The atmosphere Saturday night at Toyota Stadium felt different. Maybe it was due to the slew of green and black jerseys in the stands cheering on Austin FC. Or maybe it was just that small spark of a new rivalry for FC Dallas.
Either way, FC Dallas picked up a nice 2-0 win at home, extending their unbeaten run to four games with the second half of the season getting started on the right foot.
Things are fun again
We’ve seen over the last couple of seasons under Luchi Gonzalez that when times are good, things look very fun on the field. And at times easy. But when things are bad like we had a couple of months ago, everything is seemingly awful and everyone is to blame.
Thankfully, we’re back in the fun times with this group. Saturday was another extension of that with two second half goals from the run of play, both set up by Szabolcs Schon.
Let me speak a tad on Schon here, because he is certainly part of what is making this group fun again. Luchi touched on it in his post-game press conference that the young Hungarian is finally feeling comfortable here in Dallas and his teammates are feeding off that well.
“His teammates got to see him compete in the Euros and get some minutes, and you could see really the whole team get behind him and support him when he was playing for Hungary,” Gonzalez said. “When he came back, there was a stronger connection with him and his teammates. I think that helped him on the field.
That stronger connection was also followed up by Jesus Ferreira, one who scored on Saturday night off a Schon assist.
“We’re starting to know our movements,” explained Ferreira. “We don’t have to think or see the movement before we play the ball. Now we get into each other’s runs.”
It certainly showed here as the movement of this group up top just feels connected in a different way than what we saw early on in the season.
That roster juggle is starting to make sense
Again, when things are bad for this team, not much makes sense. Luchi was pretty animated about the way the roster juggle has had to go here following the win over Austin.
“The starting lineup has five, six players that weren’t available at the beginning of the season, whether it’s not being on the roster or injury, or maybe not showing, or not having the starting opportunity yet,” said Gonzalez. “So that shows you the roster, the depth, the competition, and the fact that pieces can step up and get the job done.”
The depth is starting to show for sure, but as we know so has to have guys that weren’t fully available in April now at their 100% in August. That is part of this juggle that has worked out so well over the course of the last four matches.
The other part of that is banking and seemingly being okay with bringing expensive foreign signings off the bench in late-game situations. Franco Jara and Jader Obrian haven’t made a ton of sense as starters, especially since neither has really been able to go a full-90 this season (Jara went the full-90 back in the season opener, Obrian did it twice back at the beginning of the year as well). Gambling with their minutes as late-game subs has proven to be clutch.
The big question still remains, will it last? I think these next four games will tell us a lot about where things could end up going. If this unbeaten run gets extended into September, it will largely be due to this juggle paying off.
Is it a rivalry yet?
This was something a good amount of us probably wondered going into Saturday. What is this rivalry with Austin? Does it matter the same way as the one with Houston? And can it be something special that we look forward to? I think at the end of the day, it all matters for this club to have another close rivalry (at least geographically speaking).
I was impressed with the number of Austin fans that made it down and in some ways took over a good chunk of the East Stand of the stadium. They were lively throughout the entire game and at times pretty damn loud. Again, that is a good thing to me that we’re seeing that sort of thing. I do miss the days of larger sections of Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo fans traveling to Dallas for games. Part of that decrease is due to us playing Houston more on Wednesdays (which is lame if you ask me for both sides) and two, rivalries change over time in this league.
Anyways, when asking some players following the game what they thought of Austin and this new rivalry, it was all about being the Kings of Texas according to Ferreira.
“They’re in Texas and we want to claim Texas,” said Ferreira. “Our Derby is Houston but I guess we have another Derby now.”
To Ferreira, it didn’t seem to matter if it was Austin or Houston, they care about maintaining their control in MLS play over their in-state rivals. Truthfully, I’m here for that.
As for my full take on this rivalry with Austin after one game, it will get there. I do like that the schedule has placed the return game in Austin for later this month as it will allow for some momentum to carry over from this game into that one.