After a very physical game against LA Galaxy, I looked forward to the return of upbeat, fast paced soccer. I was severely underwhelmed. This iteration of FC Dallas was nothing like what was expected. Gone were the quick, dynamic plays through the midfield. Instead a slow, ponderous team, happy to pack nine behind the ball on every possession took their place. The 0-0 draw was one of the most boring games of the year, with both teams combining for a lackluster 22 total shots with only five on target. A point on the road against a conference contender is okay, but man, it was not a fun game to watch.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.8
Stef played very well, earning his league-leading tenth shutout. His first half was much more active than the second, with Dallas having the better of the play before halftime. In the 10th minute Frei was forced to clear long with his left and has really improved his location on these types of clearances. In the 14th minute he was quickly out to the edge of his box to stop Michael Barrios from retrieving an over the top chance. A cross nearly faded into the net and Stefan had to push it aside in the 22nd.
Frei had a little trouble handling a pair of shots back to back in the 39th, one from Carlos Gruezo and another from Maxi Urruti, spilling each in front of the goal. He was quick to pounce on the rebounds and minimize the damage from these shots, which were taken from outside the box. When Kellyn Acosta took a quick snap shot near post in the 42nd Stefan was ready for it, quickly getting across and down to save.
The second half was quite dull for Frei, when Seattle had more of the possession and Dallas failed to trouble him with much more than long distance attempts. Adding two new pieces to the backline didn’t slow the defense, and they stayed compact and utilized Frei’s feet when appropriate. His distribution was solid. Stefan and this defense are not getting the acclaim they deserve for another very strong showing.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.1
This week we saw the return of the ‘Hou and he was, as usual, rock solid defensively on the left, this time matched up with the dangerous Barrios. With Dallas focusing their attack exclusively down his wing, Nouhou responded with a fantastic line — four tackles, two interceptions and eight clearances.
Nouhou is one of the few guys in the league who can match Barrios for pace, and he did so immediately, stealing in the 2nd minute when the Dallas winger looked to get in behind. This speed again came into play in the 11th when Alonso poked a ball wide and Nouhou immediately accelerated to win possession going forward into offensive transition. His shross forced Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez into conceding a corner kick. Nouhou stayed home for the most part early in the game, concentrating on defense. He had a nervy moment or two with high hands to the face of Barrios right before the halftime whistle, although Barrios’ diminutive size likely played a part in the non-call.
The second half was more of the same: defense came first and Nouhou rarely got into any advanced attacking positions. He showed excellent calm defending in the 66th and as the last defender in the 76th, he played his role perfectly, cutting out any Dallas counter attempt. Tiring late, Nouhou was beat by Barrios near post, allowing a cross that luckily wasn’t strong. The ‘Hou is a great defender, but he offered little going forward and his 0/6 crossing rate left much to be desired from a team that relies on wide offensive support from the outside backs.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.5
This guy has been such a valuable player; he’s a proven to be a starting level talent that can plug in at multiple positions and cover brilliantly. Svensson offers a more dynamic passing option, and his 94% completion rate was needed for a team struggling to connect from the back.
Much of the Goose’s work came in the first half, as Dallas was on the front foot and dominated a majority of the play. He was beat on a 3rd minute corner kick header and had an ugly 6th minute pass forward stolen before settling down and holding his positioning centrally. In the 15th he had a good pass through the back and in the 27th showed an excellent switch to Leerdam that opened up a ton of room on the backside of the field. Svensson was often needed to support the left defense, with Dallas focusing almost exclusively on that wing. He was quick to support, stopping Barrios in the 41st and 58th.
The second half was quiet, other than a last-minute defensive play in the box where the unflappable Svensson calmly maneuvered the ball from his own penalty area. He did try an inspired overhead kick on offense but it went wide in the 71st. It is awesome to have a guy that can seamlessly plug in anywhere in the middle. Not worrying when Chad, Roman, Ozzie, Cristian, etc. need a break is new and exciting territory.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 7.0 (MOTM)
I am cautiously proclaiming Torres to be back, as this is the fifth game in a row that he has looked strong. This was another nice performance from Roman, who was available because his red card from the Galaxy match was rescinded. Torres again showed as one of the strongest defenders, consistently moving to great supporting positions, helping remove Urruti from the game, and getting forward offensively as well.
