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Monday, August 16, 2010
Monday morning gaffer: FC Dallas at D.C. United

By Buzz Carrick

Make no mistake, despite the win this was a poor overall performance from FC Dallas.  The fact FCD managed to win the game is a big reason why they should be legit contenders this season for a MLS Cup.  To win on the road without your best game is a hallmark of a really good team.  But let's not let the win paper over the cracks.  There are some problem spots in this team still.

El Bueno (The Good)

- With the win, FCD ties a MLS record for unbeaten road games at nine.  That's a terrific accomplishment.  There are so many tough places to play on the road in MLS, heck any road game is tough.  The resilience and work rate it takes to perform on the road time after time is a terrific sign for FCD.  Grit and guts won this in the end for FCD, but it wasn't pretty.

- Kevin Hartman is by far the Man of the Match for me.  Those four colossal saves in the first half stole this game for FCD.  In MLS about all you can ask for from a starting keeper is to be solid from game to game.  It's a pure bonus when a keeper steps up and gets you three points on the road.  Kevin Hartman won this game for FCD.  Without that first half performance FCD is getting routed.
"Up until that point [the first Dallas goal], there was some pretty good stuff.  It seemed like after we missed Danny's chance, we took it the wrong way. I felt like there was some air let out." - Ben Olsen

"It was one of those games where you make an early save and have confidence." - Kevin Hartman

- Zack Loyd wasn't great, but he wasn't bad either.  For a rookie to step into Ugo Ihemelu's shoes and put in a solid game like that is a terrific thing for any coach and team.  At 5'9" Loyd is surprisingly good in the air, something Ihemelu does well, so there wasn't much trouble there. Loyd reads the game well and played in good combination with John.

- Is Jeff Cunningham starting to heat up?  Three goals in two games is very nice.  He always was a guy that needed to be challenged.  Time to start thinking about getting two strikers on the field or keep him as a late game counter attacking threat?
"Historically, Jeff, as has been noted many times by many people, is a streaky player.  And he's at his best in the hot months – July and August is when he traditionally starts to pick up. So we're right where he's most comfortable.

Jeff's getting motivated. He’s having better practices. He’s more focused. He’s more team-oriented. Before, he was hitting the crossbar. Now the ball is going in. If he's productive, we need to get him on the field more."  - Schellas Hyndman to the Dallas Morning News.

- This just in, Andy Najar can play.  He might be the only good thing to come out of DC this season.

- Ruben Luna in the 18 is a win for FCD.  Next home game get him 10 to 15 minutes at the end.

- A very short stint from Jackson, but you can see why Schellas Hyndman wanted him.  Pace, some foot skill, some soccer savvy, this kid's got some game.  From today, the over under on Jackson starting at right back is 2.5 more games.

- Count me on board the Ben Olsen will be a great coach bandwagon.  He needs to be an assist a little bit, but couple season down the line he will be ready.

- Some terrific pics of this game can be found here.

El Camino Central (Middle of the Road)

- Except for the fact he scored and had an assist, ok it was an amazing assist, I would have put Eric Alexander on the bottom section.  He has such great little moments, shows such class here and there; but to much of the game he's just drifting, not nearly intense enough, and far to casual.  There are to many turnovers and to many soft moments.  I was one of the first people this spring to sing this kids praises.  I think he eventually could be really good.  But right now he's not focused and concentrating for 90 minutes, and that will keep him out of the lineup when Dax McCarty returns.  I still think Alexander is better right now than the other options, Avila and Guarda, but he could be so much more.

- Milton Rodriguez is doing a ton of hard work playing striker by himself.  That's not an easy gig, particularly for a guy who is really an off striker.  He brings a lot of smarts and understanding to the game, see his assist on the Alexander goal, but he does need to get some goals here.  I'm not by any means worried, but I really look forward to seeing what he can do with a playing partner.

No Tan Bueno (Not So Good)

- I don't think you can undersell how much this team misses Dax McCarty.  It's not just McCarty's possession, although that is a big part of it.  But also his linking play and and passing.  McCarty is one of the few players on this side that can make a simple move, touch, or pass to get out of trouble and relieve pressure.  Letting the defense move out or the offense get forward is very important in a possession team.  Not to mention McCarty's knack for quick little defense grabs to snip the ball away.

- It's probably a symptom of a couple above points, but there were far, far to many turnovers in midfield.  Hartman saved FCD's bacon several times, but almost any other team than DC would have pounded FCD for those mistakes.  Multiple turnovers resulted in odd man rushes for DC and that's a sure fire way to lose most games.  If, that is, the opposition is capable of scoring at all.  Imagine the score line if that had been LA or Columbus.  Ouch.

- Heath Pearce's Magnum PI mustache... good lord man, that's horrible!!  Funny, sure.  But this isn't 1976.

- For the first 30 minutes FC Dallas got played off the park.  When FCD stole that first goal against the run of play DC basically folded.  Up until that point FCD had been beaten in every single facet of the game.  After the goal DC backed down and sat deeper, allowing FCD to develop their possession game.  This first 30 showed a new model of how to handle FCD: play high pressure, physical defense to kill the FCD flow.  In Dallas it's so hot that won't really work.  In this one FCD showed they can counter attack and punish you if you can't maintain the intensity and focus.  Is there a team that can pull it off for 90?
"Everything was there. The pressure, the energy, we were actually keeping the ball and moving it. It's tough going into the locker room wasting that much energy and not being up." - Devon McTavish

- Some people aren't to fond of me ripping Jair Benitez, so I'll just say this one thing.  The own goal is a mental brain fart and lapse in concentraion, and Benitez does that at least once every game.  At the higher levels of play, one lapse is all it takes to cost a game.

- Atiba Harris' form in front of net continues to be shocking.  Refined he isn't.  If Harris had some finishing class he'd be one of the best right mids in MLS.  Instead he's looking like a trouble spot between the turnovers and poor choices in the final third.