It's safe to say that Toronto loves to play it safe and are willing to give up corners with their confidence defending set pieces; however this could be seen as a mistake when facing a team with Diaz and Michel both on the field.
The first fifteen minutes were heavily dominated by FC Dallas as they pressed Toronto into their own half except for the occasional Toronto counter, which is how they have played most of the season thus far. We have seen several corners so far for Dallas with none of them being too dangerous, but if you keep giving FCD corners, they will punish you.
Toronto showed why they have been so dangerous all season when Issey gets two chances on goal and after one save from Seitz the second shot glances off of Watson and is into the back of the goal. 1-0 Toronto against the run of play and another goal where Seitz had no chance.
Quickly FCD gets down the field and a near-perfect cross from Benitez, after a cheeky Castillo backheel, finds Watson at the far post with an open net, but he skies the header. Any hit on target and the game's level - a truly blown chance on that one.
More set piece opportunities for FCD as Michel takes a free kick from distance and rockets it just under the crossbar, but that shot was never going to beat a keeper of Julio Cesar's class.
Michel to Hedges, that's all it takes to level the game 1-1. Toronto keeps giving FCD corner's and we finally take advantage of it in the 37th minute when Michel finds Hedges open on the front post and a redirection header places it just inside the post leaving Cesar no chance whatsoever.
Just 4 minutes later another corner kick for Dallas finds Texeira rising above all the defenders and he rockets a header to the back post, but somehow Julio Cesar is able to deflect the shot. Not sure how that one doesn't end up in the back of the net, that's probably a goal 9 times out of 10.
Quick Halftime Recap: FCD have been the dominant team while Toronto absorb pressure and look to break on the counter, but Toronto have done this all season and it works well for them. FCD will need to stay compact in the back and not fall asleep while the offense does their work.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half were a bit different from the first half as Toronto looked to come out of their shell a little bit looking for the go-ahead goal.
The best chance in these opening minutes came when Castillo cut in from the left hand side of the field and looked to hit the ball towards the back post and it sailed just over the bar. I have to say, from my seat on the West side, it looked like the ball was in the net and we all went crazy, only to be embarrassed seconds later.
In the 65th minute Kellyn Acosta floated a ball into the back post where Fabian Castillo was unmarked and he struck it on the full but the ball went well wide. A full volley is one of the toughest shots to take, if not the toughest, in soccer so a bit of sympathy from me.
Toronto fans will probably be calling for some form of goal-line technology when Chris Seitz did well to catch a chipped shot and keep it from fully crossing the line in the 69th minute.
At this point the man everyone has been waiting for - Blas Perez - enters the field in place of David Texeira.
In the 75th minute Kellyn Acosta comes through the back of Gilberto inside the box, but was not whistled for the foul. This should have resulted in a PK because it is the same foul that Issey was booked for in the 55th minute, but FCD is given a break and this is the turning point in the match.
Hedges could have put FCD in the lead in the 84th minute when a Michel corner is placed just wide of the post and Hedges shows his disgust after this wasted chance.
Michel does it again when his free kick is popped up by Stephen Keel, followed by Matt Hedges, and then struck into the net by none other than Blas Perez in the 88th minute. Now all we have to do is hold on for a couple minutes!
We make a couple subs to close the match out with Adam Moffat for Michel and later Andrew Jacobson for Mauro Diaz to add more defensive players onto the field.
And the final whistle goes and FCD remain top of the league with a 2-1 win over Toronto FC!
Quick Recap: Credit to FCD for staying compact in the back when Toronto looked to counter and great job from the team to earn and execute on set pieces to get the result needed. This team just knows how to win.
Notes on the Match:
Huge props to the guys in the Beer Garden! They have been nothing short of amazing in helping with the atmosphere and it shows with the comments from Pareja and the boys after the match.
Castillo again showed to be dangerous (as did Jackson) but failed to put an end product on the field once again. You have to think that the pre-season and early season form are still in him somewhere, but it has not showed as of late.
Blas Perez is what Dallas needs to have a shot at MLS Cup. Texeira is great and I believe he should have 3 goals so far this year if not for ridiculous saves from the keeper, but Perez creates goals out of absolutely nothing.
Keel has limitations in his ability that have become apparent in the last couple of weeks and the absence of George John has now been noticed. Don't get me wrong, Keel is great, but he is no George John. I believe when John is healthy again we will finally see a championship level team.
Benitez and Acosta both got forward well in this match with Toronto sitting back for the majority and both of their service was great resulting in numerous opportunities at goal.
Michel had his best game this season and probably his best performance (in which he started the game) in a FCD jersey. He had 0 dispossessions which is great. Still a few silly passes, but the improvement was there.
Questions this Match Created:
How does Zach Loyd fit into this lineup?
With Michel coming off of arguably his best game in the Dallas jersey and both Moffat and AJ returning to fitness, does Michel hold on to this starting position or is he moved back into the rotation?
How important do you believe the atmosphere of the stadium is to the result of the team's performance?