Saturday marked the first time in a little over a year that I was at Toyota Stadium for a game. I made the decision last summer when the season resumed covering things from home because of the pandemic but now that I am fully vaccinated, I felt it was time to get back to the stadium. And boy am I glad I picked last night to be the first time in 2021 for me to be there.
FC Dallas took the Portland Timbers to the woodshed (yeah, no pun intended there, or maybe not). Homegrown players got goals, the lineup looked more like what we’re expecting out of them and the atmosphere at the game felt like it was in the before-times. Here are some things I noticed last night in the 4-1 win over the Timbers.
Better in the attack
Okay, four goals against a b-squad from Portland may not be a ton for some people to get worked up over but it was desperately needed after the showing in the first two games against Colorado and San Jose.
First of all, the movement on the first goal between Bryan Acosta, Ryan Hollingshead, and Andres Ricaurte can be played on a loop. The combination and the quick-strike ability of Hollingshead getting forward that early is what you have come to expect out of this group. And that finish, oh that finish was smooth from Ricaurte.
The boys came out hungry tonight.— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) May 2, 2021
Ryan ➡️ El Mago ➡️ Back of the net pic.twitter.com/GdEMGtq856
As much as I want to take a deep dive into Jader Obrien’s first MLS goal off a GOALKEEPER ASSIST, I must resist that urge a bit and move on to the third goal of the game. Set pieces have been a bit of a miss under Luchi Gonzalez but my gut told me as Obrien forced a corner kick in the dying seconds of the first that FC Dallas was going to score again. And they did thanks to a calm finish from Bressan after a Jose Martinez miss.
Yes, that was a nice put-back from Bressan but don’t sleep on the cheekiness from Martinez there. Also, great placement by Freddy Vargas on the initial corner kick too.
Lastly, let’s talk about that final goal from Dante Sealy. There were two great passes on this play from Paxton Pomykal to Franco Jara and then Jara over to Sealy, who cooly finished off his first goal (a crazy stat that he had four touches in the game and one goal, I know limited minutes but still, that’s wild).
I know we’ve made a lot about Jara starting but in a way, this game was the perfect time for him to not start and come off the bench late and be the hold-up type of playmaker in the attack. He did a solid job of maintaining some possession late in the game and that dish to Sealy was DP-level in my book. (Now if we could only get him with a little more energy and speed, I think some of us would cool off on him a bit.)
The kids....the kids...
Again, a lot has been made so far this year about the lack of Homegrown players in the lineup. Luchi knows this and addressed it in the post-game to the press:
This is a roster, this is a team, a family that everybody needs to be ready for today, and then for tomorrow it could be different. Those guys were the ones we felt should start and we knew guys coming into the game could change the game, like they did today. I know the first game we didn’t have Homegrowns starting but I wasn’t worried. I knew the guys had good form in preseason and they were going to contribute very soon. So, that’s the kind of roster we have. We can start or not start Homegrowns or experienced players. The mix and mash of them are going to help us reach our potential.
Last night we saw six HGPs, which I believe is tied for a team and maybe a league record. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of this here in 2021, where we get a game or two without a ton of HGPs in the lineup or even off the bench, and then a game or two with a ton of them in the lineup and off the bench.
It will still be on those HGPs to make the impact that we saw last night to force Luchi and his staff to go with the younger guys more here. Last night proved very well for them against an exhausted Timbers squad that has to go to Mexico City this week before taking on Seattle. Good practice for sure, but we need more of this against a teams’ a-squad.
Just better energy overall
The best moment of the game had to be the heat coming off Hollingshead against Portland manager Gio Savarese on a throw-in that involved a bad toss, a pump fake, and nearly a bench-clearing madness.
Ryan told reporters after the game that he would absolutely do that again because it pumped up his teammates. And you know what, I am here for it.
That was something completely missing in the first two games of the season. Some passion, some damn heart. This is such a long season that you have to have moments like this to keep the entire group pumped up. And it worked as they hustled their way to another goal in the late stages thanks to Sealy.
Also, that celebration for Sealy was lit.
Easily the best two moments of the game for me.
- Bryan Acosta quietly had one of the better nights in my opinion against the Timbers. Sure, it was against their b-squad midfield but he looked more like himself there. His connection with Hollingshead and the wingers was good at times and there were a few long balls that he sprayed on the field that had the potential to be really dangerous (the chemistry is still not quite there but it is close).
- Tanner Tessmann also had a solid evening and while I know some would have liked him to stay on a bit longer, I applaud the move to bring Edwin Cerrillo in as more of a defensive midfielder to help close out the game.
- Eddie Munjoma had some nervy moments early on that led to a yellow card. I have a feeling that had he not picked that up as early as he did, that Luchi would have stuck with him for the entire game instead of subbing in John Nelson. Still, he had some solid moments in this one as the Timbers tried to target his side of the field more in the early stages of the game.
- Obrien does have some Fabian Castillo-type speed to him, doesn’t he? He may also be a little more technical on the ball too but the sample size for me is a bit early to make that judgment.