The days of Schellas Hyndman not playing his Homegrown players seem like ages ago now as FC Dallas continues to put together an impressive run of games largely built on their young core group of players leading the charge. Their 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers on Saturday showed just how dangerous this team can truly be, even at times when they are getting outplayed.
Play yo kids
What crab cakes and football go with Maryland (or at least in the movie Wedding Crashers it does), Dallas is starting to be synonymous with playing their young players. This quote from Oscar Pareja was something every American fan should be excited over:
I will say this over and over. I believe in the talent in America. I believe we have tremendous players in this country - they just need an opportunity. For me to see them go and perform and be part of such a great event is a pride for us. America has great players and we have to believe in that.
Pareja believes it more and more. His faith in Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa is key to this team. As is his faith in other young guys like Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios. Just look at the ages of that group for a moment. We have a now 20-year old in Acosta, a pair of 23-year olds and a pair of 24-year olds. Oh and throw in the fact that Ezequiel Cirigliano and other guys like Tesho Akindele and Ryan Hollingshead are 24 as well shows you the faith in the younger players that Dallas has right now.
Saturday was a perfect example of why playing young players game-after-game and giving them the chance to prove their worth is vital. Ulloa and Acosta absolutely owned a very good Portland midfield that had two Designated Players in it with Diego Chara and Diego Valeri. Throw in the fact that they managed to do well against a very good newcomer in Lucas Melano and a famed 'Dallas killer' in Darlington Nagbe. I never felt that Nagbe or Valeri were even apart of this game, which has to credit what Acosta and Ulloa were able to do.
The way Ulloa and Acosta are playing these days is also helping the defense be what we all expected the defense to be this year. Matt Hedges is able to do the Hedges-type stuff in the back that calms the game down when the team needs him to. Zach Loyd is able to work the space behind Ulloa and Acosta well enough that he isn't getting loads of pressure placed on him. And the full backs are continuing to do massive work as well as Hollingshead and Harris are playing at a higher level than most realize.
Now that depth...
We've talked for what feels like ages about the depth of this squad so far this season. A lot of us weren't totally content with the lack of moves being made this year but now that we're in a five game winning streak and unbeaten in six overall league games, it seems that the frustration that was once there is dying off a bit.
I try to keep my level of expectations about this group at a smart level. Not too high but also not too low. Lately with those expectations, I've come out feeling pretty darn good about where things are going with this bunch. Throw in the fact that we'll soon be getting Blas Perez and Je-Vaughn Watson back from their Gold Cup duties and I immediately wonder what Pareja is going to do this weekend in Chicago. For the last three games, Pareja has been able to do something rare, start the same group with good results. Does he go against that on Sunday in Chicago by placing Perez and Watson back in a lineup that for the most part has worked very well against a couple of good teams?
It is tough to say but the depth is probably in as good of a spot as we've seen it so far this year. Given the fact that you have guys like Harris and Hollingshead that are now converting to full backs, giving Watson and Moises Hernandez a run for their starting positions. Right now, I'm won over by Hollingshead at left back. I hope that only fuels Hernandez to make a good push to get his starting spot back in training.
Hot crowd. Even though the announced attendance was much lower than what I was hoping it would be on the night, the energy in the stands was about as good as it has been all year. The Beer Garden was loud. They rocked some tissues early on to make Caleb Porter laugh. The fact that they started doing a 'Super Mario' theme midway through the second half was even more awesome.
Barrios vs Escobar. We may go more into this thought later on but the return we're getting right now out of Barrios really feels way better than what we ever got out of Andres Escobar last year. I know Escobar's stat line was slightly better (2 goals, four assists) to what Barrios has so far (three goals, zero assists). But the fit seems better.