Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way early: The 60th minute call on David Horst should not have been a red card. However, there are series of equally obvious corollaries: You can’t let one bad call define your night; Good teams take advantage of the circumstances they’re given; Bad teams let circumstance define them.
For 30 minutes on Saturday, Houston was a bad team. After Horst was shown a harsh red by Ricardo Salazar, the Dynamo collapsed. Down a man and without their best set piece defender, Houston was routed by rival Dallas, allowing a 1-1 game descend into a 4-1 romp at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The turning point came at the hour mark when Horst, who thus far has been an upgrade to Bobby Boswell in central defense, slid through Fabian Castillo on Dallas’s left flank. It was an intentional foul, a professional foul, and a debatably card-able offense. It also appeared to meet none of the criteria for a straight red. Unless we see another, more indicting angle on this play, it looks like Salazar got this one wrong.
At that point, Dallas had already had some fortunate break their way. After being outplayed for half and hour, the visitors won a penalty kick after Ricardo Clark’s fall in the penalty area took out Mauro Díaz. Michel blasted his shot into the lower right hand corner for the opening goal, giving Dallas a lead before it had created a good chance from open play.
Houston came back just before halftime, with Brad Davis’s set piece delivery producing a goal from Clark, but the second half was all Dallas. Up a man, Óscar Pareja’s team seized the opportunity, scoring twice through Je-Vaughn Watson while luring an own goal from Gilles Barnes. Five games into the season, FCD is still unbeaten, sitting atop the Western Conference with a 4-0-1 mark.
The way that fourth win came about, however, still leaves questions about Dallas. At even strength, Dallas was the slightly worse team, just as they were the slightly worst team 11-on-11 against Portland last week. Then, matching red cards to Watson and Michael Harrington changed the game. This week, Salazar’s dismissal of Horst tilted the scales. Credit Dallas for taking advantage of it — points are all that matter — but as we’re trying to evaluate this team’s potential going forward, it’s hard to make the case they’re one of the league’s elites.
They are, however, clearly a very good team, a hallmark of which is being able to seize opportunities. Five games, five different performances, and five positive results later, Dallas has proved nothing if not resourceful. We may still need more information about them, but what we’re learned has been all positive.