A massive win
Let’s start with the first match of the week, that 3-2 victory over Atlanta United. Dallas came back from a 2-1 deficit in the late stages of the match.Tesho Akindele, the man given more of an opportunity recently, scored the game-tying and game-winning goals for the team.
The win was massive, to say the least.
Óscar Pareja did a very good job of setting up his team for success, with a gameplan to shut down Miguel Almiron and prevent him from pulling the attacking strings.
Throughout the match, Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa kept a close eye on Almiron, and they were quick to close him down. Here is an example of the high press Gruezo handed the Paraguayan, not letting him operate.
The usual high-flying Atlanta attack seemed very quiet in the first half and parts of the second half. However, the dangerous thing about this Atlanta side is that all the team needs is a lapse of concentration from the opponent to score.
The second goal from Martinez is created by Almiron, who finds himself in acres of space, due to what looks like a miscommunication between Ulloa and Gruezo. Gruezo steps to challenge for the ball and Ulloa seems to just stand there, watching Almiron get the ball. There is no chance Pareja wanted that, and sure enough, it led to the second goal for Atlanta United.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 5, 2018
The comeback, however, was impressive. Akindele came off the bench and grabbed two goals, and the subs Pareja made had their impact. Dallas looked defeated until the subs gave the team life. It’s a win the team can look back on in the latter parts of the season as a rallying cry of sorts.
If the team can beat Atlanta down a goal, it can beat anyone.
A bad defeat
After its July 4 win, Dallas had a quick turnaround, traveling to Sandy, Utah, for a Saturday match against Real Salt Lake. Dallas played a more rotated side, electing to start Akindele, Ema Twumasi and Kris Reaves. The result wasn’t pretty for viewers, as the team lost 2-0.
It was not a bad performance, nor was it a good one. The team just looked gassed after the run of matches it had. An uninspiring Dallas attack in the first half, combined with Real Salt Lake’s eagerness to get a win in front of its home crowd, manifested the loss. The left back situation at this point is desperately in need of an experienced player, which is exactly why Dallas brought in Marquinhos Pedroso last week. Kris Reaves is not naturally a left back and struggled in the early stages of the match.
After the substitutions of Maxi Urruti and Roland Lamah, the team had some juice. It looked like Dallas could get a result, until the team hit a wall around the 70th minute. That’s when it looked like fatigue set in and the mistakes kept coming.
It’s a tough loss, but getting results on the road is tough in general. Pareja may be upset with the performance, but after a short week and a road trip, the odds were stacked against his team.
First in the West
After those matches, FC Dallas sits in first place in the Western Conference, one point above Los Angeles FC, after 18 games played.
The ultimate question is whether Dallas can sustain this level of play for the next 16 matches. The departure of Mauro Diaz leaves a hole offensively, which can be filled in various ways — either tactically or by bringing in personnel in the transfer window. These moves need to be MLS Cup-winning moves and not some temporary acquisition for depth, especially with the role Diaz played on the squad.
The Western Conference seems to have a lot of parity. LAFC, Sporting Kansas City and Dallas are vying for the top spots. Every point will count during this campaign, just like it did last season, when Dallas missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker.
The next stretch of three matches will be tough. FCD plays Chicago at home, then SKC and rival Houston on the road.