What a match. This team refuses to die. They refuse to let anything get in the way of their goals, especially at ‘Fortress Frisco’. I have loved a lot of teams over the years, but this group of players is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite teams, in any sport. The just refuse to quit. Instead, they are on the cusp of winning their second trophy of the year. I understand the third trophy got a lot harder with the loss of Mauro, but that is a discussion for another time. I just want to bask in the greatness that was yesterday. Let’s see how the players graded out.
Maxi Urruti (A) - Another big match, another goal. Maxi might have not scored as many goals as we would want from our starting striker. He’s not the 20 goal striker that we were promised. In a lot of ways, he has become more. Urruti has now scored 12 goals in all competitions, 9 in MLS. That is about half of what the fan base wanted. Instead, we have a striker who can be frustrating for a stretch and have his shots end up on Main Street. Even still, any time there is a must win scenario, or a big moment, Maxi is the guy who shows up. When FCD went back to Portland and had to play on the road, midweek, Urruti was the one who got the game going. When Dallas was desperate for a goal in USOC against Colorado, in extra time, it was Urruti who delivered. When FCD fell behind in the USOC championship and other players were looking shaky, it was Maxi who scored an incredible goal leading the team to victory. Lastly, Sunday afternoon, when it looked like the Supporters Shield was slipping away, Maxi was the guy who found a way to get a goal. We might not have a 20 goal-a-season striker, but we do have a gamer who shows up in the big moments. His first year with the team isn’t even finished yet, and I already think they should hang his jersey in the rafters.
Mauro Diaz (A+) - The Magic Little Unicorn. He was beaten up all day and kept coming back for more. I don’t want to speculate on a time table or anything since all the reports are still unconfirmed, but if he is scheduled to miss a good chunk of time, what a game to end it on. That last assist to Ruiz was so beautiful. To receive the pass from Gruezo, see Ruiz making a run, chipping the defense with his first touch and potentially leading FCD to the Supporters Shield, incredible. Regardless of what happens the rest of the season, Mauro exceeded all of our expectations. He has made sitting out at the stadium in the blazing heat worth it. Get well soon Mauro!! PS: He’s getting an A+ and I don’t care who doesn’t like it.
Michael Barrios (B) – Congrats on being the El Matador ‘Player of the Year.’ It was definitely deserved. As for the match, he was quiet for a lot of it. Michael had his moments where he popped up but overall he was held in check. Defensive game plans similar to the one Seattle ran out on Sunday will always limit Barrios. There wasn’t any space to run into behind the defenders. With everyone packed behind the ball, you have to be more methodical to break down the defense. The one thing I was impressed with Barrios was his willingness to move inside and still try to make things happen. We have had wingers in the past that seemed to fade out of the game and stay next to the sideline. Michael wasn’t interested in doing that. Instead, he was moving inside trying some one touch soccer to free some room up. It’s probably unfair the amount of weight we have already asked Michael to carry, but that burden potentially got a lot heavier. Hopefully his shoulders are ready for it.
Tesho Akindele (B-) - Tesho dealt with a lot of the same issues that Michael Barrios had. With Seattle bunkering for most of the match, he wasn’t able to get the ball and run at defenders with it. Instead, he was also forced to move inside and work in tight spaces. Unfortunately, for Tesho, he struggles in tight places (as do most players). His long legs are such a disadvantage when he is doing quick 1-2s with other midfielders. It is going to be curios to see what will happen with Mauro going down, will Tesho push up, a little higher up the field, and play off of Urruti. If that is the case, it might actually be successful. Maxi is a terrific passer and Tesho is very dangerous with his late runs into the box.
Carlos Gruezo (B+) – Carlos is such a pleasure to watch. He refuses to stop running, he hounds opposing midfields for 90 minutes and doesn’t get pushed around. Carlos has become our midfielder who will tackle someone with a little bite in it, while still doing it cleanly and fair. He hasn’t received a red card this year and has done a really good job learning what he can and can’t get away with defensively. Carlos is one of the reasons I still hold onto hope for the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup. He is a gamer is and can really shut down an opposing team’s midfield.
Kellyn Acosta (B) - Before receiving a hip check that didn’t even get called for a foul, Kellyn was all over the field. His high press was helping to turn the ball over. In the minutes leading up to the non-call, Seattle couldn’t get the ball past midfield. Instead, every time they got on the ball, the seemed to turn it over just try to clear the ball. In a lot of ways, it seems like Kellyn’s injury is more of a mystery than Mauro’s. No one really knows what he even hurt just that he was leaning on a crutch in the locker room after the game. Hopefully it’s nothing more than just a painful dead leg that will heal in a couple of days.
Matt Hedges (A) - Another big game for the captain (he will always be the captain to me). It seemed like Matt took it upon himself to follow Jordan Morris on any of his counter attacking runs. He would run clean up for the fullbacks, allowing them to tuck inside behind the play. He is such a force on that backline. His ability to see the game is top notch and his physical talent to react to what he sees is rarely matched in the league. Hopefully this is the year that he gets ‘Defender of the Year,’ because he has been outstanding. It’s not fair to ask, but we will need him and the rest of the backline to somehow be better once these playoffs start. Also, it would be really nice if they could get a set piece goal or two as well.
