by Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)
This week I come to you live from Dallas. I love Friday night soccer so much that I had to go and finally experience one with one of the hottest teams in MLS... the Colorado Rapids. Okay, maybe not. But perhaps still an interesting matchup. If you're at the game make sure you say, "hi". Good luck, because I'm in Waldo land.
Colorado and Dallas are connected by two primary memories; an odd MLS Cup match-up of two Western Conference teams in 2010 hosted in Canada, and the defection of Óscar Pareja. While the MLS Cup contest was largely considered to be a snooze-fest, the return of Pareja to Dallas through basically forcing the Rapids hands was a crazy, awkward, and a bit surprising too.
Now Pareja's once high flying Rapids attack have turned a defensive cheek under the guise of club legend and mustache aficionado Pablo Mastroeni. Despite controlling only 48% of the ball per match, Colorado have managed to turn limited opportunities into the third best possession ratio in the attacking third in MLS. That is to say, they complete more passes in the final third than their opponent by a significant margin.
They also create more shots than their opponents, with better shot position according to their expected goal differential. They clearly haven't done this in an ascetically pleasing manner, and their inability to score is downright shocking, but it's possible this Rapids team isn't as bad as envisioned nor the current narrative being passed down.
Dallas has also been a formidable side after once again a strong start the season and, just like deja vu, they are doing so without the creative production of Argentinian midfielder Mauro Diaz, who has missed time for a few different reasons. While I think the majority of supporters would love to see Diaz return to the lineup, the club's two points per game pace without him is impressive, and sets them on the path towards a strong season with Supporter Shield-like ambitions. It also gives hope that his return might catapult the club that much further.
Still, I would advise a bit of tempering going forward. While the joke surrounding FC Dallas the last couple years has been the "collapse" that comes with the end of Spring and the launch of the Summer campaign, this season we might see some problems ahead based off of three sets of numbers. Their PDO, TSR and of course their expected goal differential.
PDO - a predictive metric that is based off both finishing percentage and save percentage, which tends to regress to the 1000 level is floating a bit high at this point.
TSR - Total Shot Ratio lends credence to PDO, showing that they've been out-shot to this point in the season.
xGD - Expected Goal Differential works a bit in their favor. Despite surrendering more shots than their opponents, they've primarily found better position and with that a high probability of shot success which might explain some of their PDO. However, it's still only 10th best in MLS and, again, could point towards a fall back into the Western Pack.
While most are probably preparing for a 1-0 or even 2-0 game in Dallas favor, I wouldn't be surprised to see some opportunities fall in Colorado's favor to include the result. I'm not a huge fan of selling off Deshorn Brown but if that couldn't have been helped, as is some portion of the story being told, the primary concern at this point is the gap that stands between his departure and new DP striker, Kevin Doyle. But the team still possesses the attacking talents of Dillon Powers, Juan Ramírez and Vincente Sanchez. All are strong enough weapons to create chances and maybe find the back of goal. Oh and Gabby Torres, he's still there... *check's Colorado Rapids active roster* Oh, yep, he's still there too.
Or maybe Fabian Castillo and Blas Perez could just destroy everything. Either/or or perhaps neither seems conceivable.