A draw with any team isn’t ideal at home. But a draw with your top rival at home is truly like kissing your sister. That is how FC Dallas should be feeling after their disappointing result on Saturday in the first leg of the Texas Derby in 2021. A 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo is really not acceptable these days.
Here are a few key takeaways that I got from the game on Saturday with some visual help to go alongside it.
The lack of touch costing Vargas
To me, this was a key moment in Saturday’s match that could have elevated Freddy Vargas to the next level like we thought we were seeing in preseason play out of him. Instead, we’re starting to get the sense that he could just be Santiago Mosquera 2.0. That touch, that lack of awareness around you in the penalty box is the difference between FC Dallas going up 1-0 29 minutes in and the score remaining nil-nil.
Look, I want to like Vargas. I really do, but these last couple of games are starting to make me more of a doubter than a believer. I think Luchi Gonzalez’ sub in the second half to bring him off in place of Paxton Pomykal in the 57th minute (who then later moved into the middle of the field when newcomer Szabolcs Schön came on), is a bit of a sign that he knows Vargas needs a push and potentially a game or two off the bench himself.
With Pomykal getting healthier by the day, and Schon in form and in town, Vargas’ days as the starter may be numbered unless he can find ways to get a good touch on the ball in the penalty box and actually finish a chance.
Jara continues to not be the right fit
I’ll let Doyle’s clip explain a bit of what I mean here:
At some point it's got to be Pepi's job. pic.twitter.com/LeVYGjvVDX— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) May 8, 2021
I think we’re all seeing this and sadly, so far this season we’re seeing it too much. I’m firmly in the camp right now that Franco Jara could be an amazing super sub for this team. Like almost Chris Wondolowski level super sub. Okay, maybe not that good but damn close.
His lack of speed and touch on the ball in the final third is not doing enough. Sure, FC Dallas is creating chances and a lot of them are actually coming in the penalty box, but his lack of speed is actually kind of killing even more chances that could be created as he is slow to react early in matches when an opposing team’s defense is still fresh. Late in games, as we saw against Portland when he came off the bench, he was a different player for me.
I can’t help but think that if Jesus Ferreira were healthy right now, that we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Acosta may have finally settled in
One guy that actually stood out for me on Saturday was Bryan Acosta. I do think he faded a bit late in the game (why no Edwin Cerrillo sub, Luchi?) but overall his afternoon was pretty damn good in the midfield.
I’ll let our old pal Jason Poon (we miss you bud) explain:
Don't look now #FCDallas fans but maybe (?) Acosta is finally playing up to his DP tag?— Jason Poon (@jasonhpoon) May 8, 2021
Almost 97% passing rate. Gorgeous first touch to lay off that cross from Ricuarte for the goal. Didn't sky his shot into the stands either. pic.twitter.com/xklpzz2EpX
Yeah, he didn’t sky his shot into the stands. I think that may be one of the more underrated things right now that we’re seeing out of Acosta. He’s still shooting on goal but his shots have been low and wide, instead of high and into Oklahoma.
But in all seriousness, his passing rate is where we need to focus on here as it came against a team that was pressing high and causing a lot of disruptions in the back for FC Dallas (I counted at least three, maybe four times that Houston pinned FCD back to their goalline with the passing in the back...not great Bob!). To have someone calmly help the team out of a mess like that (also, Matt Hedges would have helped here too), is good to see in his game.
I mentioned to a few folks on Saturday that Acosta may have finally settled into the right role for him in Luchi’s squad. He’s not a Designated Player that is going to score a ton of goals for you but that isn’t what he was brought here to do in the first place. This may have been it. A midfield distributor that helps bridge the gap between the defensive group and the attack.