Bad calls are a fact of life in any sport and the mark of a truly good team is how they respond when a call goes against them. FC Dallas had several chances to recapture the lead on Thursday night after Chicago’s Brian McBride pulled things level, but a continued lack of offensive punch forced FCD to settle for their sixth draw in 10 games.
The 1-1 tie was the first time Schellas Hyndman’s club had ever left Toyota Park with anything less than three points.
Even though replays showed McBride was clearly offside on his 40th-minute equalizer, it also illustrated that FCD center back Ugo Ihemelu let the Fire forward slip past him as Justin Mapp delivered a long ball that ended up tying the game. Sure, McBride was clearly offside, but it was disconcerting to see Ihemelu appear to quit on the play, assured that the linesman would raise the flag on the veteran striker.
The play was somewhat reminiscent of one last week by fellow center back George John that led to Los Angeles’ 1-0 win at Pizza Hut Park. John thought the far linesman would rule the Galaxy’s Tristan Bowen offside and let up. Bowen was ruled on and delivered his first MLS assist to Mike Magee for the game’s only tally.
Earlier in the year, it appeared the FCD defense was finally over the hump in terms of mental mistakes that cost them points. However, in the last two weeks, those mental gaffes seem to have returned, which is not a good sign.
McBride’s goal marked the fourth time this year that FCD have allowed opponents to score with 10 minutes left before the break. Not coincidentally, FCD have tied all four of those contests.
As far as the offense goes, it seemed as though David Ferreira’s goal just six minutes in would set Dallas off on a scoring spree. Unfortunately, it did not.
The experiment of playing Jeff Cunningham at right midfield and moving Atiba Harris up top delivered little in the way of scoring chances. In fact, Cunningham returned to his customary forward spot to start the second half and was subbed out in the 70th minute for Heath Pearce after another quiet evening.
However, it’s hard to single out Cunningham’s lack of production for FCD’s offensive woes. Harris had a pretty quiet night in his own right and never seemed to find his offensive groove.
Furthermore, even though Ferreira registered his first goal of 2010, the Colombian playmaker was back in the FCD third of the field, definitely not where the team’s offensive catalyst needs to be receiving possession.
FCD also suffered when Dax McCarty had to leave the game in the 59th minute with a back injury. With Bruno Guarda in for McCarty as the linking midfielder, the FCD attack clearly took a major step backward.
On the other hand, one player who did perform well was left midfielder Brek Shea. The big Texan was active on the flank for much of the night. Even though his apparent goal in the 43rd was ruled offside, Shea still performed well for FCD in the attack. He also did a nice job defensively, backtracking on several plays in the visiting third of the field.
Pearce was another bright spot for FCD. Just one day after learning he wasn’t one of the 23 players chosen by US National Team head coach Bob Bradley to travel to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 25-year-old defender/midfielder came on in the second half and played solidly at left midfield.
It was hardly a surprise. Pearce is a true professional whose focus is now squarely back on helping FCD climb the MLS standings. He was active in the attack during his 20 minutes of action and was also solid defensively as he has been since joining the club late in 2009.
This match might prove to be a hint of things to come for FCD. In the past, the club had come to Toyota Park to face their Brimstone Cup rivals and left victorious as they saw their attack reawaken. That was not the case Thursday as the team’s attack again appeared sluggish and somewhat inept. If that trend doesn’t reverse itself, this team could very well find themselves out of the playoffs for a third straight year.