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Scratching the Chalkboard: Javier Morales and Carlos Gruezo shine

The midfielders dominated against the visiting Loons

MLS: Minnesota United FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If there were any ill-effects from being knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League earlier this week, it certainly did not show as FC Dallas dispatched the visiting Minnesota United 2-0 on Saturday evening. Both sides had spells of fluid offensive soccer to entertain the fans, but the class of Javier Morales was ultimately the difference in this match.

Age is but a number

When Morales signed with FCD during the off-season, it was a signal of intent by both him and the club that all parties were serious about winning trophies. Morales was signed as a stop gap for the injured Mauro Diaz, to provide the club a true #10 when Oscar Pareja opts to go with a 4-2-3-1.

The one reservation about Morales was his age. At 37, Morales has logged over 19,000 minutes in MLS play during his 10 year career in MLS and it was unknown how much Morales had left in his tank. The answer to that is a lot, apparently.

His game winning goal aside, Morales dictated tempo for FCD by drifting between the lines and finding pockets of space to receive and distribute the ball. Morales probably cannot do this week in and week out, but for the occasional game here and there, Morales can provide an element of class to this side as the return of Mauro Diaz is just 2 months away.

Gruezo Nearly Perfect

Something that did not escape the BDS staff was that Kellyn Acosta seemed to have an off-game, finding it a bit difficult to connect with his teammates. Though much of that was to be expected with Morales sitting in front of him in the midfield, what should not go unmentioned was how Acosta’s midfield partner Carlos Gruezo was nearly perfect on the night.

Part of Acosta’s struggles was the more congested midfield in the 4-2-3-1 formation, but also the fact that Minnesota United made sure Acosta was marked tightly so he couldn’t receive the ball. When that happens, Gruezo had to to take over the distribution duties from the midfield and thankfully for Dallas, Gruezo was up to the task.

A new offense game-plan?

Something that was new from last night’s match was the insertion of Atiba Harris at left back alongside Hernan Grana on the right. Typically it’s been Maynor Figueora manning the left back position, with Grana given the license to push forward and Figueroa tasked to stay back. Against Minnesota, however, both Grana and Harris pushed from both sides of the flanks to give Dallas a more balanced attack on both wings.

This worked extraordinary well as it enabled Dallas to keep the offense moving for stretches of the match. It will be interesting to see if Pareja will opt for more offensive minded full backs going forward.