Walker Zimmerman (A) - Congrats on being the Dallas Beer Guardians ‘Player of the Year.’ Walker has been such an amazing surprise this year. He helped sure up the backline and is the perfect fit next to Matt. His ability to win any and every aerial duel while still being fleet footed is such a dangerous weapon. Walker played another great game on Sunday. Even with FCD pushing to get the equalizer late in the match, he was able to put out any fires that Seattle would throw at him on the counter. Hedges and Walker never let Jordan Morris get free and really limited Seattle to a handful of chances. In the first half, Seattle only had 2 shots at target. You will take that every match if possible. As this team continues to evolve going into the playoffs, they are going to need to continue this good run of form from the back.
Ryan Hollingshead (A-) Overall, Ryan did a nice job of filling in for the suspended Maynor Figueroa. Yes, he leaves us fans wanting more of him going forward, but he is very solid defensively. Ryan did a solid job of limiting the amount of time Seattle’s midfielders had on the ball. For most of the game, Seattle tried to attack down the spine of the FCD defense, limiting the amount of work Ryan had. Even still, the couple of times he did caught upfield, Hollingshead was able to hustle back and close up any potential openings. Ryan is probably going to be one of those guys who will be called upon in the new look FCD attack. He probably slides out wide. Defensively, it should make the FC Dallas defense more stingy and offensively hopefully he is able to find some of the playoff magic he had last year.
Atiba Harris (A-) – Another good showing for the fullback. Like Ryan, Atiba didn’t have a lot of work, but the few times Seattle did try to hit on the counter, Harris was able to handle the situation. Overall, Atiba has done a really good job this year settling into his fullback position. He has had his moments of frustrations, but for a guy that was never meant to play as much as he has, he has held up quite nicely. We can only hope that going forward Atiba has worked out all of his lapses and will be a rock come playoff time.
Chris Seitz (B+) – Didn’t have a lot of work throughout the day and let in a goal that he will definitely want back. It’s hard to be too tough on Seitz though. He was battling the sun and got beat near post on a really nice shot. Luckily, the rest of the team was able to right the ship. Chris did his part by making some timely saves in the late moments to secure the win.
Oscar Pareja (A+) - Oscar had a really tough job on Sunday. Aside from the fact that Seattle was coming in on a hot streak, he also had to deal with his team having two weeks off. The team did start a little slow and showed some signs of rust, but ended up coming into the match quite nicely. Once FCD started to get their feet about them, Oscar lost one of his midfielders. Even with what seemed like a dire situation, Oscar was able to keep the guys going and ended up pulling the right strings to get the 3 points. Unfortunately, his job doesn’t get any easier going forward. He is now going to have to figure out how to replace Mauro Diaz and possibly Kellyn. At the end of the day, I would argue that Oscar deserves ‘Coach of the Year’. In a league built on parody, FC Dallas is going to finish first or second, for the second year in a row, while replacing their striker, a midfielder, goalie, center back, and a DP winger. If that’s not enough, he has also had to juggle CCL and a USOC title run (which included away at Houston, Colorado and away at LAG). Find me someone else who has done a better job with their squad than Papi.
Victor Ulloa (B+) Did a really good job when he came in. It probably wasn’t that big of a change when Victor came into the game. He usually replaces one of the midfielders, if anything, it meant that he was in just a little earlier. Overall, while he was in, I thought he did a pretty solid job. In the second half, when the team was really bogged down, Victor was the one making runs, and trying to spark the offense. While trying to spark the offense, he was still tracking back and dispossessing Nicolas Lodeiro. Victor has had some big goals this year, hopefully he is able to continue that trend in the playoffs.
Mauro Rosales (A) The moment Mauro came into the game, the match changed. His ability to make things happen on the ball opened up the Seattle defense. The Sounders had to respect his ability out wide, allowing there to be a little more space in the middle. That space in the middle was what eventually lead to the game winning goal. Hopefully there is still some juice in those legs of his, because it will be needed now. Mauro has the ability to show moments of brilliance, let’s hope that his body allows for those moments to come out.
Carlos Ruiz (A+) We all knew how this was going to end when FC Dallas brought in El Pescado right? He was going to come in and score a huge goal for the club and we were all going to lose our minds. Maybe that was more of a wishful dream, but it somehow came true. The great thing about the goal Carlos scored was that it seemed like he went all ‘old man’ on Seattle. He was like the old guy you see at the gym that you don’t bother covering in basketball that will not miss. He has taken that shot thousands of times in life and just won’t miss. Ruiz’s goal felt just like that. He saw the ball and knew exactly where the goal was. He just added a nice little flip to it and ballgame. It’s asking a lot, but hopefully there is a lot more of that old man magic left in his body.
Sunday was such an emotional rollercoaster. The utter despair as the game dragged on with FCD possibly losing the Supporters Shield race. Then the madness of that finish, realizing the SS is still alive along with the treble. To hearing the news about Mauro Diaz. I was utterly spent by the time I went to bed last night. To be frank, I was really disappointed. This team has come so far and is so close to reaching the finish line, to see the heartbeat of your team go down is a gut punch. However, FCD hasn’t been terrible without Mauro this year and will have to evolve and adapt once more. If a roster is ever capable of changing on the go, it might be this one. There are guys on the team who now have a chance at glory, hopefully they are able to seize the moment.
This is going to be an upcoming 30 days. No matter what happens, realize this team has given everything they have so far this year and accomplished goals none of us thought possible. Let’s qualify for the knockout round in the CCL midweek and go out and get the Supports Shield on Sunday. Busca La Forma.