We are now nine games into the season and FC Dallas has still only lost one match. LA Galaxy and Zlatan came to Frisco Saturday afternoon in what was this season’s biggest game to date. Whether it was Ibra or LA’s history, the stadium was buzzing all match long. FC Dallas, to their credit, came out and put the screws to the Galaxy for the majority of the game. In the end, Dallas was able to hold on and come away with another three points.
On Saturday, Mauro Diaz was the ‘Magical Little Unicorn’ that we saw in season’s past. In the first twenty minutes or so, Mauro looked to be just off with his passing but as the game progressed on, he was able to settle in and start dropping dimes for his teammates. He finished the match with three assists and dominated the play from his midfield position. On top of slicing up a terrible backline, Mauro was also able to dance in the midfield giving the rest of the team to push forward.
For me, Mauro juking and jiving in the midfield is another sign that he is close or back to 100% health.Last year when he was coming off of the achilles injury, Mauro would try through balls to attacking players but was releasing them too quick. He wasn’t able to find himself that extra yard of space which allows Lamah, Urruti, Mikey or even Santi now the extra second to get free of opposing teams backlines. Because of that, Dallas wasn’t able to slice apart of opposing defenses. Teams would just close down on Mauro and he would either pass the ball back, force a pass that never had a chance of getting through or just outright lose the ball.
This year, and specifically these last couple matches, Mauro has been able to keep the ball at his feet a little longer allowing the other attacking players the freedom to receive the ball in dangerous positions. Look at Mauro’s work on the third goal of the game. He danced with the ball while picking up twenty yards of space? We haven’t seen that since 2016. If this Mauro continues to play like this, then FC Dallas is in a really nice spot going forward.
FC Dallas has been fortunate to not really miss a beat when they’ve had a player go down to injury. Fernando Clavjio has a lot to do with that since he has brought in quite a few talented players who have been able to cover for those injured. However, we still have been hit with a bit of an injury bug this year, especially with the home growns, or as Ben calls them, ‘Home Groans.” Dallas has seen Kellyn Acosta, Brandon Servania, Paxton Pomykal, Kris Reaves and Jesus Ferreira all go under the knife this year already. Add on that Jesse Gonzalez has also been injured and you are looking at six home grown players who have sidelined already this year. Luckily, none of the injuries have been too severe, but it’s been crazy.
Saturday was Kellyn’s first start of the season and he reminded us all why he got the start in Mexico for the USMNT. He didn’t do anything too spectacular on the day but was able to clean up any messes in the midfield and, most importantly, connect the backline to the midfield. With Kellyn back on the field, it allows Mauro Diaz to slide further up the pitch. With Mauro pushed up higher, he is able to run at opposing teams backlines and freeing up Urruti in the middle or the wingers out wide. None of that is possible if Kellyn isn’t able to provide support behind or even next to Mauro. Kellyn is the engine in the middle of the field allows the rest of the team to run.
Jacori Hayes did a great job filling in for Kellyn when he was hurt, but at this point, he is nowhere near the player Kellyn is. He doesn’t have the next gear that Kellyn does. Maybe in time he will find it (I don’t see why he can’t), but right now he hasn’t developed it. This team is infinitely better with Kellyn out there and it’s exciting that he’s back.
The game ultimately changed when Reto Ziegler got sent off in the 73rd minute. LA were able to get on the front foot and pour on the pressure. Luckily, Dallas was able to survive but not without some nervy moments. The build up leading to the first goal was terrible. It was the one of the few times this year that Reggie looked like a young player. He left his feet, trying to win the ball off of Ashley Cole, only to end up being nowhere near him and allowing Ashley the opportunity to get to the touchline. Once there, Matt Hedges had to follow a runner near post allowing Boateng to be open behind him for a tap in. There was a lot wrong with the play, but it’s kind of expected with loss of your veteran center back.
First off, Reggie should have never went to ground there, without a doubt he knows it and I doubt it happens again. He thought he could get there, but came up short. Secondly, Matt did everything right. He followed the run to the near post forcing a more difficult pass into the traffic. The breakdown is when Maynor doesn’t read what Matt is doing and pick up the next guy in the box. There is a good chance that Reto sees that, and is able to at least get in front of Boateng to prevent him from getting the shot off.
Watching that goal sequence on Saturday from the Beer Garden gave me flashbacks to last year’s backline. Luckily, we haven’t had those issues with the upgrade at center back and fullback this campaign. Overall this year, Dallas has done a good job of not allowing opposing to break down the backline too many times (maybe once or twice a game, at most). I will take that from a new backline that is still coming together. In theory as they continue to progress they should be able to eliminate some of these errors as well.
The season marches on again this week as Brek Shea and the Vancouver Whitecaps come to town. On paper, Dallas should be able to get a some kind of a result, but VWFC has been a bit of a bug-a-boo for them in the last couple of years. Hopefully they are able to build off of this week win and keep this good times rolling.