It will be easy to look at tonight’s final stats and say FC Dallas’s 3-1 result exaggerated its edge on Colorado, but by the time the team was up 2-0 (12th minute), the Rapids, had yet to force a save from FCD goalkeeper Raul Fernández. When Fabián Castillo increased that lead in the 55th minute, Colorado had only tested the Peruvian twice. Pablo Mastroeni’s team may have ended the night with a 24-7 edge in shots (5-4, on target), but the visitors were unable to break through before Gabrial Torres’s 86th minute penalty conversion. The Rapids never gave its hosts a reason to change approach.
It’s the second game tonight a game’s gone that way – the second where focusing on possession (62 pct. for Colorado, in this case) or shots provides a deceiving view. Much as we saw from the United States in this summer’s World Cup, game state matters, and when you have a defense you trust, sometimes the low-risk approach is the best one. It may lead to some lopsided numbers, but there’s a key to understanding those statistics: a one-goal game, at any point in the match, is a lot different than one that rests on even footing.
Particularly for a team like Dallas, who saw Mauro Díaz return to the starting lineup tonight, playing on the back foot is no disadvantage. With Díaz and Fabián Castillo, Pareja has two of the best counterattacking players in the league, and with a defense that lacks stars, it makes sense for FCD to eschew risk for organization. Dallas blocked eight shots tonight (including big stops from Hedges and Michel), a product of their willingness to set up behind the ball.
The formula that worked tonight isn’t always going to be there. Matt Hedges, of all people, put them up early, while Michel, another returning part, converted moments later from the spot. But with Walker Zimmerman also returning to the Dallas lineup , the Toros had the personnel to sit on that edge. When Castillo took advantage of a Rapids mistake early in the second half, Dallas could take its foot off the pedal.
The team still has some room to improve. Once Jair Benítez comes back, Zach Loyd may be shifted from left to right back, pushing Je-Vaughn Watson forward. Then again, Pareja could have done that tonight, had he elected to start Adam Moffat and push Michel out of midfield. Regardless, the FC Dallas is getting its weapons in uniform, talents that allow the team to see out results like tonight’s.
It was reminiscent of the team that burst out of the gates this spring, only instead of feasting on the East and scraping by against the West (as they’ve done though most of their eight-game unbeaten run), Dallas put up a decisive line against a fellow playoff contender. As the team continues to get healthy, there’s the potential for more to come.