Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta partnership pays off in FC Dallas' counter

Carlos Gruezo - FC Dallas - Defending Roger Espinoza - Sporting KC

FRISCO, Texas—Kellyn Acosta has been picking up the offensive slack in the midfield for FC Dallas this season, leading the club with four goals across all competitions as playmaker Mauro Diaz continues to recover from his Achilles' injury.

It's Acosta's teamwork with defensive midfielder Carlos Gruezo in the middle of the pitch, though, that make MLS' last unbeaten team so dangerous in turning possession changes into goalscoring chances. They're content to let other teams possess the ball, then pounce and get down the pitch in a hurry when they get it back.

“That's what they do. They'll let you have the ball a little bit, then when they pick you off, they've got guys that are ready to go,” said Sporting Kansas City defender Ike Opara, after his previously-unbeaten team fell 1-0 on Saturday night -- in a match where Sporting controlled 61.1 percent of the possession. “That's what they live off of is that counterattack.”

That job entails solid defensive work as well, as FC Dallas showed on Saturday when they yielded just one shot on goal.

“Defensively, we were real sound. Carlos and I did a great job of getting the ball back,” Acosta said. “I think as a team we left the field knowing it was a game we controlled the whole time.”

Manager Oscar Pareja echoed the sentiment, saying Gruezo was "special" against SKC.

“Normally, he logs a lot of miles during the game," Pareja said. "If you track the amount of balls that he gives back to us, it’s amazing.”

Still, Pareja said, there's more that Gruezo can do to add a fuller offensive dimension to his game.

“The next step is, what can we do with the ball when he has it at his feet?” Pareja said. “If he can improve his distribution, then collectively we are going to be much better.

“That’s hard work for him because he put so much effort into winning the ball back and now he needs to glue people together in the middle,” he added. “It’s tough, but he did it today. That’s why FC Dallas had such a great game.”