As a contest, Houston Dynamo v. FC Dallas delivered. Not that I needed Glenn Davis (that was him, right?) to remind me again and again and again. What’s the legal term? Res Ipso Loquitor?
Credit to Davis (or whomever that was) for one observation: somewhere in the middle 1/3 of the game he stressed the importance of referees coming into the game with a clear sense of how they’re going to manage a rivalry game – e.g. what gets a card, what gets a lecture, what gets a red card…more on that later. And good point.
Anyway, the game played out pretty much how one would expect with the home team – Houston – setting the tempo and building actual attacks. Giles Barnes squandered as many as some teams get in one night (no, not really; just a couple early ones) – and that was in the first 15. The Dynamo kept making chances, at any rate, even if most of them came closer to half-chances.
Dallas did the parry/counter thing for the most part, but to pretty good effect. The team can flat-out fly, for one, but there’s the recent intelligence as well: the addition of Mauro Diaz means Dallas has a man who can find those runs. And with Hendry Thomas playing behind Diaz…
…OK, pause for disclosure. I tasked myself with watching a few things last night, Hendry Thomas among them. I figured I’d see Diaz. I mean, how hard is to follow the play-maker? Anyway, other targets included Matt Hedges and Houston’s back four; yes, all of them. I flagged Will Bruin as well. All in all, if I learned anything, it’s that attacking players are easy to follow. I tend to fault the attack for not breaking through, as opposed to the defense for stopping it. So, to all you defenders, keep that chip on your shoulders. Some of us only notice you until you fuck up.
Speaking of, did David Horst’s challenge on Fabian Castillo warrant a straight red card? I made the mistake of clocking the chest-thumping the comments to the recap, where I found a lot of very confident assertions. Put it this way: I wouldn’t have called it, but I understand why Salazar did. For all the strong opinions people hold on what should or shouldn’t be a card, whether red or yellow (or a PK for that matter), most people do agree about the wisdom of avoiding giving the referee an excuse. Which Horst did: it was slightly from behind and Horst’s trailing leg came around, if only to an extent equal to what happens in baseball when they dispute whether or not the bat came around.
To take it a step further, it’s tricky to say that Houston lost only because the red card. Dallas scored on the ensuing free-kick, after all, and only one of JeVaughn “One-Man-Show” Watson’s (“No, Not Really”) goals came in the run of play. Houston fans looking for a culprit/scapegoat should check to see who marked Watson on the two relevant set-pieces: Giles Barnes, people. So, maybe Barnes isn’t your guy in the box. Maybe try someone else, like maybe David Horst…oh, wait.
Oh, and credit to Watson for the modest goal celebration(s). Classy.
If there’s a tragedy here, it’s that Houston played well for most of the game. They attacked fairly methodically and Bruin, who I really did pay attention to, does several little things well that can, or will, lead to goals; he’s a handful if nothing else. I’m not expecting a hot streak, quite, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. And they have good players populating that system they play. Tally Hall’s a helluva ‘keeper, Ricardo Clark still has nearly all of it, Jermaine Taylor is a goddamn tank, and, yeah, Barnes will come around. Plus, there’s some guy named Brad Davis…think he plays for them.
There’s only one guy on the Dynamo’s roster who I don’t get: Andrew Driver. I can’t help but think there’s an upgrade for him out there, somewhere.
Dallas, for me, is the bigger conundrum. For all the talk of a “new” and “different” Dallas, they didn’t blow me away here, much like they didn’t when they played the Portland Timbers. And I’m not sure they’re all that different from past editions. Speed might kill, but it can be strangled if you cut off the supply. The threats to their success are pretty simple, with teams learning how to play Diaz or Castillo going all erratic again chief among them. I think they’re lacking a little for midfield parts as well: Michel is mistake-prone and guys like Andrew Jacobson and Adam Moffat are good, but not great.
It’s early yet, for both teams. But if I see either team doing better over the long haul, I’m leaning toward Houston. For now.