What the hell was Jair Benitez thinking?
FC Dallas has followed a path similar to the Portland Timbers this season. They started out the season by adding some high profile South American talent to their roster, had a couple of good results early on, but since then they have been just about the biggest disappointment in MLS, now tied for the league's worst record.
Both teams have allowed a pretty lousy 30 goals this season, while Dallas has scored one more goal than the Timbers (in one more game played). While Dallas is stuck on four wins for the season (to Portland's five) they have at least managed to win one on the road.
But it's the way in which Dallas has managed to lose some of these games that has been particularly sad.
Coming off a confidence building away win against Colorado (their first away win of the season) they traveled to California to face the Supporters Shield favorites, the San Jose Earthquakes. After going down 2-0 in the first half and struggling to create anything in the second, Schellas Hyndman took issue with the effort Brek Shea was giving on the pitch and removed him, to which Shea chose to react poorly.
In the 89th minute Hernan Pertuz took advantage of a free kick and some disorganization in the Quake defensive setup and narrowed the deficit to one. San Jose was looking weaker.
Then, in the third minute of stoppage time, Zach Loyd drew a clear foul in the San Jose penalty area, and Jair Benitez put the ball on the spot, claiming the responsibility, in spite of (or perhaps because of) his never having scored in his MLS career.
Hyndman said later, in all seriousness, "We had three guys in mind, and, looking back on it, I probably should have gone with one of the other two."
Ouch. Add Benitez's PK failure to a long list of Dallas failures this season -- the run of two games earlier this season in which the team earned four suspensions, the elbow dislocation Carlos Rodriguez suffered while taking a dive against Real Salt Lake, the excessive amount of time Ricardo Villar has spent on the ground this season, etc.
All of it is made so much more frustrating by the fact that they have such quality players in their lineup -- Jackson Goncalves, David Ferreira, Fabian Castillo, and their most recent acquisition, designated player Julian de Guzman. Not to mention defenders George John, Ugo Ihemelu and Zach Loyd.
With the quality they have up and down their lineup, they should be dominating the league, not eagerly scrabbling for every opportunity to self destruct.
Which begs the question: what kind of team would you rather have: a team that plays with lots of emotion but self destructs (and dives) on a regular basis, or a team that maintains a pretty even keel and gets along well in spite of poor results?
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FC Dallas has changed significantly since the last time the Timbers visited, their second game of the season. Defenders John and Ihemelu are out with concussion symptoms, and backup defenders Bobby Warshaw and Alex Lee are also injured, leaving youngsters Matt Hedges and Hernan Pertuz in the central defense.
Veteran midfielder Daniel Hernandez has been replaced in the lineup with Julian de Guzman, while the exciting Jackson Goncalves has been a consistent part of the lineup for a few months. And David Ferreira has also finally returned after spending more than a year recovering from injury. Plus, some guy named Marcelin.
Up top, Fabian Castillo and Brek Shea have taken turns replacing Blas Perez at the striker position, while Perez recovers from a foot sprain. With Fabian Castillo serving a suspension, Brek Shea will probably get the start at striker, in spite of the spat he has had with Hyndman.
Whether the tantrum he threw on Wednesday night lights a fire under him or turns him off completely will determine whether the Timbers win, draw or lose this game.