Just like with every win, I think I will include this to start my recap post.
Ah, there we go. Now we can really get down to business following FC Dallas' 2-0 win over Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The snow made it fun as we were delayed a day on this, which probably helped matters more than hindering them.
Pareja makes simple changes yet again
It doesn't seem to take Oscar Pareja much to make simple changes that end up paying off. On Saturday, as FCD went into the half with a 0-0 following Zach Pfeffer's ridiculous red card on Mauro Diaz. Pareja masterfully looked at the field and noticed Michel was carrying a yellow. The simple move of taking Michel off the field and placing Ryan Hollingshead on was a stroke of genius that we are coming to expect out of Pareja.
Adding in another attacking player like Hollingshead opened up the extra space that was on the field thanks to the red card to Pfeffer. Instead of countering like they had been in the first half, Pareja instructed the boys to push forward more with the extra width on the pitch.
Tesho Akindele pushed forward into the attack alongside Blas Perez and became a nightmare for the Union defense. His first goal of the year was a strike that a lot of young forwards fail to make but he put good pace on the ball and found a way to beat Rais M'bolhi (who was really not in a good position on the play).
Defense continues to improve
Week after week, we're seeing the defense get tested in various ways. Thankfully they continue to rise to the challenge too.
Chris Seitz got another shutout in this one as he came up with five saves, including a couple tough ones from Sebastien Le Toux. A lot of it was in the first half though as the Union relied on pressure on the wings to test FCD in this one. Once the field was stretched in the second half, the FCD defense was able to control the tempo and movement of the game a lot more.
Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd continue to do very solid work in the middle of the defense while Atiba Harris continues to grow as a right back. Sure, Je-Vaughn Watson will likely take his starting role before long but right now, Harris is starting to get comfortable in the back and it showed early in the match when he had to clear away a dangerous ball in the box that made its way to the back post. A month ago, that ball likely would have resulted in an awkward own-goal on Harris but his positioning is improving enough to where he isn't prone to those types of mistakes.
More from Diaz
Aside from getting elbowed in the face, Diaz had a much nicer game this time around. He saw more of the ball in the middle portion of the field, which did result into some chances for FCD.
But one thing we're seeing a lot more out of Diaz that I like his is ability to recover on defense. Just looking at his chalkboard stats, he had nine recoveries in this game with the majority of them coming in the first half when the team was under more pressure. While this isn't the type of play we really expect out of a guy like Diaz, we're at least seeing some hustle and eagerness to get on the ball that we may have not seen out of him before.
The distribution out of him in the middle of the field was much better because of the amount of time he saw the ball this week. Loads of good passes forward to press the attack. I still think it is only a matter of time before he really hits his stride here and becomes that MVP threat that we all know he can be.
Bench selections. Some wondered (like myself) why Dan Kennedy didn't travel and Jesse Gonzalez did. As one smart person pointed out on Saturday, this is the kind of game that is worth sending Gonzalez to for the experience when we know Kennedy wasn't going to get playing time. Watson was likely selected over Barrios due to his international call-up from Jamaica (same argument could be made for Kyle Bekker).
Castillo continues to haunt teams. I didn't get to touch much on him above but I thought this was one of Fabian Castillo's better games so far this year. No goals but boy did he put himself into some dangerous spots early on in this one. Had there been some better finishing on the end of his passes, he could have left this one with a couple assists, easily. Good for Hollingshead to finish that one chance though.
Stephen Keel for the win:
Soccer!! Congrats to the lads on the sports event win. Safe travels home & remember, like liquids, place the 3pts in its own screening bin.— Stephen Keel (@StephenKeel22) March 21, 2015