FC Dallas started off the season incredibly hot. Through the first three games, the Hoops scored three wins — the only team to pull off the feat this year — and after ten matches had secured 20 points.
But the last four matches have not been nearly as kind to FC Dallas. In those matches, the Hoops have mustered just two draws and had a 4-0 loss to Kansas City. Yikes.
Because of the latest setbacks, the Hoops have gone from the top of the Western Conference table to fifth in the conference and just two points ahead of the Houston Dynamo who sit one spot out of a postseason spot. And even though it’s early, with matches coming up against Seattle and Colorado picking up a win in at least one of those matches is vitally important.
One of the things I’ve started to notice with FC Dallas is the way other teams are playing against them. One of the strengths of this team is the counterattack. With the speed of Fabian Castillo and the playmaking ability of Mauro Diaz, the Hoops counterattack is one of, if not the most dangerous in Major League Soccer. If opponents are napping, they’re likely in for a rude awakening on the counter.
The problem is that no one is napping or not expecting the counterattack. Opponents have video, they have the scouting, they’ve seen it first hand and now they’ve had an offseason to figure out how to stop it. In fact, FC Dallas has been shutout five times this season.
The key to stopping a counterattacking team is to let them have the possession. For example, Castillo’s speed is great, but in a “half-court” offense, is harder to exploit that speed. There’s a lot less room for him to run and for passes to be made and it’s easier for defenses to mark their man.
The way to beat that is to have a great playmaker that can make those passes necessary to beat the defense. FC Dallas has a player in Diaz that can do that, but his flashes of greatness have been a little bit inconsistent this year. And in order for the Hoops to get back to their winning ways, he’s going to have to be much better breaking down defenses.
Of course it’s not just him. Castillo still has work to do finishing shots. Last year’s rookie of the year, Tesho Akindele, might not be going through a full-blown sophomore slump, but finding him on stat sheet is a pretty tough task. And Ryan Hollingshead’s effectiveness has worn off after a hot start.
Obviously there’s still time to fix all of this. I have no doubts that Oscar Pareja will once again find the starting lineup that will work and the Hoops will go on a run like they did this time last year to get into the Supporters’ Shield race. But a win this week against Seattle is almost a must to get things going.