Steven Lenhart’s performance ended up overshadowing Blas Pérez. The Panamanian forward’s double didn’t even get a mention in our previous post, even if his return to healthy may end up having a bigger impact than the latest Earthquakes’ comeback. If FC Dallas can jump Vancouver to claim the West’s fifth spot, a fully healthy Pérez takes Dallas from pesky to an outright handful.
We know Dallas can defend, and Julian de Guzman’s acquisition complementing David Ferreira’s return to health, the midfield is strong. Kevin Hartman remains one of the best shot stoppers in the league. The only thing missing is goals, with Dallas only posting 38 of them this season. Only one team in playoff contention has scored fewer.
That team’s Vancouver, and just as they’re thin on scorers, so is Dallas. Only Pérez and Fabian Castillo have scored more than three, though in David Ferreira and Brek Shea, Shellas Hyndman has something Martin Rennie does not: attackers who have a proven, productive past in the league.
That’s what makes Dallas so scary. If they get Pérez back – get him complementing Ferreira, Shea, and Castillo – Dallas has a team that can do some real damage come knockout time. Add Dallas’s defense to a number nine with whom few can matchup and you have a formula for some playoff smash-and-grabs.
The big question is whether Pérez can hold up. He looks healthy now, but having played only 17 games this year, the 31-year-old has had trouble staying in the lineup, partially because Pérez has gotten the MLS treatment from opposing center halves all season. Since that’s unlikely to stop anytime soon, can Pérez stay healthy through Dallas’s three-match run in, the play-in round, and potentially the playoffs?
Dallas certainly hopes so, but given how the team’s season has gone, it’s unlikely to be that easy. Pérez isn’t the only Dallas star that’s had an up and down year. David Ferreira wasn’t healthy until midway through the season. Ugo Ihemelu has battled concussion-related issues. Brek Shea’s problems have been well-documented.
If Pérez, like Ferreira and Shea, can pull through his issues, the West looks brutal. We know the top four teams all have MLS Cup-quality talent. With a fit Pérez, Dallas is right there.
Now all they have to do is actually make the playoffs.