FC Dallas produced a 2-0 win over Philadelphia Union at Toyota Stadium on Sunday afternoon and a commanding performance to go with it. The opening day victory was made possible thanks to goals from Fabian Castillo and Maximiliano Urruti, both of which were assisted by Mauro Diaz. There were many positives and few negatives in what was an enjoyable albeit windy afternoon in Frisco, but there are specific things that need to be pointed out after such a promising start to a new year. I'll attempt to sum up the main things that I noticed as best as I can from Sunday's game in this piece.
1. Atiba Harris is a worthy replacement for Je-Vaughan Watson. I had my doubts on whether or not the 31-year old Caribbean could do the job but his solid displays so far these past few weeks indicate that he's up to the task. He offered plenty going forward as he and Michael Barrios tormented Philly's left side, even had a couple of shots which JVW didn't really attempt too often, and didn't allow Philly much success on the defensive side of things either. It's too early to make any conclusions about him just yet, but he looks like a good replacement and is taking his chance well to become the starting right-back in the team.
2. Carlos Gruezo adds a whole new dimension to the FCD midfield. If that debut was anything to go by, then we have got a special player at FCD that might be hard to keep beyond this season. Carlos Gruezo noticeably made a difference yesterday with his athleticism, composure, and technically adept abilities offering solid protection for the defense and someone who can link the midfield with attack without issues. He's got a lot in his locker and that might just separate him from the Ulloa's and Ortiz's of the team. He's the perfect transitional player for Oscar Pareja's counter-attacking approach and that's why he was brought in. It's easy to see why he went to the World Cup with Ecuador aged just 19, he really is a talent and FCD are extremely lucky to have him. It'll be exciting to see how he keeps developing here.
3. Max Urruti looks the part and might be the striker FCD has been looking for. He's still got a lot to prove and he'll probably continue to be questioned until/if he scores 15 goals in a season, but Urruti offered plenty in his debut and looks to be an upgrade on David Texeira and last season's version of Blas Perez already. He worked hard off the ball, used the flanks well when necessary, and provided good movement which was all too evident in the goal he scored. The goal will boost his confidence undoubtedly going forward and the chemistry he's already building with Mauro Diaz will surely work wonders as the season goes on.
4. Walker Zimmerman will be a serious contender for the starting XI this year. If there were any doubts about him before, then surely his display yesterday dispelled them. Even though he didn't start a single pre-season game and played half the match against Philly with a cut under his eye, he hardly put a foot wrong. He once again formed a good partnership alongside Matt Hedges just as in the play-offs last year and looks to be a real challenger for a regular starting berth in the team. Zach Loyd, you have been warned.
5. Kicking the ball long is still a big weakness for Jesse Gonzalez. Not all the things we noticed yesterday were positive. For all his other qualities, Jesse just doesn't seem to be very good at kicking the ball upfield. This was evident last year and that weakness of his reared its face again yesterday. It doesn't seem like he's improved much in that regard during the off-season and whilst it's not the biggest worry FCD have, it is still be concerning. Especially in games where FCD is struggling to keep the ball well, having a goalie who just inaccurately kicks the ball back to the opposition won't help much in that regard. Jesse is very talented, of that there can be no doubt, but this is probably the one area of his game that needs work on the most before he can become one of the top goalies in MLS. I would have written something about Diaz or Fabian Castillo too, but we're all aware of their qualities already and they need no introduction anymore to FCD fans. Their performances speak for themselves. But all in all, there was plenty to take out from the game even if Philly didn't put up much of a fight. The tough tests are just around the corner though and it'll be interesting to see if we'll see more of the same from the aforementioned players and others over the coming weeks. FCD is well and truly back in action.