Last night not only ended a ten game slump but it pushed FC Dallas back into the playoff mix with four games to go.
Right buttons pushed
The last ten games have not been something we’ve enjoyed, that much we’ve documented on here. But last night was a good indication that Oscar Pareja can still be trusted when it matters most. And same goes for the core group of players on this team.
The opening ten minutes where FC Dallas dominated both ends and scored two goals was more than enough evidence that things will be just fine here. But to me it was the buttons being pressed in the other 80 minutes that were important. The team didn’t panic, they didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. Sure, the Rapids made it easy to do so in the first half as they looked content on sitting back themselves. But as the second half wore on, the Rapids pressed and Dallas didn’t blink.
Those are signs we needed to see out of this group again.
Morales the fuel injection
Seeing the lineup before the game left me feeling a bit nervous that this was actually going to be the game that FC Dallas would end this streak. I wasn’t sure that Javier Morales on the wings was going to be the answer to help open up the attack but instead it was exactly what this group needed.
The thing to remember about Morales is his experience. He’s been in these crunch time moments over the years in this league time and time again. He’s battle tested and was the right guy for the moment.
Last night he completed 99 passes with a really high accuracy rate of 90%. Colorado may have been bad but Morales made sure to put it all out there.
The big question in my mind is, did Pareja find a new look that could be the catalyst for a deep playoff run? Part of me says yes, but I know deep down it might take more than Morales to get this team to a MLS Cup. We need Kellyn Acosta healthy and back to his spring form. We need Carlos Gruezo to be the bulldozer that he can be. And we need that defense to continue posting shutouts.
Can the defense sustain this?
Lately we’ve seen a lot of Jekyll and Hyde out of the Dallas defense. Part of that has been due to the heavy rotation of players this season with injuries and national team call ups, and other parts has just been teams figuring out how to press them the right way.
As much as I hate it, we may need to see more of Atiba Harris alongside Matt Hedges in the middle for the rest of the season. Not Maynor Figueroa. And not Walker Zimmerman.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have Zimmerman out there with Hedges but his game has been incredibly off these last couple of months. I think in some ways his injury earlier in the season should have kept him on the shelf a little longer and he was rushed back too soon. He’s played well in moments but we’ve seen him burned against top speed. Given the remaining schedule, he may be a better option off the bench for some late game set pieces.