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What we learned against D.C. United: Has anything changed since last year?

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Dallas has year-old problems popping back up again.

MLS: FC Dallas at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This result has a bigger impact on the Big D Soccer staff prediction table than it does on FC Dallas’ position in the Western Conference. This was a game they could afford to lose. They were missing a few players to international duty and D.C. United are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. There’s no shame in the result. I don’t think Dallas were wholly expecting to go in there and get three points. Although, I do feel some responsibility for jinxing FC Dallas by mentioning how well they have done late in games thus far this season in my post last week.

Dear D.C. United,

Can we do that every week? What a blast! It was wide open from start to finish. It was strange that a game with nine shots on target only saw one goal, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t end to end action. Wayne Rooney is a joy to watch. The way United work the ball up and down the field is really great to see in MLS. This would have been a great game to show a neutral, other than the one goal being an awkward scrappy one.

Although Dallas’ lack of efficiency in the final third is frustrating, it’s nice to see the offense is able to trade blows and out-shoot DC United’s in-form attack. While I love how strong our defense is, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t still want the attack to start clicking. Results are nice, but I’m a sucker for eye candy. I’m not sure if Dallas figure out exactly how to configure their various attacking pieces this season, but at least we know we have some pieces that are worth something, which is more than we could say in past years.

Back to square one

Around this time last season we were complaining about Dallas not having anyone in the box to cross the ball to because Maxi Urruti was running around doing Maxi things. One year later we have Michael Barrios or no one in the box again. Dallas have tried to make a target man striker work, and it felt like progress was being made with Colman right before he tore his ACL (progress meaning the attack looked good, not that Colman was going to be a goal scoring threat). They also brought in Dominque Badji who hasn’t been nearly the godsend that we thought he would be.

Dallas have had a year to figure out their crossing problem and they still haven’t found a system that works for them. It’s frustrating and makes it feel like Dallas doesn’t have an identity. Which is where a lot of the lack of respect comes from. Every MLS fan knows how D.C. United plays since the arrival of Rooney. They also know that Zlatan makes the LA Galaxy a tough team to handle. They know the Red Bulls are going to hit you on the counter. Dallas’ lack of a narrative because of its lack of a star or consistent attacking approach, means that they aren’t going to be taken seriously across the league for a while. But that might not be a bad thing.

Eyes on next week

Dallas are going to have to get past this result and not let it crush their spirits. It was always a game that was going to be hard and while it was difficult to give up a late goal after controlling much of the game, it wasn’t a must win game. Next week though... that’s a different story.

I’m not sure if Dallas have ever 100% had their act together at any point this season, but they need to pull it together against Sporting Kansas City. I would love to mount a run at the Cup, but given that last year we were in the midst of the worst collapse in MLS history and this season we have a good chance of winning the Western Conference, I’m pretty happy with just winning the conference. Dallas don’t want to walk away from this season empty handed and a conference championship (no matter how bad the other teams have been) isn’t anything to scoff at and a first-round-bye sure would make winning the Cup a whole lot easier.