By Rees Linn
Sporting Kansas City ended FC Dallas’s nine game unbeaten streak with a resounding 4-1 win at Pizza Hut Park on Sunday night. Dallas, the second place team in the Western conference, looked to be the clear favorites heading into the match, but the Kansas City struck three times in the second half to help secure victory despite fielding a lineup which included only several regular first team players.
The match started reasonably well for Dallas who seemed to have the edge in terms of possession through the midfield, but throughout the match Kansas City managed to maintain their defensive shape to limit Dallas’s space in the attack. The play by Kansas City’s backline cannot be overlooked, but also hindering Dallas’s forays were the subpar runs from Fabian Castillo and Marvin Chavez. Undoubtedly, the two strikers’ inability to create space for themselves and one another would have been the most concerning aspect of the performance for the FC Dallas coaching staff. Far too frequently one or both of the strikers were checking into the midfield in order to receive the ball to turn and run at defenders. On paper, the strength of having the two speedsters up top is their ability to stretch a defense – to pull fullbacks out of position so that teammates can exploit the newly opened space, but onlookers would have been hard pressed to find any such creativity in the runs of either striker.
With Dallas pushing for the opening goal, Kansas City caught Dallas in transition in the 28th minute, and Graham Zusi took the lead for the guests with a wonderful finish after turning Zach Loyd. The goal was clearly unsettling for the Dallas players, but the team looked to be back in control heading into halftime after Brek Shea dribbled through four defenders before finishing a low shot past Kronberg to level the score in the 32nd minute.
Unfortunately for Dallas, Shea’s goal was just about the last highlight of the evening for their side. Shellas Hyndman brought on Milton Rodriguez for Eric Alexander at halftime and moved Marvin Chavez to the right side of midfield. Rodriguez, like Chavez in the first half, struggled to trouble the Kansas City backline, and the visitors regained the lead in the 49th through Aurelien Collin on a well taken corner kick. Zusi and Luke Sassano put the finishing touches on the win in the 55th and 78th minutes.
For a team that has had as much success as Dallas over the last year or so, a 4-1 loss at home has a way of shocking the system, and there can be little doubt that a different team will show up to play Chivas USA next Saturday. But even if Dallas does manage to sort out their issues during training this week, this loss must call into question whether Dallas has the mental edge necessary to seriously contend for the supporters shield in 2011. Add to the equation that the club clearly does not appear to have all of the pieces in place at striker and fans may need to begin reevaluating their expectations of where Dallas will be in the standings at the end of the year.