In what is the MLS equivalent of a tale of two star-crossed lovers, two like-minded and fully talented former colleagues will confront one another in Frisco come tonight.
Wilmer Cabrera, the former USYNT U-17 and Rapids assistant coach will bring his revamped Chivas USA side up into Frisco with some confidence. Maybe it’s tentative confidence; the Goats did find themselves in this position last year at this time only to implode weeks later. Regardless, Cabrera has brought in not only fit replacements for his squad, he has also carried in some practicality and efficiency to Chivas’ game.
Oscar Pareja, Cabrera’s former compatriot, teammate, and boss has brought the same back to Dallas. FC Dallas attacks now; sometimes, they do it without regard. But given the proper tactical changes and substitutions taken this past weekend in Kansas City, Pareja’s shown he’s multidimensional, and capable of doing well with a conservative approach.
Does either side favor reserved tactics heading into today’s game? It’s hard to tell. But to put the match in context, for whatever context can be given after two league matches, it’s this: both FCD and Chivas are level on points, goals for, and goals against in MLS action. This is the Goats’ first away match of the season, and home match number two for FCD.
Cabrera’s Chivas, under different management last year, was abysmal on the road. A solitary win is all they could claim, along with three draws. One of those rare points earned away from the Los Angeles was against FC Dallas: a 0-0 Independence Day affair that was as unfulfilling as you could imagine. At least the fireworks kept the home faithful in the seats.
But Chivas is crafty this year. They are also sensible. With Cabrera they’re also organized and revamped. Mauro Rosales, recently in from Seattle, is playing like it’s 2011 with handfuls of assists and fresh knees. This new look Chivas have no major injuries to worry about, either, heading into today’s match. This is in stark contrast, namely to FCD’s back line, who still will see Zach Loyd, George John, and Walker Zimmerman all sidelined further. Expect Stephen Keel, who performed well in Kansas City last week, to stand firmly beside Matt Hedges. Yet given these deficiencies, it would be wrong to expect a shutout for either side in Frisco. In fact, neither side has kept one this year.
What have we learned from FCD’s first two matches? Fabian Castillo, JeVaughn Watson, and Andres Escobar first and foremost have tons of license to push high, attack, and press on the wings. It’s been both a burden and a blessing. At least one Montreal goal was a product of Watson’s absence on the back post after a deep push into the Montreal box; Castillo’s goal later into the same match happened because he was on top of the box when he needed to be.
Secondly, Mauro is key to this system. The young trequartista had hardly seen pressure in the midfield like that of Kansas City’s until last week. He can expect to see a little bit more time on the ball and with his head up, hopefully not clutching any ankles either tonight. Hendry Thomas is without a doubt the man who frees up Diaz the most, but Moffat, as we’ve seen, is a fit replacement and viable competitor in the same holding role. Maybe that makes Thomas more crucial than Diaz. Regardless, as a tandem they’re formidable and as solid as we’ve seen in MLS in 2014 league-wide.
Aside from the lack of superior defensive displays that were ordinary the past three years, it’s easy to see that 2014 has started, in the most practical of senses, in the best way possible in Frisco. Walking out of Kansas City with a point and a comeback win is nothing to scoff at. A win tonight means momentum into next week’s home fixture against Portland, but it could also mean Western Conference supremacy. It doesn’t take much thought to remember the highs of early 2013 and the sun shining on Toyota Stadium. Given the toils that later followed the team last year it would still be nice to feel the warmth of success again.
(image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)