FC Dallas returned to winning ways after two straight home draws with a 3-1 success at the home of reigning MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers on Wednesday night. Michael Barrios, Fabian Castillo, and Tesho Akindele all netted in a blistering first thirty minutes for FCD before Darren Mattocks scored a somewhat controversial consolation off the bench for the Timbers midway through the second half. This win put FCD back at the top of all standings and in the meantime earned the club their first ever win at Providence Park at the eighth attempt. Here's five notes we could pick up from this victory:
1. Victor Ulloa, on current form, should continue in the starting lineup. The 24-year old academy graduate has been in and out of the lineup in these first few games of the season, mainly in an attempt for Oscar Pareja to get Kellyn Acosta back to his best form, but the fact is that Ulloa has done well every time he's played. Currently he's in better form than Acosta and is a more complimentary partner to Carlos Gruezo in midfield at the moment and therefore he should retain his place in the team for the coming games. With Gruezo suspended on Sunday, we'll likely see the Ulloa-Acosta pairing for the first time since last year's playoffs and that could be the biggest audition yet between the two as to who should start next to the Ecuadorian going forward from here.
2. Maximiliano Urruti's pressuring is another weapon for the FCD attack. There's saying that states that 'attack is the first line of defense' and indeed that seems to be the case with FCD and Urruti. We've seen throughout the Argentine's young career here that he's a hard worker and isn't afraid to get stuck in. His pressurizing of defenders has led to mistakes from the opposition and created opportunities for FCD to attack, three of which have been converted so far this year and two of them coming last night. Having a player like Urruti opens up many possibilities for Pareja's counter-attacking approach as having a front man who can force mistakes from defenders, it can create opportunities for quick counters and open spaces to play into where FCD can utilize their speed to full effect.
3. Urruti and Akindele can co-exist with each other as a forward pairing. 4-2-3-1 may be this team's primary formation when Mauro Diaz is fit, but 4-4-2 has been a regular, constant alternative throughout Pareja's time as FCD manager. While the formation hasn't quite worked out as seamlessly as maybe it once did, it looks like it has the potential to do so again with the two forwards FCD has available up front. Akindele and Urruti both offer directness, aren't afraid to drop deeper to link up with the midfield, and put in more than a fair share of industrial work which is why they compliment each other and the style of this team so well. They have three goals each this year and combine for four assists in just seven games, which shows just what potential this pair might have if continued with in the longer term.
4. Early goals shape games and make all the difference this year it seems. FCD let in some early goals against Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes in the last couple of outings and afterwards struggled to create chances without a playmaker in the team and little space being afforded on the sides against teams that were defending leads. This time we saw the tables turn the other way and this allowed FCD to counter and find empty avenues at will from the moment Barrios scored. It's clear that early goals shape games into going in the way that they have done up until now and with the team's counter threat starting to be recognized by most sides in the league, scoring or allowing one in the opening minutes may make a world of difference in the way each game may go and how they pan out for FCD. Score early and you can sit deep and just wait for spaces to open up for counters, concede and expect a tough assignment in trying to break up a defense with two lines of four. That's pretty much the patterns of the FCD games so far this year whenever an early goal was scored and if this trend continues, then we may well see matches decided from now on with occurring events in the first 15-20 minutes.
5. The Colombian wing duo had their best game of the season. It certainly helped that the team got an early goal and wasn't chasing the game from the first minutes so spaces opened up a lot for them, but there's no doubt that this was the best we've seen of Barrios and Fabian Castillo to date in 2016. Their confidence on the ball was all too apparent as they glided past players and created chances on their own at times, something we didn't see too much of in the last few games. FCD were always going to need them to step up in Diaz's absence and whilst that didn't quite materialize in the previous two home games, it certainly worked out well here and hopefully it's a sign of things to come in the coming weeks, with or without the Argentine alongside them.