The Week In FC Dallas: A blowout-loss and a convincing win (again)
The week in five words
Blowout loss, then perfect response.
What went well
FC Dallas on Saturday night needed three points, nothing more, to put the midweek debacle in Seattle behind it, and it snagged them with aplomb. The Hoops (12-6-4) offered a pretty decent performance in the 3-1 home win over the Chicago Fire to keep their edge in the Western Conference.
Fabian Castillo tore up Chicago's defense much of the night to pick up two fine assists -- the first among the best we've seen all year -- and help set up the second goal, too, and Carlos Gruezo was masterful in front of the backline as Dallas limited the Fire to minimal chances after an initial burst to start the clash.
Chicago started with a lot of spirit to take early command and could have gone ahead in the seventh minute but for goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who made a one-on-one leg save after Matt Polster's penetrating ball led Kennedy Igboananike into open space on the right. The Fire wasn't awful and would test Gonzalez a few more times, but the game was Dallas' soon after, and that wasn't to change, even when Arturo Alvarez's late free kick gave Chicago some hope.
The situation was far different than on Wednesday, when Oscar Pareja used a largely reserve lineup, to give some key guys a break, in the middle of a stretch of eight games in 25 days. The Hoops were in Frisco -- they extended their MLS-best current home unbeaten streak to 16 games -- they had a largely first-choice group in place, and they played with the energy, if not always the precision, of a side looking to make a statement.
Castillo was fantastic, shades of his MVP-finalist campaign last year, and Mauro Diaz opened space and tested Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson on occasion once he found his footing about 20 minutes in, scoring on a blistering strike off the left post from 25 yards to double the advantage just before halftime. Gonzalez, making his first MLS start since early May, was strong when required, and the back line fared well under protection from Gruezo and Kellyn Acosta. Gruezo, one of the league's better offseason arrivals, covered immense ground in a supreme effort.
Things weren't perfect against Chicago, but who's going to complain? Dallas has shown a knack for bouncing back from horrid results -- shutting out Montreal after a 5-0 second-week loss in Houston, three quick wins and a five-game unbeaten tear after one-sided losses to Vancouver and the New York Red Bulls started a three-game road funk -- and they put Wednesday's behind them quite nicely.
What didn't go well was, well, Wednesday. The Sounders, in their most challenging campaign since they arrived in MLS, used Pareja's lineup decisions as motivation en route to a 5-0 walloping -- Sigi Schmid said he “had a couple of words for my team on that, and they reacted appropriately” -- but it's tough to tell how much impact that had, because the game was more or less over by the sixth minute.
Maynor Figueroa was whistled for a penalty kick and red-carded for an intentional hand ball in the fourth minute, Clint Dempsey converted from the spot, ending Dallas' 321-minute shutout streak, and that was that. The Sounders scored twice more by the 22nd minute, and Dempsey's red card shortly afterward -- after Juan Esteban Ortiz goaded the U.S. star into slapping him, sort of -- might have evened the combatants but had little impact otherwise.
Seattle added two more goals in the second half -- it had scored more in a single game just twice, putting six away on Columbus in 2011 and on Chivas USA in 2012 -- ought to have scored at least two more, and never gave the Hoops a chance, preventing them from putting a shot on goal. The performance was best forgotten.
Figueroa's penalty was just but harsh. Yes, it was a hand ball, akin to Torsten Frings' hand ball on Gregg Berhalter's shot that was not called in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. His arm is at his side, a natural position, but it moves toward the ball -- so it's hard to argue against the red -- as Ivanschitz runs onto a rebound in the box and fires at the near post. A yellow card might have sufficed, but there you have it.
Pareja's lineup wasn't all that controversial, and even Sounders captain Brad Evans noted that it's “either a slap in the face or it's conscious coaching by them to rest some guys.” For Pareja, it was the latter, and a brief break for some guys and some extended action for others wasn't a bad thing, no matter how that game turned out.
Quote of the week
“I'm going to be honest, it's happened three times, and if I count the [3-0 loss in April] against Vancouver [a week before the 4-0 defeat at New York], four, where we go in and have a very bad result, but I don't have any doubts about the spirit of this team. We're young, and I support these guys, because I know the effort they put in on the training ground. We need to be more mature and avoid all those collapses, but at the same time, I have to say this week wasn't difficult for me, because I know this group. They know where we are, and I was pretty sure we would take the opportunity to bounce back, get a result, and the boys did it.”
-- Oscar Pareja, after the Hoops followed the 5-0 midweek blowout-loss at Seattle by beating the Chicago Fire, 3-1.
The need-to-know facts
• FC Dallas might have the most points in MLS, with 40, but it has only one player on MLS's 26-man All-Star Game roster. Diaz joined Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman as Commissioner Don Garber's two selections for next week's game in San Jose against Arsenal.
• The Hoops stayed three points ahead of Colorado (10-2-7), which Saturday edged Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, but the Rapids have three games in hand and claim more points per game -- 1.95 -- than everyone else in MLS. Dallas is No. 2, at 1.82 per game.
• Dallas beat Chicago for the first time since 2011 and thus won their first the Brimstone Cup in five years. The Fire had claimed the previous four meetings.
• The Sounders (6-11-2 after Sunday's 3-1 loss in Portland) hadn't scored more than twice in a game this year before Wednesday, and they hadn't tallied at CenturyLink since May 7, a span of 277 minutes.
Video of the week
Fabian Castillo's “rabona” feed to Maximiliano Urruti started the Hoops' romp.
Winner of the week
Castillo. The Colombian attacker, one of the bigger snubs for The MLS All-Star Game, continually stretched Chicago's defense, was behind (or at least a key part of) nearly every good Dallas chance, and played a role in all three goals. The first was fantastic -- see above. Moments after Alvarez's bending free kick in the 91st beat Gonzalez to the left post to halve Dallas' lead, Castillo took a feed from Tesho Akindele, carried the ball into the box, swept past Ramos to the byline, then dropped the ball back into the middle for Mauro Rosales to finish.
Loser of the week
Seitz. The veteran goalkeeper entered Wednesday's game ranked fifth in MLS with a 0.93 goals-against average (14 conceded), sharing the league lead in victories (9) and shutouts (6), ranked seventh in save percentage (73.2) and carrying the fourth-longest shutout streak of the season, some 315 minutes. It wasn't his fault Dallas collapsed after Figueroa's red card and Dempsey's spot kick, although he bears some responsibility for Andreas Ivanschitz's 18th-minute chip and Jordan Morris' 22nd-minute finish to the far post.
All five goals count against him, of course, sending his GAA to 1.19 and his save percentage to 69.4, but did he lose the starting job, too? Seitz on Wednesday started his 10th successive MLS game and 16th in 18 league outings, but Gonzalez, whom Seitz backed up most of last year, was back in the nets -- his first non-Open Cup start since May 7 -- against the Fire.
Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.