When I found out that Fabian Castillo would be in the starting lineup for FC Dallas I was first surprised because all reports said he would miss at least two weeks, and after that I became worried for the safety of Jalil Anibaba's ankles.
Anibaba, who would play right-back after it was revealed that Sheanon Williams would have to sit out another game, would be tasked with defending the speedy Colombian, who destroyed Boniek Garcia last year to the point where he had to be taken out of the position.
I'll be honest: I was not confident at all that the Houston Dynamo would be able to win this game after the news that Castillo would play. He's just too fast, too quick on the dribble to stop, and with Mauro Diaz spraying balls all over the final third from his number-ten position, I didn't think the Dynamo could get three points, or even just one point.
Well, I was wrong. Very wrong.
Castillo and Diaz along with forward Maximiliano Urruti and winger Michael Barrios were held in check by a determined Dynamo backline and midfield. Castillo was stopped by the strength of Anibaba a couple times out on that left wing, and when the attacker got past the former Sporting KC man, winger Andrew Wenger came back to help, as did center-back David Horst, and all three of those players made crucial tackles on the capped Colombian-international.
Diaz was overwhelmed in midfield by three central midfielders and the two center-backs. They never let him play one of his deadly through-balls, as they kept two or three people around him every time he got the ball. While he still looked dangerous a couple times, he never really was able to get anything going, as shown by his passing map:
Notice how none of his passes made it into the box, and only a couple were in that direction.
It was an impressive defensive performance by the Dynamo, but perhaps a better offensive performance. This was shown in their third goal, scored by Ricardo Clark, when FC Dallas's inability to clear the ball and their prominent marking issues led to Jesse Gonzalez being beat yet another time.
Here's a look at how that goal epitomized the result for both teams:
We start with Andrew Wenger controlling the ball on the right wing, defended by Kellyn Acosta:
Wenger begins to make his move toward the corner flag, looking to find enough room to send in a dangerous cross. Notice how there are seven FC Dallas players back, five of whom are inside the box. The Dynamo have trapped them in their own end, the way it was for most of the first half.
The Dynamo have three players standing outside the box, at varying distances from it, to provide support if the ball is cleared. Ricardo Clark (middle, 13) is one of them.
The cross comes in, but it's way over hit. Boniek Garcia (circled in orange at the bottom) sees this, and begins to run down the ball in the opposite corner.
Add one more Dallas player defending: Michael Barrios (circled in red) is tracking back to defend Garcia. Barrios is considerably faster than the Honduran and has a step on him, so he theoretically should be able to get there first and clear it.
Barrios does manage to get there first, but decides to be a bit too fancy. He lets the ball bounce once and then he tries to head the ball backwards and over Garcia's head so he can run onto it and start a counter. He had plenty of other options: He could have headed the ball back to the defender standing just yards away so he could clear it, he could have let the settled it down and beaten Boniek one-on-one, or he could have just cleared it first time. Any of these are valid options.
He doesn't execute properly, because Garcia is too far away from Barrios. He couldn't get enough power on the header, and the ball would fall right to the Dynamo midfielder. Many remain in the box, anticipating a second cross attempt. After all, that's how David Horst scored the first goal.
Because of Barrios's miscue, it becomes a strength battle rather than a speed battle, which plays in Boniek's favor. He controls the ball with the Colombian behind him, fighting him off while deciding what to do with it.
The defender behind the ball (circled) prevents Garcia from dribbling into the box and either shooting or setting someone else up. He takes the alternative, which is to turn to the left and send in a cross.
The cross comes in towards the back-post, where multiple players are involved in an aerial battle for it. Nobody would win it and the ball would sail over everybody's head and back to an unmarked Wenger.
Rico Clark (circled at the bottom) had come over to the left side to provide support for Boniek and now will jog back into the play. FC Dallas have three players near the top of the box to prevent anybody from getting open there. Clark will try and exploit it anyway.
The ball comes to Wenger, who immediately thinks cross. His body is positioned that way, and the defense is clearly expecting the ball to come in the air. This is proven by Carlos Gruezo (circled in red, 7) who had been defending near the top of the box, but decided to step in and defend Will Bruin, who should have been marked by one of the three FC Dallas players defending air at the near post.
Clark is going crazy at the bottom of the screen, as he sees the space left open by Gruezo and knows he can take advantage of it. He's waving his arms and, presumably, yelling at Wenger to get him the ball. The player next to him, Maximiliano Urruti (circled in red, 37), is literally looking right at him. Watch how he reacts to Clark's run:
As the ball is played to the top of the box by Wenger, Urruti doesn't move a muscle. He just stands there and watches as Clark sprints toward the ball. This cannot happen, and I guarantee Oscar Pareja will berate him about this when Dallas go back and watch all the things they did wrong in this game.
And he was like that all night. Eddie Robinson mentioned Urruti's complete lack of effort on the broadcast a couple of times. I understand he's a striker and shouldn't have to defend all that much, and that there's a lot of other things his team could have done better here, but you have to have some sort of awareness to step up and mark a wide open man running towards the ball right outside the box. That shows a lack of preparation, soccer IQ, and overall effort.
All of FCD's defenders are sitting very deep and aren't in position to block the shot. It's a golden opportunity for Rico. He one-times it on the volley without any pressure whatsoever. Urruti is starting to lightly jog away from the play.
Look at the lane he has. Nobody can even come close to getting in front of the shot.
And what a shot this was by Clark. As Robinson said on Root Sports, a lot of players tend to blast it 40 rows into the stands when they get these kinds of opportunities, but Clark kept it low and knew exactly where he wanted to put it. He stuck it in the bottom corner past poor Gonzalez, who was hung out to dry yet again by his defense.
Bruin came very close to ruining this goal by touching it in an offside position. Thankfully he didn't and the score became 3-0, sending the packed BBVA Compass Stadium into a frenzy.
But this goal should never have happened. Somebody needed to have cleared the ball before the ball even came to Clark (namely Barrios) and if Urruti had actually done his job, the goal-scorer wouldn't have been open.
More examples of costly mistakes made by FC Dallas. The Dynamo are grateful.
Communication is key kids.