If it's felt like seven weeks since I've written a positive Chalkboard series, well then, you sir or madam are indeed correct. It's been that long since the Hoops have taken three points from an opponent and boy does it feel good that it came off those bastards of Houston. It's even sweeter now that they're back in the Western Conference giving FC Dallas an even bigger lead over our instate rivals and we can all happily pull out our favorite Stephen Keel gif.
There was a bit of a lull coming off the first half, where Dallas took the game to Houston and built a quick 2-0 lead and the game seemed to kind of just fizzle out for a heated derby match. The thing that I'm taking away, as I'm pretty sure the players are too, is the way they finally figured out how to grind out a result. Dallas didn't force the issue but managed to contain Houston in the process and limit their second half chances and ended their six game winless streak. Now they can head to Kansas City for the fifth round USOC match with some confidence before returning home quickly to host the New England Revolution on Independence Day.
Mauro, Mauro, Mauro
What makes Mr. Diaz so tantalizing as a player is his ability to things with the ball that you only think can be pulled off when playing PES. (I'm a PES person, so what of it?!) Diaz logged 102 events on the ball, more than any other player for either side, which is always a fantastic thing for an attacking playmaker. His heat map is about what you hope to see from him every match:
Lots of time on the ball, most of it coming centrally and a respectable amount of it coming from Zone 14 (that space right outside the 18 yard box). Basically, the more Diaz has the ball, the better off this team is as he's able to dissect teams apart with his passing, feints and dribbles and keep this team's offense going.
But most importantly when Dallas can get Diaz the ball in space, running at full speed, things like this happen:
But most importantly, things like this too:
"Fabi does Fabi Things"
(Quote from @ScottHiney)
Watch that gif again and pay close attention to the Houston Dynamo defender (David Horst) who basically did the exact opposite of covering Fabian Castillo on that goal. Notice how he immediately turned his back on Castillo and began sprinting to cover the flank but abandoned the middle because of it. That mistake opened up just enough of a passing lane for Diaz to thread the ball in and for Fabian to make his electric run into the Dynamo 18.
I think the Fabian of two years ago would not have noticed that space and not have made that run. And, while we're at it, probably wouldn't have finished that chance either. But that's what we're witnessing from Fabian under the careful guidance of Oscar Pareja, Fabi is growing in the little things. As fast as he is, Castillo has learned to play slower when he needs to and oddly enough, faster when the game scenario dictates it.
Watch how he changes his pace from slow to quick to slow and back to quick in a matter of seconds, completely unbalancing his defender in the process and putting Dallas up a goal in this sequence.
(That pass came courtesy of a beauty from Kellyn Acosta just FYI.)
That wouldn't have happened just a few years ago where Castillo would just play at one speed: fast. Now that he's learned to mix up his pace, he is now so much harder to defend because of it and is the scariest player in the league.
One of the criticisms for this team has been its inability to just do the dirty work and grind out a result on a consistent basis. We still don't know if they can do it regularly yet but at least they did pull it off on Friday.
This is Houston's shot chart for the first 57 minutes:
This is Houston's shot chart from the 58th minute until the end of the game:
It's simple soccer really. When you're protecting a lead, you must be careful with the ball and limit the opposition's chances on your own goal. Dallas did both of those things, particularly in the shot limitation part and put up a clean sheet.
While it's fun to blow out teams 4-1 and put the offense on full display, sometimes that's just not going to happen for a full 90. The opposition adjusts and you're going to have to figure out how to compensate and protect your lead. Here's to the players remembering how to get 'er done and hopefully we can see them build on this performance and get this season back on track.