After The Smoke Clears – April 29, 2015

after the smoke clearsWe took a little more time this week because there was a little more smoke than in weeks previous. There were some big pluses and minuses in this week’s game against Colorado to work through and we wanted to make sure we had a good handle on them.

The Game

Dan Kennedy, Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Diaz started the game in a significant change from Pareja. Early on, Dallas had to weather some legitimate pressure from the Rapids and it took a little luck and a little greatness from Kennedy to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

But then Castillo switched sides and started causing havoc. Next thing you know, he torches the left side of the Rapids defense and feeds a ball through the Colorado goalie box. Three Dallas players were unable to get on the end of it, but the fourth, Mauro Diaz, put the ball home for the 1-0 lead that Dallas would take into the half.

But then the 59th minute came and a costly decision from Blas Perez cost the team what looked like a probable win as he shoved Dallas native Drew Moor and was ejected. Early video was very unclear, but then video appeared on Tuesday that showed clearly that the shove was more than enough to justify the red card.

But the big concern came later, when team captain Matt Hedges took an elbow to the face in a scrum during a free kick, and because of concerns about a potential concussion and the testing necessary to ensure it wasn’t an issue, Hedges had to be subbed for Walker Zimmerman, who had played 45 minutes on Wednesday for the US U-23s against Mexico two days earlier. Zimmerman has not had the best start to 2015 anyway, and he made the error that left Nick LaBrocca alone in the box to head home the tying goal. It ended there, but in a game Dallas could have won, they had to settle for just the single point.

The Positives
  • Diaz and Kennedy played very well. The Argentine had an almost perfect first half, and the former Chivas USA netminder showed that he can make similarly great saves for his new club.
  • After absorbing some pressure from the home side for the first 20+ minutes, Dallas was able to find ways to get Castillo on the ball and in dangerous areas, which has been key to any success FCD has had in 2015.
  • That success continued early in the second half, up until the red card to Perez.
  • At times, Acosta really looked the part of an athletic, strong presence alongside Ulloa.
The Questions
  • Zimmerman has been up and down much of this season. He is young and needs experience, so getting him time is good. But he seems to have been a part of a number of the goals the team has given up in these last few matches.
  • The red to Perez – almost certainly should have been an ejection. But it does make me wonder – if that was a red card, why wasn’t Chris Schuler’s shove into Perez’s chest in last years 2-1 victory a red card? It certainly was more violent – yet it was the Panamanian getting his second yellow.
  • Matt Hedges and the lack of depth behind him. Does this team need Stephen Keel, or another central defensive option? Very possibly. Certainly, another option rather than a short-rest and well-traveled Zimmerman would have been nice to look at when Hedges took another scary blow to the head.
  • Diaz’s return – Is it too soon? Is it too much? The midfield maestro is too talented and too important to not get back to 100% – not just good enough to play, but all the way strong so that he can be something the team can consistently count on. Early returns from Friday seem good, and hopefully the different work the Argentine has been doing since the Philadelphia game made a difference.
The Alarms
  • Another red card. Big D Soccer did a great piece that showed Dallas leads the league in red cards over the last four years – and not by a small margin. Please, take the time to read it. Of course, 10 in one season will do that. But what is really concerning is that other teams had 10 red cards in a season but are not in the same neighborhood as Dallas.
  • And it could have been worse. Simon Borg has a point when he said the tackle that earned Acosta a yellow card could very well have been a red card, which would have been his second in two starts – both for rash challenges exposing his cleats.
The Bottom Line

Two big steps forward and one concerning step back. The return of Diaz and the emergence of Kennedy are huge long-term positives for the club, assuming both did not come back from injury too soon and can continue to contribute. But another red card and a consistent lack of a leash on plays that can lead to red cards is scary. This team is not deep enough, talented enough or flexible enough to have to play down a man every three or four games. Frankly, no MLS team is. But over the last 42 regular season games, FC Dallas has had to play down a man (or two) on 12 occasions, almost 30% of the time.

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