I am always amazed at the quickness that EA Sports and FIFA14 react to players and formations in real life.
When Mauro Diaz went down earlier this year, he was out of the starting lineup on the video game in a matter of days, despite being (by far) the highest-rated player on the team. Hendry Thomas was not far behind.
I had an urge to use both of them in my FIFA14 preview this week, but since neither is likely not to play in this game, I refrained. With a video game-suggested 4-4-2 formation, FC Dallas sported a lineup dotted with players rated in the 50's. For those of you who do not play the game, this was not a good sign.
What was a good sign, however, was that the game was against Philadelphia and that it was in Dallas.
In the absence of Diaz, FC Dallas has become somewhat more accustomed to playing with two forwards. Tesho Akindele and Blas Perez started the game by making good runs into space. Tesho's speed is not fully captured in this year's game, but he was able to create some decent chances throughout the first half.
For Blas' part, his best use in this game is as a holding forward extraordinaire, letting other faster players make runs in space he creates with movement away from the goal.
My FC Dallas team scored the first goal of the game on just such a play. Perez sucked the defense away from the goal on the left side of the field and made an angled pass to a darting Fabian Castillo. Castillo used his weaker right foot to score from around the top of the 18-yard box.
As an aside, I don't think the game can make subtle adjustments like this, but part of me wants to believe it allowed Fabian to score with his significantly weaker foot as a kind of reward for how great he's been playing recently.
In the 74th minute, Castillo struck again. He's just so fast compared to other MLS players in this game. After taking a pass, the Columbian angled to the right and fired another right-footed ball into the far corner.
The final score: FC Dallas 2, Philadelphia Union 0.
As great as Castillo has been, he was disciplined today by MLS. He'll miss four matches and was fined for his actions after the Hoops' game in Portland a few weeks ago. It's a disappointing ruling for Dallas fans, who were probably as frustrated as Castillo when call after call seemed to go Portland's way in the last few minutes of that game. Now, just when they are poised to get all their difference-makers back on the pitch at once, Dallas has another setback.
Along with the Columbus match he already missed last weekend, Castillo will miss the upcoming matches against Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC -- as if Mauro Diaz needed any additional urgency to try to get back on the pitch.
Castillo has been the most important member of the Dallas attack since Diaz went down. He's a big reason why Dallas hasn't lost in their past five games. I know it, FC Dallas fans know it, and the video game knew it.
His absence is also the reason I'm not predicting an FC Dallas win tomorrow night.
Prediction: FC Dallas 1, Philadelphia Union 1.