An excellent result, though you’d have been forgiven if you thought this one was going to turn sour after the break. Let’s be brutally honest. FC Dallas probably should have been up a goal or two in the first fifteen minutes. United looked slow to wake up to the game, a bit disorganized, and were finding little joy in possession.
But after that slow opening, United probably shaded the chances until Santos’ tremendous opener. FCD got the equalizer they deserved, despite the whiff of controversy surrounding their goal. Going into the break, I’m sure I wasn’t the only United fan thinking, “we’ve probably had the upper hand, but I’ve seen this picture before.”
Fortunately, it wasn’t a replay of tragedies past. Another quality finish from the rookie DeLeon and a couple of clinical counters, coupled with Daniel Hernandez’ thuggish best, combined to cap a dominant second half performance.
Hamid, Najar, and Pontius have a real job on their hands to fight their way back into the starting lineup. Willis, as he was last year, has been excellent in net. Dallas had four tremendous chances in the first half, put them all on frame, but only got one past him. He was alert to through balls and had excellent control of his box on crosses and long balls. Cruz and DeLeon, the supposed backup wingers, both had excellent games, each recording a goal, with DeLeon picking up an assist on Cruz’ goal.
While I think you stick with DeLeon’s hot hand until he starts to struggle, Cruz is the more interesting dilemma. The sheer acreage he covers is what allows De Rosario so much freedom to get forward in support of the strikers. Najar, for all his positive qualities and obvious technical superiority, doesn’t give you that. Now, given that Salihi got two solid chances and barfed on both, do you continue to ride him, assuming he’ll come good and catch fire (keeping De Rosario in midfield), or do you push De Rosario high when Najar returns and go with two deeper-lying central midfield options? Whatever Ben decides, it’s good to have options.
Returning to the forwards for a moment. Sounds strange to say it, but I think you’ve got to have Santos down as the first name called for forwards at the moment. How long has it been since United had a genuine, effective target forward? True, he doesn’t always work as hard as he might, but he did a reasonable job winning aerial duels and holding the ball up, and contributed two quality finishes (though I'm not likely to forgive his occasional ponderousness on the ball and failure to fight back after cheaply coughing up possession).
Early wobbles and the goal aside, the defense played a decent game. Perez is a handful and Villar’s movement between the lines is good (though not Ferreira-good). Though Shea didn’t have a great night, Dallas’ shifting him around suggested that maybe that wasn’t all down to him being off. I’m still not enamored of our fullback options, though Woolard had his second straight impressive performance, even managing to contribute offensively a bit. Russell, however, is a tougher sell. He just looks a bit slow of foot and thought – past his sell-by date.
Look at the spin on Zach Loyd’s long throws and tell me he’s not doing something illegal.
McDonald’s tackle on Perez drew such an awful groan from me that both wife and daughter had to check to make sure I was okay. Sigh.
Our Balkan Buddies aren’t exactly setting the pitch alight. Not sure how well their more technical, cerebral play fits with United’s high-energy approach.
I know this goes without saying, but holy crap was that some inconsistent whistle-work by Hilarious Grajeda.
So a dominant performance on the scoreboard, though I suspect the stats will reflect that shots and possession were fairly even, and I only really felt comfortably when the fourth went in. With that said, I don’t think you could argue that United didn’t have more and better chances over the course of the entire match. The worry, of course, will be that Dallas had four very, very good looks in the first half, two of them before United even seemed to wake up and realize there was a game on. All credit to Willis for keeping them out, and to the team for the response that followed…
Did Perez gain an advantage by being in an offside position? Absolutely. Hard to argue that Dudar had possession either, though I’d allow the goal just to punish him for a ridiculous error. Little bit of eau de Jakovic there methinks. Also, Santos looked offside on United’s fourth, for what it’s worth. ↩
Though I’ll stand by my pre-season assessment of Santos as a guy that scores tremendous goals but often chokes on the simpler stuff, and whose work rate isn’t exactly up to Olsen-ish standards. ↩
Boskovic and Salihi. Not sure if this will enter the FBF lexicon. Probably depends on whether Boskovic gets an extension on his contract in the summer. ↩