As FC Dallas gets set to face the New York Red Bulls in an MLS Playoff Wild Card match on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park, there are a number of questions that beg to be asked? Some of these queries include: can New York’s star-studded lineup, a group which was expected to contend for the league’s Supporter’s Shield, finally start delivering on their immense potential or will this season be defined by that they didn't accomplish instead of what they actually did?
The questions for the home side center around how much can be read into the run of bad form that came to define this team down the stretch? Sure, there were two solid wins over Chicago and Vancouver, which gave everyone associated with this thing hope, but FCD did give up seven goals in their two games last week but the 4-2 loss at San Jose on Saturday was a defeat that came with some seven starters back in Frisco.
One question on the minds of FCD supporters is which player(s) could be crucial to whether or not the reigning Western Conference champions advance or if their season collapse truly becomes complete in just over 24 hours?
Well, here’s one theory on that and it centers around a guy who could very well be the most versatile player on the team. Brazilian Jackson Goncalves, who so far this year, has started in the back, in the midfield, and more recently up top. It can be a bit of a crap shoot every time he hits the field, so here’s a look at good Jackson and bad Jackson.
When Jackson is on his game, he can use his speed to get up and down the flanks and basically make life miserable for opposing players. He has been able to put his considerable pace on full display during his recent starts up top when paired alongside fellow speedster Marvin Chavez in FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman’s 4-4-2 formation.
Jackson can also handle his defensive responsibilities and is the sort of two-way player that Hyndman loves, although since he’s been playing up top, his defensive duties have been eased a bit and that has allowed him to be a solid offensive player who can devote the bulk of his focus not just on how to convert opportunities but also how to create them for teammates.
Now it remains to be seen whether or not Hyndman employs the 4-4-2 on Wednesday night against New York, but if he does, it’s a safe bet that Jackson could be in the first 11 alongside Chavez. Having such speed up top could prove to be a considerable bugaboo for what is a pretty talented Red Bulls back line featuring the likes of US national team regular Tim Ream along with the equally talented Roy Miller and Jan Gunnar Solli.
Back on that hit 1980s TV show Knight Rider, there was a good Michael Knight and an evil Michael Knight. The evil one, who this writer believes was named Garth, was distinguished by the evil goatee he sported. Well, FCD fans have definitely seen an evil, goateed version of Jackson on several occasions this year.
It’s almost funny because the first time it happened, it was in a match at Columbus early in the year when he got a straight red and missed the next game. Hyndman was absolutely livid after his talented Brazilian getting sent off and coined a term for it, “emotional intelligence,” meaning Jackson has displayed a lack of it.
That deficiency was on display again late in the regular season when he got a fifth yellow card in a home win over Vancouver, meaning he would miss FCD’s next league match. That match proved to be Saturday’s 4-2 loss at San Jose. Just mentioning Jackson’s absence to Hyndman last week elicited a pretty scornful response on the part of the Dallas gaffer.
So, the fact of the matter is that if there was an FCD starter who could get a costly red card in tomorrow night’s game, the smart money would have to be on Jackson. Left back Jair Benitez might rank as a close second but one thing’s for sure is that Dallas fans don’t want a repeat of some of the costly playoff red cards from a few years back, like the one Arturo Alvarez got against Houston in 2007.
Not saying it’s going to happen but when you have a player as talented as Jackson who one never knows whether he’ll be an asset or a liability on the pitch, whether the Good Jackson or the Bad Jackson shows up could truly go a long way in helping to determine whether or not FCD advances to face Sporting KC or if their season is officially over in just over a day’s time.