After losing three in a row on the road and failing to score for 347 minutes, FC Dallas finally managed to put things right on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over reigning MLS Cup holders Portland Timbers in a rematch of last year's Western Conference finals. It was FCD's second win against the Timbers already this year, after a 3-1 triumph in Oregon last month. Quick fire second half goals from defenders Ryan Hollingshead and Walker Zimmerman cancelled out Diego Valeri's early opener proved to be enough for the victory and puts the Hoops back on track once again.
Dallas are now back up to second in the standings, albeit with more games played than some of the closest rivals behind them. An important win it was and now the goal will be to continue on this form with another one at home to another 2015 playoff rival, Seattle Sounders.
The team's response to a poor first half was very impressive and somewhat surprising considering how low they looked on confidence and creativity in not only the first 45 minutes, but in the last few games in general. Portland were in control for pretty much the entirety of the opening half, but Dallas fought back well and didn't give much away in the second and managed to grind out a deserved win.
The attacking players haven't been quite in the best of form lately and that continued here, but it was the defenders who stepped up and made the difference. Hollingshead had his best game in over a month as his drive and poise unsettled Portland throughout and that was evident on the equalizing goal. Zimmerman also managed to continue his good recent form and show his aerial prowess by not only heading in the winning goal on a corner, but by winning most of his duels in the air both defensively and offensively. Not many teams can say that defenders can step up to get them goals and points when their attackers can't, but thankfully Dallas is one of those who can.
Some other positives were Kellyn Acosta's performance who seems to be showing marked improvement on both sides of the bal now and is making a good case for himself to win a starting berth once again while we saw Mauro Diaz show a bit of that vision and trickery that's been missing in FCD's locker ever since his injury and it looks like he is getting comfortable to express himself out there again. Won't be long by the looks of it before these two are back to their best.
The most obvious negative is that the team let in yet another early goal which left them chasing the game no sooner than it had started once again. Thankfully this time it didn't cost them, but it will do so again if this pattern continues like it has done all year. It was the fifth game out of twelve this year that Dallas has let in a goal inside the first thirty minutes and every single time it left them trailing from an early stage in the match. The team has only lost twice despite that which shows the powers of recovery and the improvement in their mentality they have, but still, it's still alarming that they're not putting an end to letting all these early goals in.
It was another quiet game from the attacking players aside from a few good moments which highlights the problems the team has been having up front lately with several of them clearly out of form. Maximiliano Urruti had a bad night before being subbed out at halftime, Fabian Castillo made little impact and didn't produce a single shot on target all game, and Michael Barrios rarely got into any shooting positions himself. Diaz included, the front four only produced two shots on target all game, which is less than the rest of the team had combined. Tesho Akindele looked the brightest of the offensive players, but squandered two presentable opportunities to score and kill the game off late on. It's impressive that FCD managed to win despite their woes in front of goal, but they'll need to get back in form soon if they are to continue winning.
Overall it was an evening of more positives than negatives and we saw a little confidence restored in this team after they fought tooth-and-nail to pull out a win in another adverse situation and that keeps everything on the right track going forward from here. The issues that the team has had all year are becoming less apparent and minimized with each game, as you'd expect with more and more time, but now it's just about maintaining a good level of performance and putting themselves in the right position to win more points over the coming weeks ahead of the upcoming Copa America Centenario break. Matt Hedges is likely to be back in the fold soon and that on its own will be a big boost for this team.