I took a bit of a breather after the Disney tournament in Orlando, but it's now back to sports with a very busy weekend that’s still going. My broadcasting regular season doesn’t start until next Saturday with the Dallas-Portland match, so I spent Sunday afternoon watching Dallas take on New York as part of my preparation, and I’ll do likewise tomorrow night with Portland-Philadelphia.
So a couple of thoughts on FC Dallas from its first game, and I’ll obviously be keeping tabs on the team throughout the week in advance of Saturday night’s broadcast.
1. Contending again – We thought FC Dallas was one of the best two teams in Orlando, along with the Vancouver Whitecaps, but you never know how that will translate to the regular season, especially with 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira missing. It certainly did translate for Dallas on Sunday, which dominated New York for the first 65-70 minutes of the game before bunkering in and holding on for the win. Clearly this team has the skill, at its best, to be a contender in the stacked Western Conference, although they’ll have pretty serious competition in the West.
2. Injuries – While the win was a great way to start the season for Dallas, it did pose a few question marks. Fabian Castillo, who was terrific in the first 30 minutes, left due to injury, and while Carlos Rodriguez was above-average in filling his spot, it definitely made Dallas less dangerous. Ricardo Villar, Daniel Hernandez, Brek Shea, and Rodriguez all took knocks during the game. Players will continue to get banged up throughout the season, and depth has to be a concern for FC Dallas, especially after Perez and Shea wound up being the only attacking players left on the field for the last 20 minutes.
3. Bigger roles – Several players showed flashes of being able to take on bigger roles for FC Dallas this year. I’ve always had confidence in Andrew Jacobson’s technical ability based on his stint in France and playing futsal, but this was the best I’ve ever seen it in an MLS game. He flashed some showy moves but, most importantly, he used them to create space for himself and move the ball, notably his terrific cross that led to Zach Loyd’s opener. Hernan Pertuz also brought the goods in his MLS debut, giving Schellas Hyndman a great dilemma with three high-level center backs from which to choose. I’m not on the Ricardo Villar bandwagon just yet – I thought he wasn’t involved in the game at times in the first half – but he kept himself in the spot as Ferreira's understudy with a superbly taken goal.
4. Atmosphere – FC Dallas takes a lot of schtick from opposing clubs and media around the league for its atmosphere, but it looked and sounded great on Sunday afternoon. I would prefer a vuvuzela-free environment, so that was a negative in my eyes (and ears), but the crowd made it a fun game to watch. Kudos to the FCD front office (or whoever brought up the idea) for putting bleachers behind the goal at the north end of the stadium. That empty stage used to be a drag on the atmosphere, but having engaged fans right behind the goal definitely added to it today. Here’s hoping the atmosphere stays this lively all season.
I watched today's game very differently than the games I watched on Saturday as a fan. I was noting Dallas strategies, tendencies, and traits; storing away background information; and even thinking about the broadcast itself and certain things I want to include and avoid next week. It made for a very different way to watch a game, and I imagine I'll check out the Portland game tomorrow with more of the same in mind.
I’ll have more on the matchup throughout the week, and for all the FC Dallas fans out there, don’t forget to check out the ESPN2 broadcast of Portland-Philadelphia Monday night to scout the opposition.