Nothing good came out of this one. Nothing. Normally you can find some kind of silver lining when the game goes wrong, but not even the infallible Oscar Pareja gets a pass this time. We had one of the better centerback pairings in the league get turned inside out, out-dueled and completely off step against world beaters Jason Johnson and David Accam. (No, they're not world beaters but Hedges and Loyd managed to make them look that way.) Fabian Castillo got one of his fewest touches in 90 minutes of play of 2015. And for whatever reason, Victor Ulloa was sacrificed for Rolando "Why?" Escobar.
Not Good Enough
I've had a Honda for 15 years because for me, the mark of a good car is reliability. I need no flashy leather seats, navigation, bluetooth or WiFi (maybe the WiFi), but what I need is for the car to get me from point A to point B quickly, safely and relatively comfortably. Generally, Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd have been Hondas for this club; reliable, dependable, gets the job done. Unfortunately for them and for FC Dallas, they both looked like cars without a tire out there against Chicago. Simple runs from Johnson and Accam stretched their defensive positioning and kept them scrambling for most of the evening.
For the most part, defensive actions inside the penalty area aren't bad things, but this was Chicago Fire, a team before tonight was averaging less than a point per game and only one team scored fewer goals than them (Colorado). For a team anchored by a pair of good centerbacks, there is absolutely no reason for them to called into action this many times, making that many desperation tackles and clearances. Bottom line: not good enough.
Take Care of the Ball
This is the classic possession without a purpose type of match. Despite enjoying the majority of possession (64.1%) and winning the passing accuracy (80% v 73%), Dallas was pitiful in the space where ball possession matters the most, the final third.
Dallas did fine circulating the ball around and outside the penalty box, but that was another story once the ball went inside the 18:
Dallas' final third passing amounted to 42/73 for 58%. This is fine when you're playing the counter game where you are playing high risk, high reward passes when most of your teammates are behind you to cover defensively. When you are this careless with the ball, with most of your teammates pushed up, this is just asking for points to be dropped.
On the flip side, Chicago did the exact opposite and took care of the ball just fine going 45/59 for 76%.
You Benched Ulloa for Who?
Oscar Pareja gets his decisions and tactics right far more often than not. It's not even funny how often he's right with his lineup choices, his formations and how he even manages his players' minutes. What baffled me beyond understanding was taking out Victor Ulloa for Rolando Escobar in the 58th minute. First, that was the fewest minutes Ulloa has played in a game which he has started.
Ulloa had a clean game, and very much up to his usual standards:
Very tidy on the ball (45/51 88%) and kept his spacing well to allow Acosta room to barrage forward and leave enough space for Mauro Diaz to do this thing. When he got subbed, I looked into what might have been wrong and noticed he only picked up one clearance and one interception for his defensive actions but it's hard to do much defensive work when your team has the ball. So in replacing Victor Ulloa, Oscar Pareja and the fans were welcomed to this mess:
15/20 passing, 1 key pass (off a corner) and one blocked shot. This change also pushed Kellyn Acosta deeper and into ball cycling duty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but after his two goal output from the last two games, why would you want to reign in his ability to get forward with more defensive responsibility? A big head scratcher for sure.
But this certainly isn't the end of the world or that the sky is falling on this team. It was an unacceptable performance for a team chasing the Supporter's Shield against the worst team in the league and hopefully it was just a one off. Oscar Pareja and FC Dallas now have two weeks to prepare for the visiting LA Galaxy and their plethora of DPs. Win that one and everything is back on track.