FC Dallas managed to bounce back from a crushing defeat to Seattle in midweek with a 3-1 home success over the Eastern Conference's basement dwellers and a much-changed Chicago Fire side at Toyota Stadium on Saturday evening. Virtuoso displays from Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz set FCD on the way to a fine victory as the club claimed its first Brimstone Cup triumph since 2011 in the process. Maximiliano Urruti set Dallas on the way to the win after heading in Castillo's delightful rabona cross before Diaz added a second with a stunning long range strike soon after. Former Hoop Arturo Alvarez then pulled one back for the Fire in stoppage time with a direct freekick before Mauro Rosales finished it off as a contest with a close range finish just a minute later.
Chicago's ploy to rest several starters ahead of U.S. Open Cup action in midweek backfired, much like Dallas' did on Wednesday night, and they remain winless on the road after nine away fixtures while Dallas got themselves back on track ahead of the biggest week of the season to date with away games against Houston and Colorado in two different competitions.
Oscar Pareja rested several starters in midweek and it showed in this one with how fresh several of the players who were left out against Seattle looked as they produced fine performances to topple Chicago. Diaz and Castillo were at their engineering and inventive best as they managed to unlock the Fire defense in spectacular fashion for much of the game while Urruti continued his recent resurgence with his third goal in the last five games and another hard working effort from him once again. Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, and Matt Hedges all had strong displays as well and rarely lost any duels as they laid the platform for a controlling Dallas play for much of the evening.
Although the team was up against a Chicago side that consisted of mainly backups, the way that Dallas pressed high up the pitch and pushed the Fire back into a deep defensive zone and constantly marauded them with waves of attacks and managed lengthy spells of possession, especially in the first half, was impressive. This game going along with the Orlando game the other week were good examples of the progress that the team has made in regards to using pressing as a strategy to win back and keep possession better, especially in home matches where Dallas just look unstoppable at the moment. This led to twenty created chances, which is one of the team's highest totals in an MLS game this season and with a bit more incision, the result could have been even bigger but they settled for three goals on the night.
The win saw Dallas' unbeaten home streak extend to twenty games in all competitions since last August and reassures the team as the best home team in the league as they have built the Toyota Stadium as a fortress over the last year. This domination at home has helped Dallas become one of if not the best team in the league and so long as the team can maintain this level on their own ground, there's no doubt that FCD have a strong chance of winning the MLS Cup for the first time in franchise history this fall. Winning the Brimstone Cup isn't bad either, especially seeing as they haven't won it in five years before now.
Although the team were in control of proceedings following Urruti's opening goal, they nearly allowed Chicago to make a game out of it towards the very end which shouldn't have even been possible by the time the final minutes arrived. As dominant and effective as the team was in the first half, they became more passive and at times even nonchalant with their end product in the final third and Alvarez's freekick threatened to make it a nervy ending, which should never have been a worry.
Jesse Gonzalez got a chance to make his first MLS appearance since May and didn't take it very well. It seemed an uncertain performance on his part throughout and he didn't look confident as he once did, which is probably an indicator that he's unhappy with his position in the team having been demoted to being second choice goalkeeper behind Chris Seitz and it's affecting his confidence. With displays like this one where we saw him flap at several balls that came into his area and concede from a freekick that should never slipped in between him and the post, he won't find it easy to win back his spot in the lineup in the near future.
There weren't particularly impressive showings from the fullback pairing of Atiba Harris and Ryan Hollingshead either. With Maynor Figueroa suspended, Zach Loyd injured, and Walker Zimmerman getting the night off, Pareja moved Hollingshead back to the position he occupied last year and he didn't look very convincing, certainly not at the level that he's been playing at on the other side so far this season. Seeing as he's only recently returned from injury, that may play a part in his performances but we've grown to become more expectant from Hollingshead given his breakthrough in the last eighteen months. Harris similarly had an average game and didn't really offer enough going forward, where he has looked fairly bland as of late and not been operating at a similar level that Hollingshead has been doing so far this year.
Dallas will now move on to consecutive away fixtures against Houston on Wednesday and Colorado on Saturday, which is undoubtedly the most crucial week of the year to date with the implications of those results set to have major effects on FCD's charge to compete for U.S. Open Cup and Supporters' Shield success.