El Capitán returns to Toyota Stadium after a wildly entertaining 2-2 draw between FC Dallas and Houston. Let’s look at three big takeaways from the game.

1) The game this rivalry needed

Recent additions of the Texas Derby have not exactly been one of the premier rivalry matches in the league. In the initial years of the rivalry, running from its inception in the mid-2000s through the early 2010s, the rivalry was hotly contested and featured a number of memorable fiery moments, such as Ricardo Clark famously kicking Carlos Ruiz in the chest. But more recently, the intensity of the rivalry lessened a bit, coinciding with Houston’s downturn in fortunes. Lopsided results became more common and although tensions between fans stayed high, the action on the field didn’t necessarily have the hallmarks of an important rivalry.

That changed in a big way with this game. This was truly one of the wildest MLS matches in recent memory. To run down the list, we saw:

  • The debut of a Mexican international for Houston in Hector Herrera
  • A sold out stadium
  • 13 minutes of stoppage
  • Two goals scored in that stoppage time
  • A red card in stoppage time
  • Trash and other objects thrown onto the field and toward Dallas players and the Dallas bench
  • Marco Farfan was knocked unconscious

Overall, the game, especially in the second half, was wide open and wildly entertaining and it stood out in a pretty wild Rivalry Week in MLS. If this is what fans can come to expect from Texas Derby match ups going forward then this has the potential to be one of the most exciting rivalries in the league.

2) Herrera changed the game

For 55 minutes, FCD were largely in control of this game, getting their first half goal and significantly limiting Houston’s opportunities. That changed with the introduction of Hector Herrera, the reason a significant part of the sell-out crowd was in attendance, early in the second half. Almost as soon as he was introduced, the state of the game shifted in Houston’s favor. Herrera was not particularly high up the pitch and didn’t record any assists and only recorded a single shot, but his sharp and incisive line-breaking passing completely changed the game and was able to carve open the FC Dallas midfield. As talented as players like Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerrillo are, they are still young and early in their careers and the gap in quality, savvy and experience between them and a La Liga, Champions League and World Cup veteran like Herrera was plain to see. Time and time again, Herrera set up the Dynamo attackers with great opportunities in front of goal.

To be frank, Herrera is the type of player that Dallas could really use in midfield. Again, we all love our homegrown trio in midfield, Facu Quignon has had an improved season on 2021 and Tsiki Ntsabeleng looks promising for the future, but having the kind of passing that Herrera brought and the kind of mentality and confidence added to the team would be huge, especially in games where Dallas struggles to break down an opposing defense. I’m not 100% sure who Dallas could, would or should sign, but it would be a great statement of ambition to see FCD and the Hunts go after a high quality veteran player of a similar caliber.

3) Mental switch offs strike again

Even with Herrera changing the game, FC Dallas remained in prime position to not only get the draw that would (barring an extremely unlikely Houston/Dallas playoff game) bring El Capitán back home, but, after a lightning quick counter from FCD resulted in an extremely well-taken Jesus Ferreira goal, the team was poised to take all 3 points. But, as has been the case far too often recently, mental switch-offs costed the team and Dallas conceded a goal in the 11th minute of stoppage time, the latest goal ever scored in an MLS regular season game, as Darwin Quintero went virtually unchallenged on the edge of the area, ripped a shot that Maarten Paes was unable to control or parry for a corner and Teenage Hadebe flew in behind a completely oblivious Nkosi Tafari to slam the rebound home and tie the game at 2.

Much has been said about just how young of a team Dallas is and their youth has stuck out like a sore thumb in these situations. To be completely fair, this game was about as absurd as games go, with a very hostile crowd, a crazy amount of stoppage time and wild swings in the game along with the dreadful heat and humidity of a Houston summer evening. There’s no doubt that the effort was there from the young team, a team that was made even younger by the subs of starters Matt Hedges and Facu Quignon for Nkosi Tafari and Edwin Cerrillo in the second half, but they simply must be better mentally. Allowing Darwin Quintero an unchallenged shot from the edge of the box is a recipe for disaster on its own, but Nkosi Tafari’s mistake was a glaring example of switching off at the absolute wrong moment. At the professional level, that kind of play simply can not happen. Let’s hope it ends up being a teachable moment that the team can collectively improve on as opposed to something that ends up defining this team in the long run.

How are you feeling following one of the craziest Texas Derby matchups of all time? Are you happy that El Capitán will return to Toyota Stadium or disappointed with yet another draw and blown lead late? Let me know in the comments below!

Featured Image: Michael Wyke/Daily Record News
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