In a busy first half, Torres was across to defend behind Svensson in the 17th and conceded a corner. A well-executed slide tackle in the 20th stopped another attack, but it was dangerously inside the Seattle box. Roman was uncharacteristically beat on a defensive header from a corner in the 22nd, with Matt Hedges outjumping him and redirecting towards goal. He made up for this in the 31st, winning a header flick to Dempsey off a long Leerdam throw for a great Seattle chance. In the 34th Torres was across to the other side, helping Leerdam who was caught upfield. The second half was boring, and other than a 50th minute long switch to Jones, it was hard for Torres to do much other than pass the ball around the back.
The right side was a wasteland, with both teams attempting to attack up the opposite wing and Torres found space to explore on the right at times in the first half, finding a perfect pass to Dempsey for one of his two key passes on the night. Another attempt was unsuccessful and Roman even had a hopeful shot from way out in the 36th that was nowhere near close. This attacking play from Torres is a little unconventional but has shown results as of late. As long as it doesn’t affect the defensive play, it’s hard to blame him for looking forward more often.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.2
This was the first game that I thought Leerdam failed to balance out the wings well enough. With Nouhou and Jones on the left as well as Dallas attacking through Barrios, it was clear that the Seattle right would be less utilized. With Nico floating, there was a ton of room for Leerdam to work and he wasn’t effective. Kelvin had an okay 84% passing completion rate but didn’t attempt a single cross all game, indicative of a very quiet offensive night.
Covering the entire right side as Nico goes on walkabout is a big job, and Leerdam did well to cover for a majority of the game. With Roldan and Alonso often getting sucked to the left, Kelvin adjusted his position well to remain helpful in both directions. He was caught forward in the attack in the 26th and luckily Alonso was across to stop Roland Lamah from capitalizing. Eight minutes later it was again Lamah getting in behind on a long ball, but this time Torres was alertly over to help.
In the second half Leerdam had to concede a yellow for a professional foul after being beat in the 67th, and he lost a far post runner in the 87th that was lucky to not cost Seattle the point. Offensively, other than great long throws in the 30th and 31st minutes leading to one of Seattle’s only chances, Leerdam had little impact on the game. Often, he would get into the attack and stand on the ball, holding it before passing backwards when confronted with a wall of defenders. Kelvin nearly created a game winning play down the right wing at the very end of the game, but missed a wide open Victor Rodriguez and his attempt failed.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5
After a very poor three-game stretch after his injury, Alonso looked better last match and was outstanding against Dallas. Especially in the first half, Ozzie was everywhere, dominating defensively by stopping attacks but showing his ability to transition into offense as well. Gone was the slow, ponderous Alonso who had been playing, replaced by a quick, assertive player who locked down the middle. Ozzie ended with six tackles, three interceptions, and two clearances on defense, but was unable to do much offensively.
In the 2nd minute Alonso announced himself by picking the pocket of Mauro Diaz, and he dominated this matchup for a majority of the game. In the 11th he was quick to get to a ball, managing to poke it into the path of the ‘Houtrain. Four minutes later, he was fouled while calmly working possession out of the back. Alonso did have a very bad header to jumpstart a Dallas break in the 21st, but he made up for this five minutes later by being an absolute brick wall, stopping everything through the middle. He was also quick to drift wide and help cover for Leerdam, who was caught upfield.
With Seattle having more of the ball in the second half, it was a bit disappointing that they were unable to break down the packed-in Dallas defense. Alonso tried to control play but was often passing the ball forward and then never seeing it again. Ozzie should have done better in the 64th as he dropped off Urruti who was able to get a shot off. In the 81st when Barrios attempted to make a sprint down field, I loved seeing Alonso come out of nowhere like he was shot from a rocket, easily outpacing the Dallas player and winning possession after he RRBH*. I was really impressed by Alonso; fitness looks to be no issue and he put to rest any questions of his play, at least for one match.
* You should know by now!
