Going into the match Saturday night, I was bit uneasy. I was really worried that missing two keys pieces in the midfield, compounded with Portland needing victories, could lead to a long evening. After the first half was over, I realized that my fears were clearly just my own. The team came out and dominated Portland, for the third time this year. I thought Victor Ulloa was outstanding in the midfield and just showed how much depth this team really has. FC Dallas now has 51 points and has put some separation in the the Supporters Shield race. Let’s see how the team graded out.
Maxi Urruti (B+) - Like every other time he has played Portland this year, Maxi was all over the pitch. He was causing havoc and was probably a bit unlucky to not get a clean strip at least once. He was a touchy foul away from being one on one with the goalie. Going forward, he didn’t really have any quality scoring chances, but that is too be expected with Portland. They do a good job of limiting bulid up straight down the field. Maxi had a decent night for himself and doesn’t show any sign of his legs slowing down.
Mauro Diaz (A) - Had a great match. Even with Diego Chara chasing him around the field, Mauro was able to wiggle free and have a huge impact on the flow of the game. It’s great to see the evolution of Mauro’s game. For the most part, the only contact or fouls committed on him, are ones that Mauro let’s happen. He sees the contact coming and is able to brace for it. While in the process of staying healthy this year, he has still been able to slide those weighted passes into dangerous areas. After have a couple of average matches, it was nice to Mauro bounce back and control the midfield again. Leaving Saturday night, Diaz now has 5 goals and 11 assists on the season.
Michael Barrios (A) – Are these games ever too big for this guy? It doesn’t matter who they are playing, who is in the squad or not, Michael goes out and makes an impact. His speed and ability to make things happen with the ball at his feet have been amazing this year, especially since Fabian left. Barrios has filled in the hole left by Castillo and is scoring at a more efficient rate that Fabian was ever able to. I do worry about his health. Michael takes some big hits and is usually able to shake them off, but if he gets that ankle rolled up on again, this team could be in trouble. He’s healthy right now and playing great, so let’s focus on everything he is bringing to the squad, which is greatness.
Mauro Rosales (B+) - I enjoy starting Mauro on the wing. Sure, he has his limitations at this point in his career; mainly his inability to go longer than 70 minutes. On the flip side, Mauro is able to offer some semblance of an attacking nature. He might not be a burner down the wing, but he is able to provide quality crosses in and make smart runs. His run to the far post was what allowed Victor Ulloa to have such an open shot, on the second goal. Mauro’s ability to bring some finesse to the field just adds another dimension to the attack and personally, I like it.
Juan Ortiz (B+) – Most of my hesitation going into the match was because of Ortiz playing in the midfield. I worried about the speed of the Portland attack. I was worried he was going to get caught out and make a rash challenge or dangerous foul. I was wrong. Ortiz played a really nice match Saturday night. He was able to keep the shape of the midfield while providing cover for the back four. There were a couple of times where he left his feet, but he was able to get the ball and avoid the Portland players altogether. Overall, I was very impressed with his game and pretty happy for him. I can’t imagine how frustrating it has to be to not really see the field.
Victor Ulloa (A) - Probably MOTM for me. I don’t know if Victor has ever played a better match than he did Saturday night. He was on point defensively. He was swarming to the ball, stopping counter attacks and stepping into passing lanes. The most impressive part of his evening was his ability to distribute, going forward. He was a man possessed out there. Just picking out open midfielders time after time. He was linking the back four to the attacking players with such ease. There wasn’t a drop off in performance at all with Victor stepping into the starting 11. I will always pull for Vic. He is a fighter, who never quits and most importantly, he’s one of our own.
Matt Hedges (A) - Anytime Portland comes to town, the centerbacks are going to have to a challenge on their hands. With the size of Fanendo Adi and the creative play of Diego Valeri, the back four have to be on constant alert. I thought Matt did a great job all night of knowing where both of those players were and closing down on them. On top of that, he was also able to pass off Adi to Walker from time to time which allowed him to watch any runs coming out of the midfield. Lastly, It was good to see Matt bounce back up after getting kneed in the head. On the replay, it looked nasty, but he seemed alright, which is great news.
Walker Zimmerman (A) - It’s crazy to think back to the second leg of the Western Conference finals (do so at your own risk). That was really the first time that Walker was thrown into the fire as an expectant centerback. Since then, he has become a staple in our starting lineup and a lot of weeks he is up there as the best player on the backline. Saturday night was another example of just how dominate he has become. His ability to body up against Adi while still have the foot speed to keep up with runs out of the midfield puts him in special category. Aside from all of his physical attributes, I have really enjoyed seeing Walker become the emotional leader of this team. Even though the game was in hand, when Portland scored, Walker still was yelling at everyone in frustration. It’s those moments that kind of make you realize that he is a special player.
Ryan Hollingshead (A-) - His positional flexibility is such a gift. When the starting lineup came out and I saw Ryan as a fullback, I wasn’t worried at all. There were long stretches in the match where it seemed like Ryan wasn’t even out on the field. He was able to stay compact with the back line and not get left out in a compromising position. He played the position perfectly and had another very impressive match.
Atiba Harris (A-) – Has anyone improved more than Atiba this year? His form earlier in the year was very inconsistent but since Zach Lloyd went down, he has been great. Aside from a mental lapse here or there, he has been outstanding the second half of the year. Saturday night was another great game for Atiba. He didn’t get caught up field or out of position but instead was able to help eliminate any Portland attack. He might have kicked out on the Adi challenge, which I don’t really blame him for. Overall though, I have been extremely happy for Atiba and the form he is currently in.
Chris Seitz (A) – It’s frustrating he couldn’t get the shutout, but I’m sure he is happy with the win. Honestly, Chris didn’t have a lot of work for most of the night. Portland's only shot on target was the goal they scored on. Chris did have a bit of scary moment early on in the match when he try to clear the ball but missed. After watching the game for a second time, it looked like he made the right call in letting the ball go by instead of accidentally taking out the Portland player in the box. Chris is second in the league with 7 shutouts and has the best winning position out of any keeper. Let’s hope his great form can continue.
Oscar Pareja (A) - Papi did it again. He pulled the right strings and had the guys ready to go. It was a dominating performance, even with a lot of key players missing. Some people have said that if FCD wins the Supporters Shield, it will be the weakest side to do so. I would argue if they are able to win the SS then they have a coach who has been able to consistently get the best out of his side, even against teams with flashier names on the roster. Oscar has set up this side in a way that no one wants to play them, and I don’t really blame them.
Getterson (NA) - Came in as a sub late in the game to provide some fresh legs in the middle of the pitch. He had a shot on goal but it was right at the keeper.
Aaron Guillen (NA) - Came in to help see the game out and was able to do so. It was good to see Aaron back out there.
Coy Craft (NA) - Came in as a sub for Michael Barrios. Wasn’t much time left in the match but was able to the see the game out. I am excited to see if Coy is able to take the next step in the next year or so. The kid has a lot of talent and hopefully is able to make the jump to the Sr. squad.
Saturday night showed us that this team isn’t phased or distracted by change. Their ability to stay locked in and get a big time result against a team fighting for their playoff lives is huge. FC Dallas now has some breathing room in the SS race and can really make a statement this weekend against Colorado. This week kind of feels like the calm before the storm with Rapids match over the weekend and then USOC Championship next week. Let’s all enjoy this time as FC Dallas fans!! As always, your feedback is welcomed.