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The SSJN: Open (Cup) Wounds

A big weekend victory and an even bigger weekday loss for FC Dallas feature in this week's version of the Splendid, Substandard, and Just Nasty.

Aw, Blas. We love you, but no more penalties for you.
Aw, Blas. We love you, but no more penalties for you.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

My, my, my. Soccer is a cruel sport, huh? We saw the complete contrast of emotions at Toyota Stadium within four days. Pure bliss in the scoreboard domination of the hated Rapids turned into utter devastation for the fans in attendance at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday night as the Hoops fell to the Union on penalty kicks. FC Dallas had fought valiantly but ultimately failed to achieve their goal of hosting the first cup final in Dallas in years. The team saw many ups and downs throughout these matches. Allow me to touch on a few.

The Splendid

Fabi-On Fire

In the last 9 matches Fabian Castillo has featured in an FC Dallas jersey, he has registered either a goal or an assist in every single one of them. Say what you want to say about the young man, but he is really starting to turn heads around the league for his play. No, Castillo did not have a good game against the Rapids. However, the fact that managed to score shows how much he has matured as a player. In the past, Fabian Castillo would disappear for the entire match, miss the only chance he had, and commit a foul or two out of frustration. He persevered through all of that and made sure to finish the only chance he got putting the match beyond doubt for the Hoops. On Tuesday night, amazingly, the absolute opposite happened. Castillo was the focal point of the FC Dallas attack. Almost every dangerous opportunity came as a result of the ball being played through Fabi. He carried his team all night, continuing to run for the entire match (save for a spell of cramps in the extra time period). The Fabian Castillo of old would have finished that match without putting the ball in the back of the net. Another sign of his maturity, he continued to go at the Philly defense, finally rounding MacMath and nestling the ball in the corner of the net. Castillo has matured and it is fascinating to see his response to two different types of matches both end with a beautiful sight: the ball in the back of the net. Fabi-lous Castillo has been Fabi-on fire.

The Substandard

Too Many Chances For My Liking

The FC Dallas defense has been steadily improving. It is rather hard to find continuity in the back when there is constant shuffling that occurs due to injuries. However, the amount of chances given up in both the Colorado and Philadelphia matches were too much for my liking. Colorado consistently found a way to get in front of goal on Saturday night and FC Dallas should be counting its blessings that they were wasteful to say the very least. On the other hand, Philadelphia also had its fair share of chances last night. Raul Fernandez and Co. were bailed out by one or two perfect slide tackles and the post on multiple occasions. This team has gotten better at the back and the re-emergence of Zach Loyd has played a huge role in that. They just need to be a little bit better, tighten things up defensively, and allow less chances on the defensive side of the ball.

The Just Nasty

Injuries Too! The Return of the Injury Bug

Mauro Diaz, Walker ZImmerman, and Adam Moffat all went down with injuries last night in the worst possible scenario imaginable. Oscar Pareja had used all of his switches by the half-time break in an elimination match when coaches usually hold on to their subs for fresh legs in the latter stages of the match. The outfield players, come extra time, had absolutely nothing left in tank. Unfortunately, these injuries occurred to players that have all been injured this year for a prolonged stretch of time. Some of these guys just cannot seem to shake the mental or physical bugs that have been bothering them. The human body works in weird ways. Once you are hurt, you are more worried about getting hurt again than you are playing the game right. There are exceptions to this, of course, as Stephen Keel was masterful while I hear he was dealing with an injury. For the most part though, some of our players have been struggling to stay healthy. I hope the training staff can get them figured out soon, or even that they were pulled as precautions. Otherwise, we might have another downward spiral to deal with very soon if they pile up.

BONUS NASTY:

Blas Perez's penalty-kick taking. I think he knows that he should never take a penalty unless forced to again. As one of the guys pointed out on Twitter, "he is just not good at them."

THOUGHTS:

Allow me to be on the record as saying I was very proud of the effort of our men. Look, it is so hard to play a match for 120 minutes on any level. Add in the three injuries in the first half, and there really is not much more to expect from the Hoops. They fought back after it seemed it was not their night, and ultimately fell to the lottery that is the penalty kick shootout. Question to all, would we not be lauding FCD's effort if they had advanced on penalty kicks? If the answer to that is yes, the sadness should remain sadness and not evolve into bitterness towards the team. They gave it their absolute all, especially Mr. Hollingshead being thrown into the fire in the most meaningful match of the season and showing well on both sides of the ball.