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Scratching the Chalkboard: Pareja gambles and it pays off

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Dallas reclaim the top spot in the Western Conference

MLS: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas secured a massive road win last night at Vancouver. Both teams needed the three points, albeit for different reasons. Dallas was searching to improve their potential playoff seeding (yes, potential as their magic number still sits at three), and the Vancouver Whitecaps were looking to get back above the red line. A draw would’ve been fine for Dallas, given the circumstances and all the help they got from the other games, so a road victory against a conference foe is worth its weight in gold.

Anything you can do, I can do better

Let’s just start with the obvious: Alphonso Davies is a baller. That guy is so much fun to watch as he glides effortlessly around Dallas players like they’re traffic cones in training. Davies was initially lined up as a midfielder, and it was “easier” to contain him and keep his back towards goal.

Davies’ first half touches vs FCD. Square - passes. Circle - shots. Triangles - take ons.

Davies was still a menace, shifting from the different flanks, trying to exploit the Dallas defense. It was “easier”, but certainly still a major threat.

When Davies was moved to left back, to the chagrin of ‘Caps fans, this was when both teams opted to go for the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” tactic. The shift meant Davies could keep everything in front of him and a chance to just exploit space on the overlap. It pitted him in a lot of 1v1 duels against Michael Barrios. The shift presented Oscar Pareja a challenge, “Do we drop Barrios back a bit to help Reggie Cannon or do we play ‘chicken’ and let Davies run forward but we’ll keep Mikey high?”

And much like that fateful victory at Sporting Kansas City, Pareja opted for the latter and sat Barrios up, trusting Cannon, Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa to do their jobs.

Davies scored the Dallas defense on multiple occasions, dancing over several tackles before setting up the equalizer.

Davies’ second half touches

The flip side of not committing Barrios to defending is that he was offered the same space that Davies was and Mikey found himself 1v1 or on a break on the counter.

Barrios’ second half touches vs VAN

This is a big gamble that pits your best against the oppositions’ best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Given the desperation for Vancouver to get the points, it was the right gamble from Pareja and his men.

Fare thee well, Colman

Cristian Colman was signed as Dallas’ most expensive transfer in club history and the returns for him have been... less than stellar. His two year contract is up at the end of the year, and with the likes of Jesus Ferreira and Bryan Reynolds waiting patiently for their turn, this looks like it was Colman last chance to make an impression.

Colman’s touches vs VAN. Square - passes. Circle - shots. Triangle - take ons

It wasn’t a bad showing, but it wasn’t particularly good either. The effort was definitely there, but for that amount of money and with the talent waiting in the pipelines, “effort” really isn’t what you’re looking for in a player like Colman.

Unless Colman scores a hat trick somewhere between now and the end of the season, I don’t expect the Colman experiment to continue and Dallas will have to just cut their losses.

Ain’t it Fun

It’s hard to do these without mentioning the goal scorers. Hat tip to Santiago Mosquera for living up to the No. 11 shirt.

Mosquera touches vs VAN

Even as a winger, Mosquera has a nice read on the game. Most wingers take a “high risk, high reward” mentality to the game - which is warranted. However, Santi seems to know when to take those risks and when to play a safer pass to keep possession going and to let the defense breathe for a second. Given how the ‘Caps were playing and how they were pressing for the win, a few extra seconds to keep the ball and to get it deeper into Whitecaps’ territory was huge for the road win.

Then, there was Matt Hedges, who delivered yet another stellar performance. Even if he didn’t tower for the header to win the match, Hedges was superb in this one.

Hedges defensive actions vs VAN

Finally, Maximiliano Urruti played his best game as the team’s #10. Urruti picked up two assists from set piece deliveries, first to Mosquera off a free kick then off a corner to Barrios(!), who flicked it towards the back post for Hedges to head home.

The set piece duty was certainly new and his delivery was very good for the night. Though he didn’t find his target most of the time, he did put the ball in dangerous positions, forcing Kendall Waston and Doneil Henry into making challenging clearances.

It’s fun when your big players rise to the occasion and put up a solid outing, don’t you think?