FC Dallas took a solid right hook from the Revs, courtesy of Juan Agudelo, six minutes into Tuesday night's US Open Cup final. It was a stunning goal – a blindingly quick and balanced touch-turn-and-shoot that left Matt Hedges, the best defender in the league, chasing shadows and goalkeeper Chris Seitz grasping air. It's the type of goal that few in the league can score.
It took nine minutes for Dallas to respond. Theirs was provided by Maxi Urruti after a touch equaling and perhaps surpassing Agudelo's in pure brilliance. Fifteen wild minutes into the match, everything was level.
And at that point, with nerves steadied and the home fans buzzing, Dallas proceeded to bludgeon the Revs for the rest of the match. They combined through the middle, they were relentless on set pieces, and they showed no pity when injuries to Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson robbed New England of most of their athleticism.
They struck hard, struck fast and showed no mercy in what became a 4-2 win that wasn't as close as the final score. This was the best all-around team in the league – they've arguably been so since 2014 – claiming the club's first major trophy in 19 years in emphatic fashion.
Mauro Diaz was the orchestrator and executioner. When he's at his best, Dallas are at their best, and on this night he was utterly brilliant. This is what his passing map looked like after 65 minutes, at which point he had a goal and three assists:
Diaz, however, didn't just magically control the game. Dallas executed a smart gameplan at a high level, then took advantage of New England's bad injury luck.
Here's the scene:
• The weakness of the 4-4-2 diamond, which the Revs played in this one before the injuries forced a switch to a 4-3-3, is that you can end up conceding too much room on the flanks, forcing too-rapid shifts in defensive responsibilities. Teams that attack quickly and in numbers out wide can essentially break the diamond apart.
• In order to combat that structural weakness, a diamond team needs to have fullbacks who can keep the play in front of them, and who can excel defending against combination play. Neither is Watson's strong suit, so Dallas targeted him from the off, repeatedly getting Ryan Hollingshead forward and creating danger up that side.
• In order to meet that danger, you need to either 1) dominate possession, or 2) have at least one midfielder with crazy range who can go help out your overwhelmed fullbacks. The Revs did not dominate possession, and once Koffie went out they didn't have a single midfielder with above average defensive range.
That forced the rest of the New England midfield to over-rotate, and that in turn opened up pockets of space for Diaz to set up shop and go to work.
Even with Koffie, New England were up against it. But if there was one guy they couldn't afford to be without, it was him and as soon as he was hurt, the result was academic.
• I've been lukewarm on Urruti in this space, but he was devastating tonight – as is often the case when the Dallas midfield is exercising complete control over their foes. In situations like that his off-the-ball movement is almost impossible to track, and his finishing in this game was much more than adequate.
• The Revs have been much better defensively over the past month, but they're still often far too sleepy when defending crosses. So Dallas killed them on those crosses all night, including two of those Diaz assists above.
• And finally, once Dallas had the lead they rope-a-doped New England into submission, feasting on midfield turnovers -- including on their fourth goal.
• I'd be remiss not to mention Walker Zimmerman. Whether it was battling Kei Kamara in the air or bursting into midfield to cut out pass after pass, he was simply superb. His distribution still needs work, but his development over the last few years is yet another feather in the cap of head coach Oscar Pareja and the entire Dallas organization.
So there we have it. This team deserved this crown, and they snatched it with the type of style that's made them beloved of neutrals and aesthetes around the league. In so doing they've delivered upon the promise of Pareja's youth movement, and served notice to the rest of MLS: After a 19-year wait, FC Dallas's time has finally arrived.