It was an offensive display to remember. Two goals were nominated for MLS Goal of the Week, one of which was from the half line, the other a volley that made one’s hair stand on end. Aside from rejoicing, the subsequent reaction could really have been: where has this been since May? But, FCD’s powerful attack broke down Western Conference rivals Vancouver at a time when wins, especially conference wins, are a must.
The first salient point pre-match is that Hyndman rolled out a lineup completely devoid of any true forwards or target men. Cooper was on suspension, Blas was on international duty, and Hassli, well, was there. But his stock has sunk so low that he wasn’t even brought on for the purpose he was bought for. Castillo, who has never performed well up top for Dallas, and Jackson, who has awoken from a summer slumber, led the line.
Vancouver pulled no punches in their lineup entering the match, either. But rather than the usual 4-3-3 Martin Rennie has deployed for most of 2013, they ran a flatter 4-4-2. It was a formation that played into Hyndman’s favor a bit, and allowed the game to open up fairly early on for both sides.
Ironically, in pre-match interviews held last week the one emphasis was on Dallas’ defense. Namely, George John and Matt Hedges had gone on record talking about the renewed emphasis in defensive focus at training the past week and how keeping Vancouver off the scoreboard was a top priority.
They didn’t necessarily qualify these statements with how many minutes they had to keep Vancouver at bay. If John, Hedges, or really anyone in the Dallas defense had stated three minutes or less – the performance would have met their desired results. But four minutes into the match Daigo Kobayashi found the back of the FCD net with a quality far post finish off a Kenny Miller cross. It was Vancouver’s first shot on goal.
FCD’s response to the Kobayashi strike differed from their responses in recent months: the squad went back into the thick of it with Vancuover, attacking relentlessly. JeVaughn Watson’s near-post, upper-ninety rocket four minutes afterward Vancouver took the lead was the only acceptable response. Stymied by FCD’s retort, Vancouver remained on their heels until the end of the half.
Why the relentlessness in the FCD attack? The 4-4-2 formation employed by both squads opened up the game quite a bit. The ball never seemed bogged down in the midfield and FCD simply had better wingers burning down the channels and more speed up front. Castillo and Jackson’s pace up front allowed for more balls into space on the flanks and behind the Whitecaps’ back line, where the two thrived.
Dallas generated great opportunities in front of the net, despite only actually hitting three shots on goal (all three were goals) the entire match. Mauro Diaz’s lead-nabbing volley in the 87th minute was a continuance of FCD’s forceful attack, and the culmination of (finally) a good substitution, which brought the Argentinian on in the 74th minute. In fact, Hassli even played a hand in the goal, providing Castillo the through ball that was then crossed to Diaz.
Despite questionable substitutions the entire 2013 season, Hyndman nailed it this time around. You’re doing something right when both of your subs (both attackers) play major parts in exactly their job: getting the go-ahead goal. Overall, the play on the flanks, relentless crossing, and pace up top doomed Vancouver in this matchup. For once in a while, FCD simply had more desire to put an opponent under their thumb. It was also Castillo’s best performance as a striker for FCD after three full seasons and a handful of attempts.
Where does this leave the team? First of all, they are still outside the top five. Colorado’s victory against LA, which came very late this weekend, kept FCD from inching into the playoffs. They, as in the Rapids, are FCD’s next opponent, a road match this Saturday in Denver.
Say what you will about the dismal road form of FCD over the past season, but that simply cannot be an excuse this far down the stretch, especially against teams that Dallas need to beat. To further stress a tenuous situation: every team that FCD plays through October for now has a vested chance of making the playoffs. Four games are away from Frisco, three in the safe confines of Toyota Stadium. It wouldn’t be a typical ending-stretch of a season without a little uncertainty clouding playoff hopes in Dallas.