The Oscar Pareja era of FC Dallas soccer officially kicked off on Saturday night with FCD edging Montreal, 3-2, at Toyota Stadium. Dallas definitely played an attractive brand of attacking football that Pareja promised to deliver after he was hired to turn things around in Frisco in mid-January.
Now, FCD shifts their focus toward preparing for a weekend trip to
Kansas City to face reigning MLS Cup champion Sporting KC at Sporting Park. In
the meantime, here are four things to take away from this weekend’s win.
Mauro Diaz is a more than capable replacement for David Ferreira
On Saturday, Mauro Diaz showed all the same great qualities he displayed in his 10-game stint in MLS last season -great vision, playmaking ability and pace. The spectacular goal he had off of a free kick from just outside the Impact box two minutes into the second half truly was a thing of beauty and just might win MLS Goal of the Week.
However, as good as Diaz was against Montreal, a team who had little answer for the pace and creativity of either Diaz or Fabian Castillo, he is still a young player and thus quite inconsistent. It will be interesting to see how he fares this weekend against Sporting KC, a team that isn't afraid to foul and foul often. Diaz is off to a great start in 2014, but can he sustain it?
The back line definitely needs some work
Looking at the bottom line, FCD came out of this weekend victorious, but there were definitely several concerning signs when it comes to the defense. On the left side, Jair Benitez got the nod at left back over Michel and had a pretty rough first half as Montreal’s first goal came on his side of the field, a tally set up by a great cross from Justin Mapp. Benitez rebounded nicely but his struggles were a bit concerning, especially considering there isn't that much in the way of capable cover behind him in Michel and rookie Moises Hernandez.
As expected, Matt Hedges was a true rock in the middle. However, Hernandez, who is playing out of position, had a rather tough time in his MLS debut. But after a rough first half, FCD was much better in the back the final 45 minutes but Montreal had a knack from getting in behind them for much of the night whether it was via the long ball or through the flanks. Right back Kellyn Acosta also had his share of tough times and once Zach Loyd is healthy, Loyd will push hard to get his starting spot back. This quartet’s apparent lack of communication and cohesion for stretches of the game showed.
Last week, Pareja said Hedges has become more vocal this preseason but that was far from evident on Saturday. This club needs George John back as soon as possible not just so Hernandez no longer has to play out of position at center back, but so the guy who organizes the back line can keep them organized and tight.
Hendry Thomas is crucial to this team’s success
Hendry Thomas’ FCD debut was pretty uneventful, never a bad way to describe a holding midfielder’s performance. The Honduran international was highly effective at exactly what he was acquired from Colorado to do-make life tough on the opposition in the middle of the yard by breaking up passes, being tenacious and simply defending his turf. However, once the veteran went out with a foot injury about 65 minutes in, things quickly changed. Michel, who came on for him at d-mid, simply isn’t a destroyer sort of player and he also turns the ball over in bunches although that wasn’t a huge issue on Saturday. The prognosis on Thomas should come down on Tuesday and if he’s out for a bit, expect fellow newcomer Adam Moffat to fill in for him, but no matter who replaces him, losing Thomas is big, even if it’s this early in the season.
A little luck was Involved too
First of all, to clear up any confusion, the penalty kick awarded to Diaz in the first half after what many termed a mere touch by Montreal’s Jeb Brovsky was indeed a penalty. Sure, Diaz appeared to sell it a bit, but isn't that his job? Still, looking at this game objectively, FCD was pretty fortunate to come away with the full three points. That’s because Montreal should have had a goal about three minutes in when Benitez cleared a shot off the end line. And then there is the hand ball on Hernan Bernardello early in the second half that set up the eventual free-kick game-winner by Diaz. That ball took a fortunate, if you back FCD, and unfortunate if you don’t, bounce to hit Bernardello’s hand. And let’s not forget the few great saves Chris Seitz made in goal to bail out a Dallas back line that was rather porous. So, while FCD fans are excited about the win, the fact it came against a depleted Montreal side, that only one goal came from the run of the play and that one was rather soft, gives Pareja plenty to focus on in training this week.
More of the same from Fabian Castillo
While Diaz was hands-down the man of the match, Castillo also had his moments for FCD. He did get the goal, albeit a rather soft one to be honest, on the flurry of defensive mistakes by Montreal in the 16th minute, but that is one of the easiest goals he’ll ever score at any level of competition, but still he gets credit for finishing that chance. He had a few other good moments but also had his share of questionable decision making in the final third. Some called Castillo the man of the match but look again. He was as inconsistent as ever. Sure, he has great pace, which catches everyone’s eye immediately, but speed will only take him so far in the game. If he can’t learn to make better decisions like not dribble right into three defenders as he did in the second half, then he will never come close to reaching his full potential. Castillo did lead FCD with five shots but that team-leading total is misleading at best.