The second round of the Texas Derby in 2021 went fairly similar to the first round. Both FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo looked for a win and in the end, it was a rather lackluster draw for both of them.
Now that the dust has settled a bit on this one and FC Dallas is able to rest a bit since there isn’t a midweek game, we’re here to dive into some thoughts and things we learned from the draw in Houston.
Depth at center back helped and hurt
Out of the gate, it looked like this one could be a fun, fast-paced game despite the heat and humidity in Houston. But five minutes in the injury bug for the Dallas center backs came back into focus forcing Luchi Gonzalez into an early sub as Bressan went down with what looked like a shoulder a hamstring injury.
Even though there wasn’t really momentum built into the game, it did feel like the air got sucked out of FC Dallas with the injury. No offense to Jose Martinez, but the group looked like they lost more than a captain on the field when the injury took place. Houston stepped on the gas pedal and was rewarded with a penalty kick goal from Fafa Picault.
The second half was better (we’ll get to that in a moment) but once again, the injury bug hit Martinez and forced Gonzalez into another sub that he wasn’t planning on.
As nice as it was to have that center back depth these last few games, it feels like we’re potentially going to be back to square one as none of them outside of Nkosi Tafari are at 100%.
Speaking of Tafari, kudos to him for his effort this season. His consistency and improvement game-to-game hasn’t gone unnoticed. I think if MLS has a “Most Improved” type of award at the end of the season, he’d easily be a front-runner. Hell, right now he is a front-runner for the team’s MVP this season.
The uninspiring first half continues a bad trend
I spoke to the issues briefly above about the first half. That half was part of a larger trend for this club that continues to persist. Some of it had to do with lineup selection thanks to injuries that forced Gonzalez into a slightly different look from previous weeks (going from a 4-2-3-1 back into a 4-1-4-1). Freddy Vargas started his first game since early May, and it showed. His connection with guys like Ricardo Pepi, Jesus Ferreira, and Szabolcs Schon was poor at best as he missed on several passes in the first half (he had a 75% passing rate).
The man who replaced him, Jader Obrian wasn’t much better. His passing was worse (60%) and his first touch failed on several occasions, one big one in the penalty box that could have potentially helped lead to an insurance goal when the team was up 2-1.
Below we have unsuccessful dribbles and passes between the two. It should be noted, neither one had a successful cross, which feels like a complete fail for two wingers.
That’s just Obrian and Vargas. Schon didn’t have himself a great game either but I’m still willing to give him a longer leash here than the other two. Then you have Bryan Acosta, who was certainly all over the damn map when it came to his distribution and dribbles on Saturday night.
This was what didn’t work, which just shows stuff all over the field. His successful passes were a little more contained and shorter.
The same could be said for Ema Twumasi, who was frequently targeted on the right side. Edwin Cerrillo had his moments in this one too where he looked off and uncomfortable. Still, altogether it was uninspiring stuff on the night.
Pepi scoring still matters for points
But to end this one on more of a positive note, it feels like after a mini-skid that Pepi is back to scoring.
The two goals in this game were needed for Pepi (he nearly had the first one that Tafari ended up knocking in on the rebound). After earning his first hat trick last month, Pepi had gone somewhat cold by being held scoreless in his last five games. Now, he’s back at the right time before he heads to Los Angeles this week for the MLS All-Star Game.
What is still kind of crazy to me is that only six players are ahead of Pepi in the MLS Golden Boot race. FC Dallas hasn’t had a double-digit goal score since 2017 when Maxi Urruti and Roland Lamah both hit that mark.
Again, the stat goes that when he scores, FC Dallas gets points. The way things stand at the moment, if the club wants a playoff spot, they’ll need to continue to find ways to get him on the scoresheet each time out.
- The rivalry has lost some heat - I could probably write a lot more on this item from Eddie Robinson’s weird energy on the broadcast to see more fouls, to the lack of energy in the stands. But let’s be honest, this rivalry feels a bit dead at the moment in some ways. Maybe it was because the larger supporter groups for Dallas opted to save their Houston trip to next month since Austin is this coming weekend. Maybe it is due to both teams struggling this season. Either way, until some heavier fouls hit in the second half, this one didn’t have the same rivalry feeling as it did in years past.
- Looked gassed - We don’t talk a lot about the five available subs too often this season since it feels like the new norm here but given the two injuries that popped up, you can’t help but wonder what Luchi would have done with his subs in this one if he had the chance to redo things. You have to think that either Andres Ricaurte or Kahil ElMedkhar would have seen some time in this one.
- More juggling to happen in the midfield in Austin - With his yellow card, Acosta will now miss Sunday’s game in Austin due to yellow card accumulation. This will be the third straight game for FC Dallas to deal with this as Bressan and Franco Jara both recently missed games for this issue.