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3
This was an incredibly quiet game for Roldan. It’s not that he was bad in any way (I had no negative marks for him) but just that the combination of Acosta and Gruezo and a packed in Dallas defense basically erased Roldan from any big moments in this one. Roldan had a key pass and completed a very strong 89% of his passes, but failed to do a ton to change anything against Dallas.
I liked Roldan’s early link up play on the left wing, finding Jones in the 11th and then angling into the box to try to get numbers. In the 22nd Cristian was in the right place to deflect Hedges’ header from scoring on a corner kick. Roldan continually fought for possession in the middle and was strong in the air as well, but this game was a drudge that rarely saw him with any space or forward options. In the 55th Roldan showed some strong recovery defense in a second half that was slow and quite dreadful. I was glad that Roldan worked off Alonso better than the last match. I’m not sure what else he could have done to spark the team, but would like to see more from him. There were times when he made a smart, solid play in the middle to control the game but ignored a faster, more dangerous option to push the pace of the match. He has the skill to be more direct and push the tempo when teams are sitting back against Seattle.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 64’)
Joevin is back from exile and gave us a bunch of nothing against Dallas. Stat-wise it looked like a decent game, with 85% passing and two key passes, but Jones was a liability on both offense and defense against Dallas. He really struggled in the first half and still doesn’t look like a winger in this offense.
In the 2nd minute Jones passed the ball to no one and it looked like he had never met the teammates around him. A minute later he lost possession dribbling, and with the amount of play on the left side, really disappointed in many of the decisions that he made. Joevin did steal the ball in the 11th and get forward, and two minutes later flicked nicely on to Nouhou, but on this latter play Jones completely abandoned the left defense and failed to help the player he had just put into an attacking position, forcing an 80-yard sprint back by Nouhou. In the 18th Jones left his runner to go to the ball, which dominoed through the defense and ended in a wide-open Diaz shot. Six minutes later he was easily beat on a give and go when he stopped, allowing the runner to waltz into the box unmarked.
Jones got forward a few times but wasn’t particularly dangerous, often failing to link up with teammates or putting in a weak shot (such as the 47th) that failed to challenge the Dallas keeper. There was a lot of chance in this game for Jones to come back to the team and excel, but instead he seemed fairly listless on offense. Similarly to Leerdam, Joevin was often found standing on the ball in the offensive third and recycling it back around the defense, instead of being proactive going forward.
Clint Dempsey – 6 | Community – 4.9
As usual, Clint led the team in shots (three) and he had a key pass to go with being one of the few players looking to force the ball forward. That being said, he was immersed in an offense that failed to move the ball quickly enough, didn’t create enough chances, and lacked energy in the Dallas heat. Clint failed to combine in the slightest with Bruin in front of him, and with wing play throttled he needed to change the point of attack quicker.
In the 4th minute Clint linked well with Roldan in the middle of the field and there looked to be some space. Then Dallas quickly covered this by dropping their central mids deep and pushing their backline up to cramp the Seattle offense. Without pace to stretch the field centrally, the midfield became a bog. In the 31st Clint made a smart off ball run to get on the end of a Torres flick but shot over, in perhaps the best opportunity of the game. This game was slow and tedious but Dempsey worked hard through the middle and even got back for a lagging Jones on defense in the 49th, winning possession. In the 51st Clint found space from a throw-in and managed to get a shot off in traffic that only slightly troubled Gonzalez. In the 70th Dempsey again got in a great spot but his shot went over.
This was a game where a little bit of magic would have likely earned all three points, but none of the Sounders were able to muster much. There were definite issues with spacing in the final third.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.8
Without a deep threat or link from the opposite wing, Nico was even more hamstrung offensively and it showed — one shot, one key pass, a miserable 0/6 crossing — this was just a rough game for the Uruguayan DP. He traveled all over the field as usual, attempted to find weaknesses and being unable to find any purchase against the Dallas defense.
