We talked about it all week leading up to the match. While the offensive electricity of guys like Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo make the headlines, FCD was going to have problems against Chivas USA if they couldn't slow down one of the hottest players in the league, Mauro Rosales.
On Saturday night, FC Dallas was able to shut down Rosales and it's perhaps the least talked about but most important aspect of the 3-1 win that sees FCD go top of the Western Conference.
Before we look at Saturday's match, let's take a quick look back to see just how good Rosales was through his first two games.
In the opening match of the season against Chicago, Rosales was by far the best player on the field and had two assists in the match, but even more than that, the Argentine absolutely peppered the Chicago box throughout the match with cross after cross as evidenced by his OPTA passing chart from the game.
As you can see, 29 successful passes, 26 unsuccessful passes, 7 successful crosses, 14 unsuccessful crosses. That means Rosales sent in TWENTY ONE CROSSES in that game. They didn't all work, but that's pretty scary. Everything is into the box whether it worked or not which is not what you want if you're an opposing defense. In total, Rosales had 141 actions in that match, by far the most of any player on the field.
Now let's take a look at his game against Vancouver where Rosales had the lone assist of the match.
Same song, different verse. Despite being down to 10 men for most of the match, Rosales completed 52 passes, the most of anyone on Chivas USA. While he didn't have quite as high a number of crosses, it's undeniable to see his impact on the match given the stats and passing grid above. Rosales had 151 actions in the match, by far the most of anyone on the pitch and one of the highest numbers you'll see in an MLS game this season.
Now for the good stuff, let's see how Dallas handled Rosales on Saturday night.
Those dots are fewer and farther between aren't they? FCD limited Rosales to 26 completed passes but just as important he only had 15 unsuccessful passes combining for 41 total passes attempted compared to 53 against Chicago and 69 against Vancouver. Rosales had 95 total OPTA actions against FCD which, while it was still the most on Chivas USA, was far, far fewer than he's had in his previous two games this season. Long story short, the numbers show that Rosales had a 30-40% lower impact on Saturday's game.
Also, it's subtile but if you look at the heat maps in each of the three games, you can see how Mauro's actions were a good 10-15 yards closer to the midfield line than against Chicago or Vancouver. The plays he was making were farther from the goal, vastly limiting his impact on the match.
Finally, another key aspect to limiting Rosales was the set piece numbers. Against Chicago, Rosales and Chivas USA had 10 corner kicks, scoring the game-winning goal from a Rosales corner kick late in the match. It was a similar story in their draw against Vancouver with six corners to the Whitecaps' zero. On Saturday, FCD limited Chivas USA to only three corner kicks and commited just five fouls in their own half of the field for the whole match and did not foul Chivas USA once in their attacking third until the 61st minute of the match.
If you want to stop Chivas USA's offense, you limit Mauro Rosales' touches in the attacking third and don't give him an opportunity to beat you on set pieces. FC Dallas did just that on Saturday night and earned an impressive three points.