Many folks around the league always say that winning on the road is a tough task for anyone. Great teams find ways to do it while the good ones struggle for points and the bad ones squander them.
Saturday night in Utah was another tally in the L-column for FC Dallas on the season. Given how poorly things were going when the team tied things up in the second half, a draw would have been a fairly big result. Instead the team was sent back to Texas with no points for the second straight week after giving up a late game-winner.
I tend to give Oscar Pareja more credit than some (maybe less than others though) on his lineup choices. But Saturday was one of those nights that I saw the lineup revealed and I immediately thought "what the hell is he trying to do with this group?" Four defensive players in the midfield, a weird combo up top and a bench that had only possibly equally as puzzling.
The thing was the more I watched things play out, the more it didn't shock me. RSL plays narrow through the midfield, so clogging it up didn't seem as crazy as it did on paper.
I felt for sure though that going into this one that we'd see Moises Hernandez back at left back with Je-Vaguhn Watson going back into the midfield for Kellyn Acosta's return to the defense. Instead, Pareja opted to keep Acosta in the midfield for a second straight game but he also brought on Peter Luccin.
As we saw Luccin is not a 45 minute type player anymore, nor is he even really anything more than a 20 minute guy for this club. I love bringing him off the bench late in games to close things out. Something about that role still makes sense but seeing him start a big road game in the middle of a playoff push just baffled me. Obviously it was a tried experiment that Pareja quickly realized at halftime that it wasn't working as he brought on Tesho Akindele.
That move at the half opened up things a good bit in the midfield as Escobar shifted back into the midfield and the game seemed to come to FCD a little easier.
Death by the long ball
Boy, the dump and run kind of play only goes so far these days. Teams know that FCD wants to play this way with Fabian Castillo up top but the guy needs that Blas Perez-type player to help run off of here. Not having Perez for a second straight game (darn Panama call-up) showed just how effective the veteran forward is in this attack and why having that forward who can hold the ball up in a physical game is so important.
Akindele was able to do this some but not nearly as well as Perez is able to. That will almost certainly get sorted out this weekend if Pareja opts to use Perez right away after his international duty.
Time to move back to Hernandez. I mentioned this above but this game was more than enough evidence as to why Hernandez needs to be the first choice at left back over Jair Benitez. Saturday night was just an absolute misery of a game for the veteran fullback. Just like Luccin, I only want Benitez in late game situations from here on out.
Better from Ulloa and Acosta. Just with anything when it comes to young players, things only get better with more time. The more minutes we get out of these two in the final months of the season the better.
Escobar on the right. I hope and I think Pareja has quickly learned his lesson that Escobar has no business at being a forward right now. The guy is far more effective on the wings, just like Castillo is here. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll see the lineup become more normal again with Perez returning, Akindele starting again and who knows maybe even more Mauro Diaz.