With the clock ticking towards the August 6 transfer window deadline, the Fire are still looking to add a defender or two but until then there are games to be played. Martin Tomszak has a look at FC Dallas in this season's lone Brimstone Cup match.
What Are They All About? FC Dallas
After all the speculation and buildup, the Fire added a new DP striker to the roster earlier this week. It just wasn’t the one most people were hoping for. All of the, ahem…excitement about his signing and the anticipation to see his debut will need to wait until at least the Portland away match on August 7. In the meantime the Fire take on FC Dallas this Sunday. Dallas currently finds itself in blistering form, while Chicago is, well, Chicago. The Fire tied the New England Revolution 2-2 in heartbreaking fashion this past Saturday as they needlessly gave up a goal off of an easily defendable cross twelve minutes from fulltime. It was a microcosm of the team’s season as they looked good for spells of the match but ultimately struggled in defense and failed to put away clear cut chances in the final third to put the match to bed.
FC Dallas Form Guide (Last 5 League Matches): W-W-W-W-W
Previous match: A 4-1 home victory over Portland.
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1: Kennedy; Harris, Loyd, Hedges, Hollingshead; Acosta, Ulloa; Barrios, Diaz, Castillo; Texeira
Strengths: FC Dallas have five wins in their last five league matches, have scored thirteen goals in those five matches while giving up just two, and comfortably sit on top of the Supporters Shield standings with 38 points having played two matches less than 2nd place DC United. The scariest part of the story, however, cannot necessarily be reflected in statistics, and that is that FC Dallas looks good on the field. It’s not just about winning, they play attractive attacking soccer. There’s been a chemistry building among this team that was visible in flashes last season but is coming to the forefront now. The have speed, agility, skill on the ball, vision, passing ability, and their counterattacks look like something out of FIFA. Dallas are an absolute delight to watch and the crowd at Toyota Park is in for a treat for 90 minutes this weekend as the visiting team has a plentiful bouquet of strengths.
In Dallas’ last match, they made a good Portland side look like a pub team, thrashing them 4-1. They battered the net with sixteen shots and strung together nearly 400 passes, which has been the norm for them this season. The ball moves about the pitch quickly when Dallas is in possession and their counterattacking ability was on display with three goals coming directly in transition and the fourth coming from a PK that was also won on the counter.
In the match before that, against DC United at home, much of the same was on display. Both goals were scored on the break, with the first coming from Kellyn Acosta pushing up and poaching a low driven cross into the back of the net. The second goal against DC should be analyzed by the Fire especially as Fabian Castillo rocketed home the game winner in the 92nd minute showing that Dallas has mental fortitude deep into matches. We could go over the rest of the previous five matches but it would get redundant and probably depressing for Fire fans as it is much of the same counterattacking goal scoring magic. This type of play is partly due to the 4-2-3-1 formation that Dallas utilizes and the Fire should be extra cautious as they have struggled against teams that use this formation all season.
In the FCD version of this lineup, the “2” (Acosta and Victor Ulloa for the last five matches) are not anchors, but more or less pivots which spray the ball out wide to the speedy wingers and follow in support themselves. Perhaps the most unique attribute of Oscar Pareja’s incarnation of the 4-2-3-1 is that he has his attacking players motivated and disciplined enough to help in defense. Where Columbus, Orlando, and New England showed glimpses of failing to track back, FC Dallas has made it clear that Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz and Castillo will work hard on both sides of the ball. They are compact and hard to break down before you even get to the solid center back pairing of Zach Loyd and Matt Hedges. Having only given up two goals in five matches, one of which was an own goal, the hard work has paid off. Interestingly enough the same is true with regards to the attacking work rate of defenders as Atiba Harris and Ryan Hollingshead are no strangers to putting in deadly crosses from the flank.
It is perhaps telling that Dallas have the luxury of sitting last year’s Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele on the bench for most matches as the talent around him leaves him playing the substitute role. Another notable sub is newly acquired Ezequiel Cirigliano who is on loan from Argentine Primera Champions River Plate. He will certainly add squad depth and creative capabilities to an already dangerous team. The truth is that FC Dallas are the complete package. It wouldn’t be surprising if they were atop the conference in October and made a deep cup run, so picking up points against the Fire will be easy for them.
Weaknesses: It’s really hot in Chicago? Oh wait, this FCD team plays in Texas. When clinical DC United has to rely on a Dallas own goal to get on the board and they still lose, the weaknesses section isn’t really going to be plentiful. Condensed schedule? Not really, Dallas does play LA, Vancouver, and RSL consecutively after this but they have a nicely timed off week before that run starts. Fatigue? Nope. These guys are fit and although Fabian Castillo did play in the All Star match for the duration of the second half, he can probably handle it. The only tangible down side of this Dallas team is that they recently acquired Bakary Soumare. In a move that was clearly about new beginnings and a bit of squad depth, Soumare moved from Montreal to Dallas and has been assigned the number 0 which ironically is the number of minutes he’s played since the trade. Unless Loyd or Hedges come off injured and Soumare scores another sublime own goal at Toyota Park, there’s not much that can go wrong for Dallas. Good luck Chicago, you’re going to need it.
Prediction: Dallas is just too good. It will take a lot to stop them from their sixth consecutive win and let’s be Frank, the Fire squad on display in the last match didn’t seem to have it in them. The crowd at Toyota Park will witness the Fire’s sixth loss at home this season. Chicago 1-3 Dallas. Circle your calendar for the Open Cup Semifinal and get on the bus.