What's behind the nature of FC Dallas's extreme swings between good and bad? Alexander Abnos explores in his latest edition of the MLS Power Rankings.
HARRISON, N.J. – If there’s anything we’ve learned through 20-plus seasons of MLS, it’s that no result is entirely out of the question. Across the league, teams that should win don’t, and squads with long losing streaks and injury problems are somehow able to pull out a result.
So it says something that, even by MLS's skewed standard, FC Dallas has been by far the most confounding team in the league through the first nine weeks of the season. Oscar Pareja’s side has, at times, played like the MLS Cup contenders it rightfully should be with its balance of attacking and defensive talent. When it wins, it wins with style and a panache belying its young roster.
However, when FC Dallas loses in 2016, it loses hard.
That was the case on Friday at Red Bull Arena, as FC Dallas completely fell apart in the second half to lose 4–0 to the New York Red Bulls. It was Dallas’s third loss in its opening 10 games, which doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that it was shut out and beaten by at least three goals in every one of those defeats.
“I’m obviously not just responsible, but worried about it,” said Pareja after Friday’s game. “Very unbalanced performances this year.”
So, then, what is to blame for this massive disparity? The games’ locations could be part of it. In five games away from Toyota Stadium, Dallas has allowed 13 goals. In five games at home, they’ve conceded just four. All three of FC Dallas’ losses have come on the road, and midfielder Victor Ulloa admitted to reporters after Friday’s game that his team’s away form certainly must improve.
“We have to find a way to get results away from home,” he said. “This is a time we have to be united a a group and don’t let anything bring us down.”
Problem is, Dallas has done the exact opposite of that. The team’s three lopsided losses this season have been notable not just because of their final scores, but because of how quickly Dallas allowed its opponents to score in bunches. In Houston, Dallas allowed four goals in the span of 21 minutes. In Vancouver, it was three in 42. At Red Bull Arena, Dallas went into halftime down just 1-0 before conceding three in the space of 31 minutes in the second half.
Each of these collapses is made all the more frustrating by the team’s apparent ability to do the exact opposite. At Portland two weeks ago, Dallas blitzed the Timbers with a three-goal barrage in the opening 30 minutes. It has scored quick doubles against D.C. and Montreal. Dallas loves to push numbers forward, but also must learn how to manage games in difficult moments–especially with key center back Matt Hedges out injured–if it is to avoid more morale-shattering losses like it has experienced this season.
“We are a team that attacks, and then we get exposed at the back,” Pareja said. “It just tells me that the league is tremendously competitive.”
Here are a few more highlights from around MLS in Week 9 in addition to this week's Power Rankings:
Offensive player of the week: Didier Drogba, Montreal Impact
Drogba certainly didn’t have his best games in a Montreal Impact uniform this week, but he still found a way to make key contributions in both draws. First, against NYCFC, it was Drogba who delivered a perfect free-kick service to Dominic Oduro for Montreal’s last-gasp equalizer. He followed that with more dead-ball brilliance, this time scoring himself against Colorado.
Defensive player of the week: Sal Zizzo, New York Red Bulls
Zizzo had a difficult assignment this week, matching up with Dallas’ tricky forward Fabian Castillo on the right flank. He completely shut Castillo down in the Red Bulls’ big win. As a bonus, he earned an assist on the game’s first goal, heading down a perfect ball across the goal line as part of the Red Bulls’ smoothly-executed free-kick routine (which was eerily reminiscent to a 2015 effort vs. Orlando City).