<
>

Game Grades: FCD v Los Angeles

I don't much know about baseball, but I admit watching the Texas Rangers defeat the Yankees to advance to the 2010 World Series was a whole bunch of fun. During all that Ranger magic, I wondered if the same would happen with passive Dallas-Ft Worth soccer fans if FC Dallas was to advance to a first appearance in its league's championship match.

Then as I watched Sunday night's loss to the Galaxy, I began to realize I was getting ahead of myself.

The 2-1 loss marks the 5th match in seven the team as surrendered two goals and their four game October record is a sad 1-2-1. Three of the four faced playoff teams, so you can guess which one they beat.

After almost 15 years of MLS playoff action, what we know to be true is that teams "in form" going into the playoffs survive.

FC Dallas is not, "in form".

Dario Sala, easily loved because he wears the team on his sleeve and while a good goalkeeper, he has not been 'great' as Hartman had been before the "Henry Incident". There is a sense that due to the missing Hernandez, there is a clear lack of organization and calm that had previously oozed from the back half of FCD. Neither George or Ugo have appeared 100%, leaving the rookie Loyd as the team's most consistent defender.

More alarming is the trend and form of McCarty and Alexander. Dax simply has not been the same since returning from injury and Alex's form has dropped way off as the competition has improved. Both players in the last two matches have reverted to turning the ball over at a shocking rate, something that really plagued the whole team early in the season.

The question is, "Can Dallas regain it form simply with the return of Hartman and Hernandez?" My answer is, "unlikely". Hernandez's hammy is not 100% and probably won't be any time soon. That is an injury that lurks and causes players to hold back, something not in Daniel's modus operandi. As for Hartman, who knows if all this time off will have rendered his mojo impotent, or if he can just turn it back on.

The MLS season is long and a large part of mastering it involves luck. Especially on the injury front where Dallas has been woefully unlucky. Losing five starters has to catch up at some point and it appears that Dallas has been sitting on it for the last few weeks.

2010 has been a wonderful season for FC Dallas with improvements in areas both on and off the field. A first round loss to RSL would be nothing to be ashamed. Dallas several weeks ago was a team that looked to be a favorite to win the Cup, but that has changed.

It will take Dallas resuming it's spot as "the team that proves everyone wrong", and that does appear to be a place they are more comfortable as a team. Certainly, if FC Dallas has done anything successfully in 2010, it is overcoming low expectations.

Game Grades:

Sala: 5 - I bet he appears in a Telenovela after retirement, he'd be awesome.

Jackson: 5 - If hammy is bad, effect on team is bad.

George: 4 - Looking shaky, but how much of that is Sala and no Daniel?

Loyd: 5 - Bad sign when rookie is best defender.

Benitez : 4 - Struggled with McGee and Beckham all night.

Harris: 6 - Good finish but not much else.

Chavez: 4 - His speed was negated in last two matches.

McCarty: 4 - Really need him to find form.

Alexander: 4 - Bad passes abound, except for the single brilliant assist.

Ferreira: 5 - Have all those minutes begun to catch up?

Cunningham: 3 - Not a factor at all, not sure Milton would have either.

Subs:

Ugo: 5 Nice attacking runs as team fought to get tie

Shea: 3 Wow, how his touch has left him

Avila: 5 Worked hard, showed flash, but resulted in little