Just when you thought you had seen it all with this FC Dallas team, they prove you wrong once again. Going into this match, everybody knew this was going to be a close affair. FC Dallas would have had to put forth its best performance to edge a hot Salt Lake team in 2nd place in the West. What we did not anticipate though, was the final score as soon as Blas Perez was shown the second yellow a few minutes before the half. I touch on that moment and the pure fight for the shirt in this week's review.
Fighting For The Shirt
What a difference a year makes, huh? How about the difference of a few months? FC Dallas had a similar situation occur earlier this season at RFK Stadium in the nation's capital. After having a 1-0, a Zach Loyd red card left the team in shambles, unable to recover and falling flat on their faces for a 4-1 loss on the road. Fast forward 4.5 months later, and the response was one of pure class and heart from the Hoops. Blas Perez was issued a second yellow/red card (see below) things looked bleak for FCD. After all, this was a Real Salt Lake team who looked dominant in 11 v 11 play in prior to the Perez ejection.
To the shock of many in MLS Nation, FC Dallas thrived with the man-down and received a goal that was well-deserved. The defensive effort of the team as a unit was rewarded when a defender, Je-Vaughn Watson, got his chest on a Michel corner kick to give FCD a priceless lead in front of the DTID faithful. What ensued afterwards, however, is what separated the two teams on the night. After giving up the goal, RSL pressed to find the equalizer. The Hoops, with the help of some substitutions from their head coach, repelled wave after wave of RSL attacks and were finally able to catch Salt Lake on the counter with some Fabian Castillo magic in the 2nd half. I would like to point to the fact that Fabi had missed a sitter off a quick throw-in a few minutes earlier. His response was fantastic, carrying the team on the 2nd goal and finishing with his RIGHT FOOT to Rimando's far post. Brilliant effort to cap a brilliant team performance by the defense, as well. Matt Hedges and Loyd were spot on all night, Jair Benitez and Watson were adequate and Kellyn Acosta played well when called upon in the later stages of the match. RSL were frustrated, Kyle Beckerman was ineffective, and Raul Fernandez came up big when he had to.
By doing all of the above, I wholeheartedly believe that we were to blessed to have witnessed FC Dallas' best performance of the season to date. We can argue for days if you would like to do so, but I was more impressed with this performance than I was with the Earthquakes performance. Who would have thought that was possible after last week? After a 5-0 shellacking on the road against a lowly Western Conference team, they respond to being a man down by building a lead while playing with 10 men and defending with quality against one of the league's best. This one had me smiling all night. In one match, these Hoops embodied the phrase "fight for the shirt." They took this bout against RSL with one hell of a fight at home.
The Blas Perez Conundrum
Let me qualify what I am going to say below before I get destroyed by the DTID faithful. The red card was horrendous. I truly believe that the center official Friday night had it out for Blas. In all fairness, Blas got Beckerman in the first few minutes of the match that deserved a yellow card. The referee let Perez off with a final warning in order to not show him a yellow card so early in the match.
Blas, however, continued to get involved with scuffles with Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers. He gave the referee no choice but to issue his first yellow card. Where I blatantly disagree though is with the second one. I went back and forth with myself on whether or not this was "JUST NASTY" worthy, and I believe the horrendous nature of a second yellow for embellishment when the offender should have been ejected made it an easy decision.
Why this is my substandard for the week though is simple. I want Blas Perez to be smarter. I know that he is a passionate player who wears his heart on his sleeve. We love him for that. But Blas, we need you to tone it down if you feel like you are at risk for an ejection in a match.
There are always games when Blas is overzealous and you can tell he might be seeing the red laminated paper in the course of that 90 minutes. From the first whistle, I could tell that this was going to be one of those matches. If this team wants to survive and win the MLS Cup, it needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. Granted, the repair work last Friday was brilliant, but you will not always have surgeons on your team who respond well to seeing the blood from the wound.
Do you think I am being too harsh on Blas? Who were you most impressed with on Friday? Let your voice be heard!