At the end of the day, it was a win. No matter how you look at Oscar Pareja's first game as head coach of FC Dallas, the one thing you can't take away from him is the fact that his club managed to earn him three points over the Montreal Impact.
But for all the changes, a lot still remained the same. FCD grabs the lead, looks strong for a few moments but then loses shape and barely holds on.
Strong up front
The big shining light in this game was the fact that when things got going for FCD, the offense really shined. Mauro Diaz was brilliant in this one as he set up the penalty kick for Blas Perez and then scored that magnificent free kick to open the second half. Fans voted Diaz the man of the match and I couldn't agree more with that statement.
I also felt that Fabian Castillo had a strong opener as well in this one. He looked dangerous on the wings and his finish on the opening goal was everything you could have wanted out of him in that situation. He nearly had a second one briefly after the first one but fell victim to an offside position.
Things were firing well for FCD in the first half after the club went down a goal too. Pareja stated afterwards that the Montreal goal was probably the best thing that could have happened to them at that early point in the game because it not only woke them up but it gave the team a chance to settle down. Other players echoed that statement afterwards as well, funny how the game works out in that way.
I'll keep saying it, when FCD goes to the wings good things happen. Castillo helped set up the free kick to Diaz by going to the wings. Diaz created the penalty kick by cutting inside from the wings. The first goal to Castillo got started on the wings.
And lastly here, how about Pareja subbing a defensive player late for an attacker with a one goal lead? I feel like we've never seen that before here.
Thomas the leader
The absolutely changed the second Hendry Thomas picked up a foot injury in the first half. In the first 20-30 minutes, the Honduran was his dominant self, playing just as we would have expected him to. He carried the midfield and really helped take the pressure off the back four after the first Montreal goal.
But once his foot started bothering him, his effectiveness started to go away. By the time Pareja subbed him out, Montreal was able to grab the middle of the field and push the game to their favor.
We'll find out on Monday if this injury is going to keep Thomas away for any length of time but just like we stated in preseason, Thomas is a guy that FCD cannot afford to lose for long stretches this season.
[For those wondering about Adam Moffat, he picked up a knock late in the week in training, a few folks were telling me last night that they expect him back next week though.]
Chemistry in the back
Early on you could see that the defense was clearly missing George John in the back. Without him the shape was not good and Montreal was taking full advantage of that. As good as Kellyn Acosta looked on the night, his placement on the first goal by Sanna Nyassi was not good at all - but then again neither was Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez or Jair Benitez.
Speaking of Benitez, boy did his age show threw at bad times in the match last night. He got burnt on the wings a number of times by Justin Mapp. Yeah, not many are able to say that in this league that they got beat badly by Mapp, but Benitez sure can after last night. I was told that Benitez won the starting job in the final days of practice going into the Montreal game over Michel.
Still, this defensive group has some work to do overall. Like I mentioned above, when Thomas left the game, this group got put under more pressure. Thankfully by that point in this game the communication between Hedges and Hernandez was improved to the point that they were able to keep the Impact from tying things up.
Seitz shows off his worth
I'll give Seitz a pass on the first Montreal goal. It was just a wake up call that the entire squad needed. The same almost could be said for the second goal by Andrew Wenger as he put in a very strong header by him.
But time and time again, Seitz was tested in this match and he rose to the challenge. I thought going into this match that the team could be in trouble not only because of the young defense but more so because of him. It was a weird gut feeling sort of thing on my part to think that way but he was able to erase all of that on the night.
Debut of Escobar
Nine-plus minutes of work on the night for the newcomer Andres Escobar. We nearly saw him get on the scoresheet too right after he got in thanks to some good work of Castillo on the end line.
It was tough to really take a lot from what we saw out of him though on the night. He had a couple touches, none were more important than the other. He put Montreal under pressure though when he did see the ball near him, so we do have to credit him for that.
Saying all of that, I do think he has a ways to go right now to get up to full gear with this team and surpass Je-Vaughn Watson for the starting spot.
As much as we've discussed the state of the Homegrown player around here, FCD did start two former academy players last night. One went the full 90 (Hernandez) and the other put in a little over 80 minutes of solid work (Acosta). I told a few people before the match that I really was secretly hoping that Richard Sanchez could have worked his way into the starting eleven over Seitz to give the club three HGPs to start the game and the season.
Still, two starting is a big sign of where things will be going under Pareja. I felt overall, both looked solid on the night. Hernandez is playing out of position but at times I didn't even realize that. Acosta played just as you would have expected him to.