MLS Week 9 Recap

Toronto FC-2   Houston Dynamo-0   (BMO Field-Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

HOU:  None  TOR:  Altidore-16 (Edwards, Delgado), 32 (Giovinco)

Four Observations:

Another Planet

I knew that the Houston and Toronto played in different countries, but it seemed fairly clear Friday night that the Dynamo also aren’t even on the same planet as Toronto FC.  It was noted before the game that three Toronto players, Giovinco/Bradley/Altidore, earn more than the entire Dynamo roster.  Friday nights first-half action demonstrated why this matters. Houston put Toronto on their heals to start off the night, but were unable to capitalize.  All of the initial momentum broke down on one text-book Toronto FC attack in the 16th minute. After a nice build up, Giovinco and Marky Delgado combined to play send a perfect ball to an overlapping Rahim Edwards who then picked out an open Altidore, who calmly finished. Less than 15 minutes later these three combined again, with the goal coming after a perfect one-two between Giovinco and Altidore.  At that point the game was effectively over.

Statistics Lie-As Frequently Happens

I suspect the Dynamo will try and convince themselves that they were in this game. They talked a lot after the game about how much better they were in the second half.  This seems to be a common theme with all MLS teams that are losing by two goals on the road at half time. After all, they out-shot Toronto, had many more corners, had 3 times as many crosses and controlled possession in the second half.  All meaningless.  The Dynamo never had a chance after the 16th minute, mainly because they don’t have big game players who make plays when they need to be made….certainly on the road. Toronto FC has the highest payroll in MLS with big game players who deliver…Houston is near the bottom. If you are interested in competing for trophies, that is a meaningful statistic.

This Wasn’t A Game Houston Was Going To Win Anyway

Houston historically (even when it was winning MLS Cups) is a lousy road team. To expect a win last night was wishful thinking. The Dynamo talked last week about how they were going to Toronto to get all 3 points. Whistling past the graveyard stuff.  This team is not in Toronto’s class yet and this was painfully obvious last night.  4-4-2 diamond, 4-3-3, the Dynamo formation doesn’t really matter against the best MLS teams and their stars, especially on the road.  The team will be extremely fortunate to make the playoffs without summer transfer improvement (adding a difference maker) in the midfield. If maximum points are not picked up in the next two weeks at home, Houston may be effectively out of the playoff race after the next upcoming road-heavy schedule (5 out of 6 away between May 17 and June 17).  Real money needs to be spent to acquire the kind of midfielder(s) that makes plays.  If this spending is possible under the salary cap or whatever budget restrictions the ownership have set, I hope the team can stay in the hunt long enough to benefit from the improvements.

Ricardo has vanished

With the switch to the new formation, Ricardo Clark has disappeared. Despite not showing up on the injury report, he has been left off the last two game-day rosters.  I wonder whether we are going to see the same thing happen to this Dynamo legend as happened to Brian Ching in his last season.  The minutes may be few and far between. Whatever happens, Ricardo’s legacy is firmly established in Dynamo history.

Houston returns home Saturday to play Supporters Shield leaders Orlando City in their only meeting this year.

FC Dallas (FCD)-2   Portland Timbers-2   (Toyota Stadium-Frisco)

FCD: Urruti-61, Akindele-80 (Grana, Urruti)  PORT: Adi-30 (Guzman), Blanco-71 (Adi, Powell)

Two Observations:

Two very good teams

Portland and FC Dallas entered the game in the top two positions in the Western Conference.  After this game it is hard to argue that they aren’t the two best teams in the Conference, and arguably in the league.  FC Dallas is virtually unbeatable in Frisco, but it took everything they had to end the game level last night.  Full credit to the team for coming back from two one goal deficits.  The tying goal came from Tesho Akindele, who is making the most of his new starting role.  Portland Timbers defender Alvas Powell slipped and fell and this allowed a wide-open Akindele to get on the end of a perfect Hernan Grana cross.  Both sides had good chances to claim the full three points.  In FCD’s case Kellyn Acosta was stymied by two excellent saves by reserve goalkeeper Jeff Attinella in the second half.  Cristian Colman also had a golden close-in chance that he air-mailed over the bar, continuing his frustrating inability to convert.  His 15+ minutes of action as a substitute resulted in a negative-3 Audi Index score for his efforts.

Champions League Hangover?

FC Dallas has played 11 games in all competitions in a little over two months. This doesn’t include the 6 early-February matches they played in Argentina.  Conventional wisdom holds that every MLS team faces a post-Champions League hangover.  It is remarkable that FCD, despite the early season fixture congestion, is still undefeated in MLS play. Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta alluded to the challenge of starting strong each week in post-game comments on MLSsoccer.com.

“[Head coach Oscar Pareja] came in at halftime and really got into us. We were flat.  We weren’t keeping the ball, and we weren’t ourselves. In the second half we pressed a lot, and we had the inner belief that we were going to win this game. I think that really paid dividends for us to get the result.” 

In the same article, correspondent Scott Sidwell noted that both Acosta and Pareja pointed to the busy early schedule and mentioned concentration and being mindful of the little things as partial answers to the slow starts.  Lack of concentration certainly manifested itself on the first Portland goal when Fernando Adi was somehow unmarked, despite FCD having the best set of center defenders in MLS, and scored on a free header off a direct kick.

FCD travel to Salt Lake City on Saturday to play Real Salt Lake for the first time this season.

 

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