FRISCO - El Capitán is coming back to the good side of Texas after FC Dallas' 4-2 win over the Houston Dynamo, securing the only win in the Texas Derby over the last two seasons on Saturday. Besides the cannon's improved well-being, we learned a few other important things from the holiday weekend match.
SOARING ON THE WINGS
With two matches on the week, FC Dallas scored a combined seven goals as the offense roared back to life. It's nearly the same tally they had over their previous five.
We'd be remiss if we didn't discuss the growing relationship between Dominique Badji and Maxi Urruti in the middle. They each are more and more familiar with the other's role and Urruti is coming into his own as a secondary striker on both sides of the ball with a goal and three assists on the week. Saturday was the best combination of the two we've seen to date.
However, the real story on the week is on either side of them. Michael Barrios is one of the hottest players in MLS right now and Santiago Mosquera is in his best form since joining Dallas. Barrios has now six goals and three assists in his last seven matches, while Mosquera found the net three times in four days after having just one goal to his name coming into the week.
It's the exact threat that FCD wanted to have when Mosquera joined the team in February. We saw a glimpse of it in preseason, but from there a pair of hamstring injuries for the newcomer and a frustrating start to 2018 for Barrios never saw the dual wing threat come to fruition.
The defense, even after a few uncharacteristic games, has been FCD's biggest strength for the better part of two years. Now, they might've just found the explosive answer on the other side. Saturday was Dallas' most lethal combination of attacking players since the slew of summer moves took place and if the attacking four can continue their seven-goal week, Dallas will be flying high heading towards the postseason.
Newcomer Abel Aguilar made his MLS debut over the last 23 minutes of the match and it was quickly apparent exactly why Dallas brought in the veteran for the remainder of the year. Subbing on in a 4-2 game that was leaning heavily in Houston's favor, Aguilar (and Tesho Akindele, who subbed on at the same time) cooly shut down the Dynamo attack and closed out the match.
Just look at the opposition's successful passes in the 27 minutes before the switch and the 13 minutes of regulation and six minutes of added time after:
Nothing happens in the middle of the pitch.
It remains to be seen how Aguilar's role will evolve, but the ability to close out a match is something Dallas has lacked at multiple times this season. When it seemed that they might be in for another nail-biter ending, Oscar Pareja might've found his ninth-inning closer at the most important time of the year.
The most aggravating question for Pareja and everyone in the FCD locker room this season has been "How do you prevent another collapse?"
After the home loss to San Jose, the inevitable "Here we go again" storyline began to percolate. After a difficult road loss in Seattle, the floodgates opened. Dallas came out at home against a down-and-out Minnesota side and put away a clean 2-0 win to quiet the chatter.
Then, a blown lead late in Houston followed by a loss to the same Quakes on the road last week had everyone again thinking back to 2017.
Saturday's win should end that storyline for good.
Regardless of what happens during the remainder of 2018, it's a different set of circumstances than a year ago and deserving of it's own story. Yes, there have been frustrating games and points left on the table but this team has come out and won when they needed it most. That's something the 2017 team didn't have.
It's September and this team sits atop the West, just as it's done since early July. This team has exceeded it's point total for all of last season with seven games left to play. This team has multiple wins on its record after the month of July.
There's still a lot of work to be done down the stretch, but it's time to put the old narrative to bed.