With DC United’s 1-0 victory over FC Dallas on Sunday, the ATX Pro Challenge concluded as a successful first year venture. Apart from the great crowds at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas and the awesome gun-toting armadillo trophy, all four teams that took part in the tournament can return home safe in the knowledge that they were able to gain much from the weekend.
For the champion, DC United, it was a well-needed tune-up for their crucial CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal versus Costa Rican side Alajuelense on February 26th. Of the four teams, DC United needed to be the sharpest, and that proved to be the case in their two victories. While DC United head coach Ben Olsen would prefer more time to prepare for Alajuelense, he’ll be pleased with what he saw from his squad prior to traveling to Central America.
FC Dallas boasts a young and talented team, which was on display in Friday night’s 3-1 win over Columbus. Boasting the likes of Fabian Castillo and Mauro Díaz in attack, FC Dallas will be a team neutrals will want to check out, with a stylish brand of football that is sure to draw viewers.
Columbus Crew SC rebounded nicely from their 3-1 defeat to FC Dallas to collect a late 1-0 win over hosts Austin Aztex on Sunday. Following the match Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter was effusive in his praise for the tournament setup as a whole, and lauded the Aztex’s defensive effort, particularly in the first half. Based on the evidence of Sunday’s match alone, Argentine right back and former Boca Juniors man Hernán Grana may well be one of the best signings in MLS in 2015. His ability to whip a ball into the area will allow the likes of striker Kei Kamara to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. This will of course be aided by the creative playmaking of Grana’s countryman, Federico Higuaín, who oozes class on the pitch.
Lastly, and certainly not least, the Aztex showed they could hang with two playoff MLS teams for 90 minutes. While they failed to score a goal, Aztex head coach Paul Dalglish can take solace in the fact that his team did not waver from their approach in playing a possession-based game, and there are certainly pieces there to work from this season in USL-Pro.