MLS Opening Weekend. One of the most excited weekends in our little corner of the world. We got to see some of the new young talents coming into the league, two new MLS franchises (One exciting, one not so much) an upset where the last place Western Conference team beat the reigning MLS champs and the Eastern conference laying an egg (scoring a total of 6 goals and going 0-2-3 against the West).
The biggest game of the weekend was the FC Dallas/LA Galaxy match. One team has been known as the measuring stick of MLS (not so much anymore - my God they are old) and the other is the majority of experts pick to win MLS Cup (unless you are Herc Gomez who thinks NYCFC will win it?). The game itself lived up to its’ billing, well for us FCD fans at least. After playing midweek and traveling 3000 miles, Dallas came in and played a great match. They were in control for much of the game. Aside from a couple of chances and a nice little dive, LAG were left toothless. Winning in LA during the regular season for the first since 2009 was the perfect way to end a perfect week. Enough of Jared’s ramblings, let’s see how the players graded out.
Jared covered the offense/midfield including Papi and the Cermeno sub. Mohammad covered the defense/keeper as well as the Atiba Harris and Tesho subs.
Cristian Colman - B+
Cristian had a decent match. He ended the day with an assist and was, in a lot of ways, the main reason why the Urruti was able to score. He started the play off with a nice flick to Urruti and then continued his run into the box pulling a defender over and causing Van Damme to hesitate in closing down on Urruti. That split second was all Maxi needed to get the shot off.
It’s hard to keep our excitement in perspective with Colman, but he is still a young player, with a new squad, in a new league. There will be growing pains and he will mess up (his donkey touch in the first half comes to mind) but it’s the little things that he does that are great (his runs, hold up play and passing). Colman was fun to watch on Saturday and I look forward to many more games with him.
Maxi Urruti - A
The little engine that could. Does Maxi ever stop running? He is a crazy man. He tracks back like a #8, passes the ball like a #10 (a bit exaggerated?) and scores like a proper #9. For me, he was one of the best players on the field on Saturday. People want to put Maxi in a box and say that he is just a #9, but he isn’t. He does a lot more than that, which is why people get frustrated when he doesn’t score 15+ goals a year. In a lot of ways, that’s not what is asked of him. Instead, he is asked to press when the opposition’s defenders have the ball, break down field when the ball turns over, run at defenders and cause confusion, hold up the ball and force defenders to close him down, if defenders don’t close him down then make them pay. He did all of that to perfection on Saturday.
There are a lot of reasons why this team will be able to stay afloat without Mauro Diaz, but the main offensive reason is going to be Maxi.
Side note: That goal Saturday was a thing of beauty; shooting across his body with enough pace and accuracy to beat Rowe back post, beautiful.
Roland Lamah - A
With Mauro Diaz being out, FCD needed to find someone new to take the role as the most fouled player. I believe they have found him in Lamah. You don’t get fouled on accident in this league. The reason Roland was fouled as much as he was, was because he kept running at defenders with the ball and kept getting the ball in dangerous areas. Both of those are signs of an intelligent player, which is where he is definitely an upgrade to Voldemort (Castillo). Fabian was great out wide and has an awesome Youtube highlight video, but he left a lot to be desired on a week to week basis. I honestly feel like Lamah is going to be able to get more ‘meat off that bone’ if you may.
On Saturday, he continually ran at defenders, tracked back, found midfielders in open space and stretched the defense. It was Lamah’s perfectly weighted pass that found Kellyn on the game winning goal. He was able to find a little seam and slide a perfect ball in for Kellyn who did the rest. I loved Lamah’s reaction to the goal, he threw his hands up in excitement and was pumped. It appears that he has bought in and for that, we are all lucky. If he continues with this sort of production, he could really have a breakout season.
Michael Barrios - B+
It’s good to see Mikey having space on his flank again. With the addition of Lamah on the other side, defenses can’t shift over to Barrios anymore. The open space allowed Michael to run more freely and be a lot more dangerous. He was able to get some space and cross the ball in the box (I’m not sure how I feel about attacking this way, but time will tell?). He was able to play one-twos with Kellyn and Maxi and ultimately, he was able to take advantage of a glaring hole in the LAG defense. Even though he didn’t show up on the score sheet, Michael was dangerous all day, and it was good to see him back to his 2016 midseason form. I am very excited to see what he is able to do this year, with the added weapons.
