Slow out of the gate. Yeah, the first 15-20 minutes were all San Jose last night. It was pretty obvious that the travel and heat was a big reason for the lackluster play for FC Dallas. Yes, the midfield stunk up the place and the defense got burned on both goals. But to be fair, I wasn't surprised by any of it considering how the team went from Portland last Saturday to LA last Sunday, played in LA on Wednesday, flew back to Dallas on Thursday and then had another game on Saturday. All three games were against teams that were better rested than they were. So the slow start was always going to happen the more I looked at it.
That being said those opening minutes were not what the doctor ordered after getting the club got their first win since late May on Wednesday. Kellyn Acosta made his first real rookie mistake on the first goal and Jair Benitez ball-watched on the second goal.
Still, it was like once San Jose scored their second that the team woke up. The midfield began to control things a little better and the defense relaxed enough to where the pressure from San Jose wasn't getting to them to the put where they were giving the Quakes easy chances like on their two goals.
Speaking of that midfield. Yes, I know what you all are thinking, why on earth was Je-Vaughn Watson starting last night? Simple, the more you listen to Schellas Hyndman speak of Ramon Nunez, the more you realize Nunez at this point is only capable of being a second half sub. From what I've seen in training out of Nunez and in games from him, he does not play the way Hyndman wants him to. Hyndman has brought this up a few times too. It is hard to count on a guy that won't completely play in position, no matter where in the midfield he is for 90 minutes.
So that left Hyndman with Watson last night. But what about Diaz, you say? Fitness is probably the biggest reason for that one as he still isn't 100% ready to go 90 minutes. I may be in the minority on this but I'm perfectly find bringing him on in the second half and gradually getting him to the point where he can go 90 minutes. He did after all play 62 minutes on Wednesday in LA and 73 minutes last Saturday in Portland. The guy is also still getting acclimated to the heat of Texas (it is currently winter in Argentina) and the travel in MLS.
Yes, that means with Jackson suspended last night Hyndman had to resort to Watson. I may go into this more this week but Watson wasn't the issue in the midfield early on. It was more on Michel and possibly Erick. As good as Michel is to have on the field I have to continue to bring this up, the guy is a turnover machine. Something that I know the club is working hard to correct with him.
Physical play. Hyndman mentioned this last night afterwards to the press, this was probably as physical of a game as they've had this season. Also, with the final eight games ahead on the schedule, games are going to only get more physical from here on out. The playoff hunt will do that to clubs and given how parity driven this league is this season, everyone but a small few are in contention this season to make the playoffs. So in other words, every game counts even more from here on out.
But one thing about that physical play is that Dallas does have a guy up front in Blas Perez that is able to sell that contact well enough to earn penalty kicks. Yes, it was another soft challenge that Perez was brought down on in the box but Dallas fans should and will take that any day of the week. Oh and kudos to Michel for hammering home that penalty, apparently he's been putting in a ton of work on those lately and everyone said afterwards that he was the best player on the field to take it in that situation.
That stare down from Cooper. Holy smokes. I've never seen Kenny Cooper go off like that. I doubt any one has. But right after the play happened we realized who he was towering over and quickly realized there was some history there. Victor Bernardez was the guy that took Cooper down back in May, leaving him with a concussion. So it was only natural for a guy like Cooper, even as calm as he usually is, to get worked up as much as he did over a hard tackle just second after entering the game.
I know Cooper will be out for the next game but I have to say this, that card showed his teammates something. It showed the young guys that Cooper is a guy that is willing to put up a fight if he needs to and he will get physical too. A couple of the players mentioned after the game that they had never seen him like that but were happy he didn't let Bernardez get away with a cheap foul.
I think it also sends a small message to the rest of the league that Dallas is ready to fight there way into the playoffs here. You'd expect something dumb like that from Jackson or Jair Benitez but a guy like Cooper, no way. I think that stare down will speak volumes in the coming weeks.
Character kind of result. The come from behind result was probably something this club needed if they weren't going to get three points. I think in some small way, had the first red card to San Jose's Justin Marrow not happened that Dallas probably would have gotten a third goal. The momentum was there for it in my eyes and the cards kind of killed that.
But that isn't the full point of this thought. Really, this result felt as close to a win as it possible could. Hyndman brought up several results from earlier in this season that ended in a draw and said how they felt more like losses. But last night's draw felt more like a win. That may be hard to buy into for some of you but it did push Dallas into fifth place (thanks to Vancouver's loss to LA).
The upcoming weekend off comes at a perfect time for Dallas. While most clubs will be dealing with multiple games coming up, Dallas gets a week off to recoup and relax. Not to mention their next game is at home after this well-timed break.