There was some good, some bad and some down right unfortunate play last night in the 2-1 loss for FC Dallas at the Colorado Rapids. It is hard not to sugar coat some of it but the loss is a tough one to swallow but it is something we all must do here as we move on to the final six games of the regular season.
About that lineup. What can you say? Schellas Hyndman has his own superstitions about lineups and he almost always tends to handle his lineup in this manner when there are players returning from international duty. But last night Hyndman did what he hasn't really been able to do much this season, field a fairly similar lineup from the previous game, which happened to be a win. The only change was in goal with Raul Fernandez returning in place of Chris Seitz.
Was it the right call to leave Blas Perez on the bench to start? Probably not. But hard to blame him given how well Fabian Castillo, David Ferreira, Je-Vaughn Watson and Jackson played with one another last week in the attack. It was pretty darn fluid having Ferreira play off Castillo in a modified 4-4-2 in that manner.
But last night we saw Jackson push up a little further than he did a week ago and to be perfectly honest, that caused issues. Not only was his speed and skill a non-factor but he was getting in the way of things more times than not.
So why not start Mauro Diaz then? I swear, if I were paid each time I've been asked this question over the last two months, I'd at least have a solid chunk of change in my pocket.
"When will Diaz be game fit?"
"When will we see him start consistently?"
When, when, when?!
I get the questions and totally understand where most of you are coming from on this. Diaz is a high profile type of player and we all want to see him out there more regularly. Is he 90 minutes fit now? It is honestly hard to tell right now and given how this was his first trip to play in altitude, it wasn't a shocker to see him come off the bench in this one.
I know they sound like excuses but you have to remember, the kid is still getting acclimated to a new country, the travel, the weather, and still the system of play under Hyndman. That is a lot to take in even for a 'little genius' like Diaz.
Hyndman consistently said over the first month that Diaz was here that it would take him at least two months to get 90 minutes fit but that doesn't mean he would start him right away. Not when guys like Jackson and Watson were actually playing well enough to keep a starting spot.
Give it time folks, give it time.
The 'meh' first half. The first half in this game was largely a waste for both sides. I know the Rapids had more chances on goal but never once did I feel like they were really posing any real threat on Dallas' defense. Kellyn Acosta once again had a solid evening, which was fun to see given how Colorado was targeting his side of the field.
But this first half brings up a few things with regards to the lineup. Obviously Ferreira was out of his element for whatever reason in this one and maybe it had more to do with Jackson pushing into the middle more than he would have liked/needed him to. Whatever the case may be, we didn't see Ferreira be his usual self until Perez came onto the field and opened up the attack just a little more.
Another thing that was clear in the first half was the lack of possession. Colorado exposed some weaknesses in the Dallas midfield that we all knew were there. The inability to keep the ball, move the ball or create anything worthwhile with it. Part of this was due to how Jackson and Watson were playing on the wings in this one. The other side of it was how much pressure the Rapids put on teams with their play up front.
The chances and own-goal. The second half was much better, from both sides really. Dallas got the lead with a great sequence of passing along the wings to set up Ferreira's third goal of the season. I'll continue to preach it - when this club plays a wide game - good things tend to happen.
Colorado stormed back with a solid ten minutes of their own. And really, it was about the only ten minutes of the game that the Rapids really put enough pressure to earn those goals. What was Watson doing in the penalty box on that first goal? We don't know. All I do know is that Matt Hedges should have called him off that ball if he wasn't already trying to.
As for the own-goal on Hedges, just like my old coach would tell me in those situations, 'shit happens'. Had Hedges not got a touch on it, Edson Buddle would have. That was going to be a goal no matter what.
Dallas created plenty of good chances though after the second Colorado goal. Diaz, Perez, Castillo, and Ferreira all worked hard at getting the equalizer. The wide play helped in this a few times as Dallas was getting the right type of crosses into the box. Give credit to the Colorado defense for coming up big when they needed to.
The status quo. The one bright side of things about this loss is the fact that LA tied D.C. United 2-2, Portland and Chivas tied 1-1 and San Jose and Vancouver tied 0-0. If I am Dallas I am still feeling like there is a shot with the remaining schedule.
I know some stat folks will be quick to point out the difficulty in the schedule with trips to New York, Salt Lake and San Jose and visits from Chicago, Columbus and Seattle. Honestly, I don't give a crap about all of that.
All I know is there are three home and three away. That is it. That is how the club is treating this as well, they know if they get the wins at home, they'll be fine. If they pick up some points on the road, all the better.
As tough as that schedule may sound, I don't feel like it is really all that bad going into it. New York is hot at the moment but they are the type of team that can have a bad game just as easily as they can a good one. Same can be said for Chicago, Columbus and San Jose. As for Salt Lake and Seattle, both teams know they're going to be in the playoffs, so get the points you can and move on.
I don't mean to sound so blunt but given how this season is going in Major League Soccer, the fact that so many teams are in contention at this point and from week to week we really don't know which teams will show up gives me reason to believe that there is no need to really put a ton of stock into the difficulty in the remaining schedule.
I may be the only one feeling that way but every club has a tough schedule left to deal with. I'm more concerned with how the team will deal with the remaining schedule. Can they get hot enough to get into the playoffs? At this point they're only two points out, which isn't that much. It is doable folks.