We've talked before how this season's goal for FC Dallas was just to get to this part of the year, the playoffs. This seems to be the icing on top of the 2014 cake now. The game itself was certainly a tough one to call as both teams physically battled either other to until the end but at this point in the year, style points mean nothing as long as you advance.
The gambles paid off...sorta
Once again Oscar Pareja rolls the dice with his lineup selection and for the most part it worked. Bringing Mauro Diaz back into the starting eleven was always going to be a talking point for us all but everyone knew that starting him meant he would be subbed at one point in the game. I honestly thought that point could have come 15-20 minutes sooner than it did.
But that isn't the point here.
What mattered was seeing Diaz be himself again on the field for the most part last night. From stringing together passes that extended the width of the field to Fabian Castillo and Tesho Akindele, to doing the little things on the ball to set up the attack.
Having Diaz allowed Vancouver to really focus more on Blas Perez than I thought it would too. Perez was mostly a non-factor in the attack from a stats standpoint. But this all allowed the width to be that much more effective on the night. Castillo was a headache for Vancouver and likely could have done more on a couple attempts in the game. Akindele stretched the field well from the wings and it paid off for him with his first goal since mid-August.
I also felt bringing Walker Zimmerman back into the lineup was a big move that worked well. I'd personally rather see him out there with Matt Hedges the rest of the way out if he can stay healthy of course. What Zimmerman brings is an ability to close down the passing lanes from the midfield. When Michel or Victor Ulloa slipped up last night, it seemed that more times than not it was Zimmerman cleaning up the mess.
Talk about other changes
Some folks wondered where Raul Fernandez has been the last couple of games. Last Saturday he was gone for a family emergency from what I was told. Something last minute that came up, nothing more than that. But then on Sunday he took a knock in practice to the head, which forced the training staff to hold him up for this game against Vancouver.
Honestly, I think if I were Pareja I keep Chris Seitz in goal the rest of the way out. But that could just be me.
Andres Escobar was also absent from the starting lineup. This was due to Pareja simply giving him some extra rest. A bold move at first but one that really did pay off in the end because he brought some serious energy to the team late in the game. At this point in this season, you need those options off the bench.
The last big question was surrounding Adam Moffat. The Scot was all good to be apart of this one but on Monday he started experiencing more tightness in his hamstring that he injured earlier this season.