FC Dallas Playoff Hopes Take A Hit As Rapids Play Spoiler: Key Takeaways

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Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

Editorial (October 9, 2017)FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids played to a 1-1 draw in Commerce City on Saturday night. Dallas’s playoff hopes took a big hit as they are neck and neck with three other teams in the Western Conference. The Rapids experimented with things tactically and continue to play spoiler.

FC Dallas Playoff Hopes Take A Hit As Rapids Play Spoiler: Three Thoughts

Stefan Aigner and Atiba Harris scored the goals for the teams. Rapids Interim Head Coach Steve Cooke was happy with the performance but disappointed with the result. With that, here’s some key takeaways on the game.

Rapids Tactically Pressed And Bullied Dallas:

Cooke changed things up from the last few games, playing a few players out of position. Alan Gordon started up top, moving Dominique Badji to the wing. Stefan Aigner was in the No. 10 role, with Mohammed Saied and Bismark Nana Boateng playing at holding midfield.

Cooke shed some light on the decision to start Gordon up top and Badji on the wing:

“We didn’t want to lose the pace in the wide areas. I wanted somebody, learning from the last game against FC Dallas, I thought we got bullied a bit in that central area, I thought [Matt] Hedges and [Atiba] Harris are both physical players. I wanted Gordon to occupy those two players,” adding “early in the game, [Gordon] made a real big impact holding the ball up, and linking the play, and allowing those quicker players to get forward.”

Gordon created space in the middle for Aigner, Badji, and Gatt to run. With the opponent’s defensive shape disrupted, they were able to move the ball quickly and create issues on the counter.

“The more movement there is, the more confusion there is for them in the back line,” Midfielder Mohammed Saeid said. “I was getting much more of the ball and I am able to pass it forward.”

The service from the midfield to the flanks helped create the goal and a number of other opportunities. Badji was close enough to the front, that he could push up. Aigner, Gatt, and Marlon Hairston were able to switch roles as needed.

Because of this tactical decision and the execution, this was one of the brighter offensive performances by the Rapids.

Urruti And Diaz Struggled To Finish:

Dallas had 17 shots in this game (seven on target). While they had most of the ball, they didn’t do a lot with it. This was one of the better defensive performances by Colorado. They were organized behind the ball and they dictated pace off the ball much better. Dallas’s possession wasn’t purposeful.

The holding midfielders Mohammed Saeid and Bismark Nana Boateng kept Mauro Diaz contained. He had one good chance to shoot in the second half, but that was about it. Saeid and Boateng bent a lot, but they never broke.

“We pressed high and when we did have the ball, we looked dangerous. Our first instinct is to go forward. We hit them on the counter a few times. I think the altitude played a part to. [Mauro Diaz] got tired and we kept him in front of us,” Saeid said after the game.

They kept Diaz in front of them and made him work on the defensive side of things. The backline similarly kept Maxi Urruti contained.

“For me, it’s about winning the ball in the right places. I didn’t think the back four looked under any duress. We were always in control even when Dallas had a bit of possession,” Cooke said after the match.

In the simplest sense, this was the closest to a 2016 Rapids defense as I’ve seen in awhile. They made Dallas play Rapids soccer despite not having the ball. They kept Dallas from getting any real dangerous chances. Axel Sjoberg had Urruti in his pocket for much of the night. Urruti had four shots (one on goal), but has been struggling of late.

Colorado Continues To Play Spoiler:

Colorado has now gotten results in their last three home games, all against playoff caliber teams. They effectively eliminated the Montreal Impact with a 2-1 win last week. While this draw helps Dallas, it didn’t do enough to help them separate from a crowded field in the Western Conference.

“It’s the only thing you can do in the position we are in,” Saeid said after the game when asked about spoiling the playoff hopes for others. Last week, Marlon Hairston said their objective is to “ruin lives” when looking at the schedule and the three playoff contenders coming up last week. They’ll look to do that on Sunday at home against Real Salt Lake.

So Where Is Dallas Now:

Oscar Pareja’s men are now in the sixth and last playoff spot. Other than Houston Dynamo, all their competition have two games remaining (Houston has three). The first tie breaker is wins, and this draw hurts Dallas on that front. They have 10 on the season, while everyone around then have at least 11.

FC Dallas play at Seattle Sounders FC next weekend then host LA Galaxy on decision day. This is Major League Soccer, so it’s sure to be a crazy finish. My guess is Dallas will head into decision day needing a result.

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