Kellyn Acosta - A+
The year of Kellyn is apparently upon us? He was dominate all day Saturday. He has slid into that #8 perfectly this year and has a lot more freedom now that Mauro isn’t in the middle of the field. I took so much pleasure in watching him body up Jermaine Jones as well as pick his pocket a couple of times too. Kellyn has always been the type of player who enjoys one-twos with others but this season he seems to be trying it higher up the field, in more attacking places. One would have to think that is due to his experience. The game is starting to slow down for him and he is able to see little pockets of space that he wasn’t able to see before. I really do hope this the year of Kellyn Acosta. The guy is a great rolemodel off the pitch and he is one of our own.
Carlos Gruezo - A
Possibly the most underrated MLS midfielder last year? Carlos immediately slid into the starting lineup and once he figured out the league, was an absolute monster. His ability to read passes and jump into those lanes is a thing of beauty. On top of being a smart footballer, he is also a very hard worker, which is nice since he is asked to run all over the field. His protection of the backline is going to be critical this year. If Kellyn continues to push up further, we are going to need someone to help the backline and cover for them. If Saturday is any indication of what we will be getting, then we are in for another great year from him.
Maynor Figueroa - B
Maynor did get beat on the Jermaine Jones header that agonizingly hit the post. Thankfully, it did not find the back of the net. Otherwise, I thought Fig looked good going forward and was the initial pass on the Lamah-Acosta connection that produced the game winner.
Hernan Grana - B-
Grana looked great going forward and really was not at fault for the penalty kick (flop city), but he did actually get beat by Romney on that play. Otherwise, I thought it was a solid outing by one of the newest additions to the team.
Walker Zimmerman - B+
Both Walker and Matt got beat by Ariel Lassiter late in the game, but Zimmerman had a good game especially when he had a potential goal-saving tackle in the first half. Zimmerman also had a great long ball to Colman in the first few minutes of the match and overall looked pretty confident.
Matt Hedges - B+
The captain had a good game stepping in front of Gio Dos Santos and clearing a ball almost off the line. I thought the two CBs hardly put a foot wrong all day. I have come to expect these performances from Hedges. He is a stud.
Chris Seitz - B+
Chris did not have to do too much saving, only facing two shots (one being the penalty kick), but the save that he did make was stellar on a Dos Santos shot. Seitz looked confident at times to come off his line and deflect/grab crosses, so I think the B+ is justified.
Carlos Cermeno - B+
Cermeno was on the field long enough for us to get an idea of what he has to offer. I thought he was great on the left side. He had a couple of moments where he was able to put his foot in the ground and dribble around/through a few defenders to get out of trouble. He didn’t seem over-matched by the Galaxy or MLS players in general. I’m really excited to see more of Carlos and am breathing a little easier knowing that if Gruezo and Acosta are gone on international duty, he will be able to slide into one of those roles.
Tesho Akindele - N/A
Tesho subbed in for Urruti in the last ten minutes of the game and was not really able to make an impact. To be fair, the Galaxy were pushing forward at the time, so there was not much happening in the Los Angeles side of the field.
Atiba Harris - C
Atiba came in for Barrios which was interesting. He did his job in the back by being a physical presence but there was not much going forward after that second goal was scored.
Oscar Pareja - A+
I love this man. He is an outstanding coach who believes in his players and knows what they can do. A lot of us were kind of caught off guard when we saw the team sheet with a lot of same players in it from the midweek game. He knew what he was doing and it ended up getting the team’s first MLS win in LA since 2009.
I am interested to see if Oscar is able to make a jump this year with how he manages games. The last two years in the playoffs, it seems like the away legs have gotten away from FCD, putting them in a ‘yuge’ holes coming back home. I’m interested to see if he has learned and is able to change his tactics. Early on, it seems like he has. He has been bringing in Atiba Harris to slide into the backline to basically run a 5-3-2/ 5-4-1 to finish off games. If this trend continues, it might show that he is still growing as a coach. Overall though, advancing midweek in CCL (if you are confused about the different leagues FCD plays in, check out this article to help you out) and winning on the road in LA 3 days later is a huge week.
Opening weekend is officially over. There were a lot of snoozers across the league and a lot of rust with the teams. In regards to FCD, they looked in midseason form. I am very excited about the upcoming season and am somewhat bummed there isn’t a midweek game this week. The next match is going to be in SKC, another place FCD hasn’t fared very well over the past couple of years. The team finally has a week off to prepare and rest for the match. Keep in mind that after the SKC match, Dallas plays midweek at home against Pachuca and then again over the weekend for their home opener. So make sure you spend time with your families this upcoming week, because the next one will be crazy.
As always, let us know what you think of our grades. Upward and onward, FCD.