midfield. With that in mind, it's unfair to say that Dallas wasn't as good as the scoreline indicates because of Raul's saves. Since he is part of the team it's safe to say his performance makes scoreline fair. Donovan Ricketts certainly spared the Timbers a goal or two.
All things considered, the most encouraging sign shown by the team is that they played hard and gave it their all through 90 minutes. It didn't work out in the end, but anyone watching could be proud that our boys put in a hard shift on Jeld-Wen's pitch.
Sporting Kansas City await. They are no longer the monstrous and pedigreed juggernaut that some thought, but they are no joke either. Peter Vermes is not likely to take his team's loss in the US Open Cup lightly, and will look to take it out on the next team in his path. Dallas will need to be at their best.
If they play like they played on Saturday, I think the Toros will be alright.