Since the MLS World Cup break, FIFA14 has changed with the times. As FC Dallas has gone on a five game unbeaten run, EA Sports has begun to recognize the value of some of the players who weren't even in the first team when the season began.
One of the best parts about playing FIFA14 this season has been to see how a player's current form or a team's new formation is reflected in a one-off game played in the video game.
For the Hoops, both of these things have applied lately. With injuries and suspensions throughout the season, Oscar Pareja has moved to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation, with midfielders being asked to not just be defensive or offensive players only. The 4-4-2 has made Dallas much less predictable during their current unbeaten streak.
The 4-4-2 has also seen a lot of pressure put on the defenders -- especially Stephen Keel, who might be, along with Zack Lloyd, one of Dallas' most consistent and reliable defenders this season.
It all adds up to a team that has evolved at least two or three times throughout the season. Again, I love that my video game evolves along with them.
Darren Mattocks came out like a bolt of lightning. If you're worried about a let-down against Vancouver, know that their speed is well-respected in this game. They are speedsters. Mattocks took a through pass in the sixth minute, fended-off Matt Hedges for about 20 yards, cut back on his left foot, and beat Raul Fernandez to the far post.
A controller might or might not have been thrown across the room. I don't like losing -- especially at video games.
After realizing I woke up the baby and putting her back down, I un-paused the game -- down a goal six minutes into it. I'm still not totally sold on Dallas' back line, especially in the middle.
The 4-4-2 formation leaves any of the midfielders open to make overlapping runs. My first goal was on just such a run from Adam Moffat. Blas Perez, the perfect holding forward, made an amazing through pass to a speeding Moffat. Moffat took a touch and then blasted a shot from the 18-yard box, off the left post and in to tie the game at one apiece in the 24th minute.
The shot was a great one, but I can't get over how much the overlapping runs by midfielders mirrored what I saw last weekend in the Hoops' game against New England.
Another pleasant turn of events for this spectator has been the offensive mindset of defender Moises Hernandez. Hernandez and Lloyd always seem to be turning upfield and giving Dallas an extra wing on the attack lately. Like many young Dallas players, Hernandez oozes upside.
In the 42nd minute, Hernandez took a pass from Andres Escobar in the box. His shot took a deflection off a defender and trickled into the back of the net. 2-1 FC Dallas.
I'm also going to stop here to praise Escobar for his play last week. He looked as effective as Fabian Castillo from the flank and really showed the kind of play-maker he can be. The video game, once again, emulated real life on the second goal.
Tesho Akindele has been a sort of revelation. The rookie was just getting his feet wet early in the year, never quite getting the right combination of touches to score like he did in college. Recently though, he's been awesome. Akindele scored his third goal last week against New England and he also scored the goal of the game in my video game preview.
Using his speed to track down a defender, Tesho expertly blocked a clearance outside the offensive right side of the 18 yard-box. On the very next touch, he basically chipped the keeper, with the ball landing in the top of the side netting on the left side of the goal. It was about as skilled as a shot gets, which is not bad for a player who (I think) started the season rated only at 64. With his recent form, he's been moved up to a 70 this week -- totally appropriate given his recent play.
Akindele's 48th minute goal was the third for Dallas and ended up also being the final goal of the match.
Who else has "Powered up?"
Lots of FC Dallas players' overall ability levels have been raised on the game lately to reflect their form. Raul Fernandez has been moved from 70 to 73, Stephen Keel from 63 to 66, Matt Hedges from 66 to 68, Andres Escobar from 63 to 69, Blas Perez from 67 to 70, and Akindele from 64 to 70.
Hernandez is still a 57 and Victor Ulloa a 58, but a few more solid performances should see them go up as well.
The bottom line here is that the creators of FIFA14 have seen enough to put some stock in the good form Dallas has shown lately, and with a healthy Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo's return on the horizon, there is no reason to think Dallas doesn't play fast and dominate in the friendly (indoor) confines of BC Place. I'm going to make my FIFA14 final the prediction this week:
FC Dallas 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps.
What do you think of the development of players like Akindele, Hernandez, and Escobar this season? Can it be enough to make a serious run once Castillo and Diaz are back and healthy?