In the 8th minute Nico showed off some very nice defensive intensity, which is something that has been understated lately, but is a definite help to a right back who is often left on an island. Offensively, there just weren’t any options, with Lodeiro finding no passes in the 24th, and passing to no one in the 43rd and 45th. With more of the ball after the break, Nico finally found Jones in over the top only to have him be called offside in the 46th. I don’t know why Nico kept trying to play Bruin like he had Morris’ speed, but a through ball in the 61st was hilariously bad and nowhere near where Will could make a play. Other than finding Clint for a shot at the top of the 18 in the 70th, this was a completely forgettable game from Lodeiro. In the 79th he missed a give and go with Rodriguez that likely would have opened up a nice chance, and in the 91st he completely missed an open run from Neagle.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 82’)
This was an ugly match, and while Bruin gave a lot of effort, he was hugely ineffective. He failed to open any space for the players behind him, often getting in the way of vertical runs while not having the pace to get on the end of the few speculative through balls that came his way. Will managed zero shots and had very little positive impact on the offensive end.
First off, Bruin tried valiantly to be a holdup forward but failed miserably. His attempts were unsuccessful in the 19th, 25th, 34th and 51st, each time unable to bring teammates into the attack with his back to the goal. In the 11th minute Will fumbled away possession from a Jones pass. In the 16th he dummied a ball directly to the Dallas defense. In the 21st he passed out of bounds with Leerdam open on the right wing and again nine minutes later he frustrated the Sounders right back, this time running into Kelvin’s space and clogging up a push.
Will did some decent things, like a 13th minute flick on to Dempsey from a goal kick and a 51st minute steal while playing good defense up top. He was open in the 65th minute on the far post but Nouhou’s cross went wide. This game was a struggle that saw Bruin try hard to get into position, but he often ended up in the way of a teammate or not making the right run. Seattle only had a single accurate cross in the entire game, (out of 18) and Bruin failed to be an aerial presence for the team. He needs a ton of practice to learn how to make runs that are conducive to this offense, because they weren’t in evidence in Dallas.
Victor Rodriguez – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 64’)
V-Rod entered and immediately attacked the center of the field on the dribble, which helped open space. His 65th minute cross to the far post was nearly connected, and his 70th minute run across the box opened a ton of space for Dempsey to get off a shot. When Nouhou got hurt in the 86th, it was an alert Rodriguez who covered adequately on defense. This game looked much better for Seattle after he subbed in, but he still looked out of sync with the personnel around him.
Lamar Neagle – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 82’)
Lamar was unable to repeat his actions from the Galaxy game, instead playing for 12 minutes and only touching the ball a single time. He had a decent run once. Other than that, he was completely and utterly invisible.
Hilario Grajeda – 8 | Community – 5.6
First off, this is the same ref to whom I gave the worst grade I’ve ever given for his showing on the July 4 match versus Colorado. It is amazing that this is the same guy who was so blatantly awful a few months ago. That game showed Grajeda’s inability to legislate a dangerous, overly physical game, and he ultimately failed to protect players from injury. Last Saturday he showed a polar opposite ability to correctly run a relatively clean match without being part of the story.
Grajeda was great in Dallas, although he didn’t have a ton to do. He correctly played a foul and advantage in the 33rd and 47th, allowing play long enough to see if it needed to be pulled back. His yellow cards were all correct, including a persistent infringement on Hedges and professional fouls by Nico and Leerdam. I have no doubt Dempsey deserved his dissent call. There was one play in the 13th minute that I thought Dempsey got fouled on but as Lodeiro got a volley off it may have been an advantage play. Another clear foul on Clint late was allowed to play on for advantage, and Seattle nearly scored because the ref allowed play to continue.
This was a really boring game, but that’s not the referee’s fault; he did a great job keeping up with play, alleviating tempers, calling correct and accurate fouls, and presenting cards when warranted. With no big calls to be made, it’s notable and appreciated that the ref was inconsequential to the match.
FC Dallas MOTM
Matt Hedges (33.1%) came away with the Man of the Match award, neutralizing the Sounders’ attack and helping FC Dallas keep a clean sheet.
Thirteen undefeated is nice. Winning games is nicer. Next up is a rejuvenated and suddenly playoff-bound Real Salt Lake team that’s been playing well. Saturday will be a big test: Can our offense create anything, or will we just live and die on tremendous defense?