The regular season slate for the month of June is in the books. FC Dallas didn’t pick up a ton of points but they did manage to get two draws away from home, something you just have to do in this league.
Friday night in Houston was always going to be a bigger challenge than sending a reserve-heavy group to Portland or any trip to Vancouver. The Houston Dynamo have been nearly unstoppable at home this season going 7-0-2 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Not only did FC Dallas manage to get a draw out of the Orange but they also managed to keep one the league’s best home attacking teams at bay outside of one bad touch by Matt Hedges.
I know on paper the 6-3-7 record for FC Dallas isn’t that sexy as we get set to enter July. But seeing that there are only three marks in that middle column and only 15 goals against on the season, good enough for the league’s second best defense; I tend not to worry about the lack of wins going up in that first column.
Again, it is always about how you finish the season, not necessarily what you do in the first three months of it.
Pragmatic as they come
The result in Houston was not pretty. Not always effective. And certainly one we’ll be able to move on from quickly. Oscar Pareja made sure to frustrate the Dynamo’s attack by clogging up the midfield and limiting the chances on goal. In fact, both teams combined for only one chance on goal outside of the two that went in the back of the net.
That is the blueprint to beat a team like Houston, who by all accounts are much better than their previous couple of seasons. Pareja didn’t send the numbers forward that we see teams like New York, Sporting KC or even Portland do. By keeping players back, it forced the Dynamo to figure out what to do with possession of the ball, an aspect that you could tell at times they weren’t comfortable with as they, like FC Dallas, would rather play it long and fast on the counter.
One good thing going for this FC Dallas group is that teams won’t beat them by just passing right through the middle portion of the field.
Diaz still has a ways to go
On one hand it was great to see Mauro Diaz get his first start of the regular season on Friday. On the other, I kind of think he would have been more effective off the bench in the second half.
This still shows how patient we have to be with him as he gets caught back up on the speed of the game and also his teammates. And vice-versa. Diaz has the amazing ability to read a defense and pick them apart but until he gets on the same page as everyone else...or as I like to really call it, as the rest of the group gets on the same page as him, we’ll be stuck in this good but not great attack.
His set pieces were a great example of that at times on Friday night. He was able to pick out some good spots but the runs just weren’t there. And on the flip side, he also had a couple corner kicks that really made us long for Kellyn Acosta to be the sole corner kick taker for the team.
A long way to go
Again, we have a long way to go on this season even though we’re almost half way through it. The bulk of the work is really still on the table for this group. July will present another challenge as Acosta and Hedges head back out on national team duty. The same will likely be said for Maynor Figueroa and Tesho Akindele. And let’s not forget about all of our young Homegrown players that could see youth national team minutes as well.
The good thing I keep thinking and resting on when I watch this team is that I know they haven’t kicked it into the next gear just yet. I very much believe they’ve been riding this far along in second gear - waiting for Diaz to be fully healthy - before they kicked it up to third and fourth gear.
This defense hasn’t given us a 4- or 5-0 game just yet like they have each of the last two seasons. When your worst loss a 2-0 game at Portland, it means you are probably doing something right defensively too.
The record may not be sexy but it continues to stay the course and pace with the leaders (not to mention we’ll have games-in-hand on folks for a while). That is just how you approach these types of season.