Not sure what kind of result I expected from this game, especially after Columbus and Houston proved that MLS is still the best league in the world for turning things on it’s head. I hoped for a win but not enough I to put my house on it so I think an opening day draw on the road against a Dallas, a team that always starts the season strong, is acceptable. Having said that there are a few things that have me asking questions about this team that I’m hoping will be answered.
Fair warning, these will seem like overreactions after one game. Ok, ready? Let’s go!
Flying without Wings
This was the one thing that stood out to me. It’s hard to see in the opening game if we are looking to counter or looking to attack. At times we drove forward to try and control the game. Then, we sat back and got a goal after a picture perfect counter. Whatever it is, our wing backs were an active part in the attack for the most of this game, spending a considerable amount of time pushed up to the halfway line. Looking at the heatmap of our positioning, we mimicked Dallas with overlapping wing backs pushing high. The only difference is, no matter what anybody says, Dallas are faster than us on the wing. This pulled Glad and Silva out wide and stretched the game for us, meaning those cut back balls from the wings came through at an alarming rate. Dallas hit 15 of them while we managed one, which is the same number of goals Dallas scored from those types of flat crosses. We need to do something if this continues, but hopefully it’s just a growing pain.
How Deep is your Love
The side effect of the wing backs pushing his is that needed Kyle Beckerman and Damir Kreilach to drop into a deeper defensive midfield role to compensate for the wing backs taking more an attacking role. It makes sense, really; The CB spread wide when Dallas breaks while Kyle and Kreilach drop back to take up a CB role while we clear the ball, leaving the wing backs defending high and ready to link the ball to the attacking unit so we can break with speed. The trade off here is that they sometimes found themselves isolate from play by being so deep. Taking a look at the MLS Boxscore, you can see that both players completed a great number of short, sideways passes but couldn’t hit longer, more direct passes forward. Now that could be a lack of targets for sure but that left us with only one route to get the ball forward, the wings. It’s a little one dimensional and I’d like to see things switch up from time to time, with some rotation between pushing the wing backs up and then having them drop deep so we can go through the middle.
Nick ‘Gosh Darn’ Rimando should go down as the greatest American goalkeeper to ever live. I don’t care what Tim Howard did for Manchester United, I don’t care how many Premier League games Brad Friedel played in and don’t even mention Brad Guzan after that Atlanta game. No player has put up game-changing performances more frequently than The Wall of the Wasatch and, if we’re being fair here, we’ve come to rely on it too much. The lengthy contract renewal talks in the off season and the retirement of another club legend served as a reminder those legends being on the field is a privilege at this point and not a given. Nick is still the best at what he does but every year that passes we get closer to him hanging it up for good. As I said, look for overreactions in here in Week 1 but I would really like to see us not relying on Nick to save us as often as we have in the past.
That’s week 1 in the bag then. Not the bang we wanted but the pressure will be on the home fans a good show against LAFC. It’s not going to be an easy game as LAFC are going to want to show they can compete in their first year in MLS. They are against Seattle in Week 1, who will want an early advantage in the rivalry with Toronto after they crashed and burned against Columbus, spared from the fate of being the third Texas team for now. MLS continues to give us the most entertaining web of games in soccer and we are only at Week 1!