Last week's heated and crazy match against Sporting Kansas City is over. This week we turn to our old Western Conference rival FC Dallas in our first of three matches for the Texas Derby trophy, El Capitán - a cannon...our trophy is a cannon. This particular match takes on additional importance for a few reasons: 1) This is a Western Conference game and since we're in the Western Conference now we need to win these, 2) This is the only Texas Derby match played in Houston with the other two being played in Frisco, TX, and 3) It's Dallas and it's a lot of fun to beat Dallas (just ask the Rockets).
In our preview of the game we pointed out how important confidence was to the Dynamo and we broke down the strengths and weakness of each side. We wanted to expand upon what we think and what the stats say going into this one so we asked Brian Wachholz to give us his opinion about his side and the upcoming rivalry match.
Dynamo Theory: Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo have Dallas scoring among the most goals in the league (11), but Dallas is also allowing some of the most goals in the league (also 11). What has accounted for this kind of discrepancy which has gotten FCD to a goal differential of 0?
Big D Soccer: The offense is clicking pretty well with so many returning faces in the lineup. Blas and Fabian have been playing together for a few years now, and they are combining well with Tesho and Mauro. Ryan Hollingshead is also starting to contribute. He took a year off from soccer to help his brother build a church and showed plenty of rust when he returned. Ryan worked hard through the offseason and really started turning heads during preseason. All I can say is that the goal scorers are generally doing what they are supposed to do. Oscar Pareja and Fernando Clavijo mull over the roster and make changes as needed to build up FC Dallas. I'm very glad to be out of those rebuilding years.
On the defensive side of the coin, FCD is giving up too many goals. Dallas lost two centerbacks last season, Ugo Ihemelu was forced into early retirement due to concussion injuries, and George John was shipped to NYCFC after missing the entire playing season in 2014 with injuries. So now we have Matt Hedges anchoring the backline. Zach Loyd has done an incredible job pairing with Matt in the middle and seems more and more to be the permanent choice. Right back has typically been Zach's spot for FCD, however. So shifting Zach means adding a new RB. Moises Hernandez has been pretty consistent at left back. He really took advantage of his loan spells in Central America and rejoined FCD a better player. Dallas dropped 4 goals to Colorado a few weeks back when Hedges missed that game. That's a lot of little tidbits - ultimately, the answer to your question is that the backline has been in flux and was especially vulnerable without Hedges.
DT: Last season FC Dallas made it to the Western Conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs. This season the Western Conference just got more crowded as MLS newcomers New York City FC and Orlando City SC pushed Sporting KC and the Dynamo into the West. What are the expectations with this FC Dallas team and how far do you think they can go?
BDS: With 6 playoff spots available this year, I am comfortable predicting that Dallas will land somewhere in the 3-5 range and qualify without leaving it to the last week. FC Dallas did well to maintain the strongest core of the roster that lost on away goals to Seattle last year. It will be on FC Dallas to sign some reinforcements. Right now, it seems like the team is pretty thin at center back and in midfield. There are some promising young guys being developed, but I don't know if they are capable of helping FCD deep in a trophy run.
FCD has already beaten SKC once this year 3-1. Friday is the first match against Houston, so we'll see how that goes. Dallas will be keen to prove that those 2 extra teams in the conference are more fodder than competition.
DT: Since Houston made began playing in the Eastern Conference, we developed a fierce rivalry with Sporting Kansas City due to our similar physical styles of play, playoff match-ups, and the fact that we could play them more than once a year. Was there a team that Dallas developed a similar rivalry with in the Western Conference to fill the absence of the Dynamo?
BDS: A lot of that rivalry seems to have been focused on Colorado and Vancouver. Colorado has always been a bit of a tougher battle. They tend to be more physical, and there is history and interaction between players (Moor, Ihemelu, Pareja, Harris). I would think that losing to them in the 2010 MLS Cup Final might still linger somewhere in the backs of the guys' heads. It seems like every game with the Rapids ends in hand waving and yelling. Feelings about Vancouver run a little differently. I wouldn't call it a rivalry, but the heat stems more from the front offices. Vancouver and Dallas have each jabbed one another over the past few years. Vancouver takes offense at some of the CONCACAFing and physicality that FCD sometimes incorporates. Dallas characterized them as whiny with their #Vancouvering videos. We don't see as much tension on the field, but the Whitecaps are looking stronger this year so we'll see what the future holds.
DT: I think that it's important to reignite the Texas rivalry between Dallas and the Dynamo so who is the one Dynamo player that you've come to shake your fist at the most? It could be for scoring goals, big fouls, saves, or for having a really bad haircut. Rivalries don't always need to make sense.
BDS: I'm always giving Ricardo Clark a bit of side-eye. It's hard to forget about the player that fouled Dallas so hard that he earned what was called at the time, "the most severe punishment in league history." Aside from him, I don't personally have any ill will towards any Houston players at this point. While the rivalry gets contentious, there hasn't been any stand out villains in the recent past. Maybe that will change now that we are in the same conference again. There are definite threats from guys like Brad Davis, Will Bruin, and Giles Barnes but those are concerns about them scoring against Dallas. I don't get angry at them and more than any opposing player.
I am really interested to see how others answer, though - this is a good question. Maybe folks on our sites will tell us in the comments who grinds their gears.
For my answers to Brian's questions head on over to Big D Soccer, though let's keep trolling and comments in poor taste to a minimum.