On Wednesday night, FC Dallas beat Colorado Rapids 2-1 in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 meeting between the current top two forces in not only the Western Conference, but all of MLS. Just as against Oklahoma City Energy at SMU's Westcott Field, it once again took Dallas 120 minutes to prevail but this time, the team managed to reach its goal without the necessity of a penalty shootout.
The in-form Dominique Badji put Colorado in front late in the first half, but FCD responded well in the second half. Fabian Castillo left two defenders for dead, going on one of his trademark runs before unselfishly teeing up Mauro Diaz who put the ball into an empty net to equalize. Then, in extra time, Maximiliano Urruti managed to produce a solo action and score from a tough angle to not only end his barren run of fourteen games, over 1,000 minutes, without a goal, but to send Dallas through to the last eight of the U.S. Open Cup.
We saw the continuation of the good attacking form shown in the weekend win over Real Salt Lake, which seems like a strong signal that the fortunes on the front end of the pitch are beginning to change positively for Dallas. Diaz and Castillo have looked as good as they have all year in these last couple of games while Urruti seems to be getting his groove back as well, right on cue too with the MLS transfer market set to re-open soon and the club seemingly in the hunt for a new striker. The attack has started to mesh well and become productive once again and those can only be good signs for times ahead if you're a Hoops fan.
We also saw Oscar Pareja traditionally hand out a few starts to some of the players banging on the doors of the starting eleven but not quite reaching there yet and several of them took their chance well in this game. Jesse Gonzalez had a fine game in goal, making multiple good saves and keeping Dallas in the contest all the way through to the end. Juan Ortiz had a steady if unspectacular game with and without the ball to showcase his claim as a squad player that can be relied upon when necessary while Agustin Jara showed some good signs going forward, albeit with some clear deficiencies in his defensive game at the back which Colorado exploited on numerous occasions.
Defensively there were too many shaky moments for comfort and if not for a combined display of good goalkeeping from Jesse and poor finishing from Colorado, Dallas could have been out of this one inside the first 90 minutes. Badji, who had an exceptional game, simply toyed with the defense at teams and Dallas could not cope with him as his influence grew as the game wore on which was increasingly a worry.
As stated earlier, Colorado targeted Dallas' weak left side where Jara was and generally had success down the flanks, as well as in aerial duels, but let themselves with a clinic of inefficiency in front of goal when it mattered most. Dallas were lucky enough to get away with it here, but may not always be able to rely on heroics from the goalkeepers or poor finishing from others to get through nervy, tense games and come out victorious in them.
Tesho Akindele and Carlos Lizarazo had poor performances on the night, which was a disappointment given that they had been doing well in the games preceding this one over the past few weeks. Neither managed to affect the game much and weren't very involved offensively while they were on while the team improved markedly as soon as they came off for Urruti and Michael Barrios.
Tesho's struggles as a lone striker have been apparent for a while now, but the more he plays there the more it becomes clear that he cannot carry the front line on his own in Papi's 4-2-3-1 formation while Lizarazo had his best game for FCD against OKC in a central role and his worst against San Jose playing out wide. He played out wide on the right here and it was easily another forgettable night for him as he once again came off earlier than expected, which may just signal the end of the experiment with him on the right wing. Perhaps Pareja will now try to give him chances now in other positions to see where he could get more out of him. Only time will tell.
FCD will now move on to face Houston Dynamo away in a U.S. Open Cup Texas derby quarterfinal with the game to be played on July 19/20. Before that, there'll be four MLS fixtures to play, starting with the visit of Orlando City during this Monday's Fourth of July celebrations at Toyota Stadium.