FC Dallas picked up their first draw of 2016 with the home match against last year's Eastern Conference champions Columbus Crew ending all square at one a piece. Substitute Tesho Akindele cancelled out Justin Meram's early opener with a goal late in the second half to keep Dallas at the top of all current standings, albeit with a game played more than most of the league. It was a frustrating game for the most part with an unusual lineup to begin with, mainly affected by Mauro Diaz's absence through injury, but the point earned was a good result nonetheless and keeps FCD on the right track in the early parts of the season. Here's five things we learned from this one:
1. Mauro Rosales should be Diaz's first choice replacement, despite his age. After the team dragged itself for much of the encounter trying to conjure up something but to no avail, Rosales came on and gave the side the creative spark that it was missing. He didn't play a part in the goal, but his mere presence, passing, and vision brought something different than what had been seen up until that point and showed the value of a true playmaker when he was in. Yes, Rosales may be 35, but he's still capable of offering something to this team and he should be getting the nod ahead of any other option in the 4-2-3-1 formation whenever Diaz is missing or needs to be substituted.
2. The team continues to struggle at attacking and defending set plays without Walker Zimmerman. It's not exactly a Zimmerman thing although whenever Zach Loyd is in instead of Walker, the team suffers noticeably more problems on set pieces on both ends. The main point here being that, due to Dallas' man marking approach on set plays rather than zonal marking, it's important to have a tall presence for them and that's something that Dallas miss whenever Zimmerman isn't in the lineup. That combined with Columbus' quality and strength in that area made it an inevitability that FCD would let one in off a set piece in this game. Something to chew on once more for the coaching staff going forward.
3. Chris Seitz will give Jesse Gonzalez a run for his money if he keeps playing like this. If you thought Seitz was good last week against D.C., this was an even better performance from him. If not for some crucial saves on his part at 1-0, it's unlikely that FCD would ever have gotten something out of this game. Jesse may still be considered the first choice goalkeeper for now, but if Seitz keeps getting chances and takes them in the way he has in these last two games, there might be a real headache for Oscar Pareja in who he selects to be his #1 in goal.
4. The team struggles in possession without a proper passer in midfield. Yes, not exactly rocket science, but FCD's passing game clearly suffers without someone like Mauro DIaz. In Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo, and Kellyn Acosta, Dallas have three combative midfielders who have all the physical tools but lack the passing ability to really influence games when they're on the ball. This was clearly displayed in this game and as a result, Dallas struggled to create anything without the presence of an actual playmaker. If there is no playmaker available or deemed worthy enough to start, the best solution would be to do what was done before in a similar situation: switch to a counter attacking 4-4-2 set up which would get more output from the wide players and expose the limitations of the central ones a lot less as they'd play deeper with less creative responsibilities.
5. Kellyn Acosta's early season struggles is making life hard for Papi to find a place for him in the team. He's played in several capacities over the last month, from playing on both sides as a fullback for the U.S. Olympic team to his role last year with FCD as a defensive box-to-box midfielder. This time, he played surprisingly as Diaz's direct replacement as an attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Considering that Acosta is a turnover machine and isn't the best passer, it was always unlikely that this experiment would work out and it didn't. So far, his performances this year haven't been up to scratch and with the Ulloa-Gruezo not having let in a single goal from open play in three straight matches now, it's on Acosta to make more of an impact when he gets the opportunities to play or he'll find it hard to become a starter once again during this season.