BY ART CANTU JR. – SPORTDFW STAFF
If you weren’t watching the FC Dallas vs Portland Timbers game then you definitely missed out. FC Dallas was ranked #1 and the Timbers stood at #6 in the MLS rankings. Boy, oh, boy was this a game to watch! Both teams slowly dissected each other and each time came to a stalemate. With Caleb Porter’s “You can’t Stop Us” attitude and the Timbers’ Talent, he was ALMOST right. He forgot one thing though, FC Dallas hasn’t been scored on in the first half in 9games and are unbeaten when playing at home. Everyone, especially the players, knew this was a “true” test to see if these teams meant business. This was a “true” test to see if they are truly playoff contenders. When Referee Juan Guzman whistled for the game to be over, everyone knew these two teams were the real deal.
Possession favored Portland 51-49 and most of the time statistics can be misleading on how a match was actually played. Imagine watching a chess match where the opponents try different strategies to beat one another.
This match was just that, a game of pure tactics. There weren’t many good counter attacking opportunities because both teams kept a very high defensive line the entire game. The communication between FC Dallas Goalkeeper, Raul Fernandez, and his backline was phenomenal. This was the best communication by far this season, and with a Rookie Center Back in London Woodberry. Fernandez made some very key saves in the first half by shutting down Portland Midfielder, Diego Valeri (Argentina’s 3rd pick behind Lionel Messi). If Fernandez continues to play at this high level he will definitely be in the runnings for Goalkeeper of the Year.
Both teams had equal opportunities to get on the board but just missed that final touch. The 1st half came to an end and the dissatisfaction and relief was clearly seen on every players face as they walked into the locker room.
As if no one was satisfied with how things were going. All the players made their way off the field except one, Portland Forward Ryan Johnson. Johnson stayed on the field dribbling and juggling up and down the field, but wasn’t much of a threat in this game because he was a late substitution.
The only surprise in both teams starting line-ups had been Ryan Johnson not starting. With George John and Andrew Jacobson out with injuries and Jackson serving a one game suspension due to a red card, it seemed as if FC Dallas had their hands full. Rookie London Woodberry picked up his first start of the season and played a very smart game. London composed hi mself very well on and off the ball with only a few minor mistakes. Is it possible that Matt Hedges and Woodberry could be FC Dallas’ future center backs duo? Fabian Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson also made the startingline-up in which was kind of a given due to the missing players.
￼￼There were no new tricks or tactics when it came to the play of Castillo except for the littl e fact that he was feeding the ball beautifully to the forwards. Castillo used his speed to fly by his opponents and cause a headache for Portland’s Jean-Baptiste and Michael Harrington. Only one thing though, everyone in the MLS knows how Castillo plays, too predictable and easy to anticipate. Castillo had a few good chances on goal and a cross or two to Blas Perez and Kenny Coop er. Other than that, Portland’s Jean-Baptiste and Harrington played so physical with him that they eventually shut him down. Castillo was to the point where he was just too worn out and eventually wasn’t tracking back on defense. By the 70th minute Fabian was hurting the team more than helping.
Coach Hyndman has always spoken very well about Je-Vaughn Watson but no one has seen “that” player he claims Watson to be. Well folks, if you saw last night’s game you saw “that” player finally. Watson played with beautiful creativity and tact. He broke up plays and worked very well with Hedges and Woodberry. Watson was acquired from Houston in the preseason and has definitely proved his worth to this club after his wonderful and dazzling performance. We didn ’t see the great teamwork between him and Michel but both had solid performances to hold the midfield together. Michel finished the night on the 71st minute and was replaced by Bobby Warshaw. Warshaw held down the fort in the by controlling the midfield and being the filter to the outside midfielders. We will definitely be seeing more of Warshaw; he’s one of the most aggressive players on the roster.
Finally, in the 71st minute one team opened up the scoring. Good ball movement through the midfield by Portland’s Diego Valeri and a beautiful crossing run by Timbers’ substitute Rodney Wallace. The crossing run by Wallace was so quick and controlled that FC Dallas’ Watson just couldn’t keep up. As soon as Wallace knew he had a step on Watson he hit an off balanced cross to the far post where Darlington Nagbe hit a one time volley past a helpless Fernandez. As the Timbers celebrated, FC Dallas had the ball at center field and was ready to get that goal back. The game changed dramatically as if a fire was lit in the FC Dallas players; particularly in Kenny Cooper, Blas Perez, an d 53rd minute substitute Eric Hassli. Hyndman chose to go to what seemed to be a 4-3-3 to apply more pressure in the attacking third.
It proved to be a great move because FC Dallas started to win possession before the Timbers could get any good ball movement going. The biggest difference maker out of the two substitutions for FCD was Forward Eric Hassli. Hassli hadn’t seen much game time due to not being “match fit” yet.
After an interview by MLSsoccer.com was released earlier this week, Hyndman had said he felt Eric Hassli was becoming very close to being match fit again. The Portland Timbers hammered away at FC Dallas’ attacking midfielder, David Ferreira and ended up taking him out of the game. Hassli was subbed on for Ferreira after he could no longer play due to what looked like a knee minor knee injury. Up until the injury to Ferreira, he had been giving Portland a handful of trouble. You even saw David push forward a
No Jacobson, No John, No Jackson? No Problem for FC Dallas
￼￼bit more than usual as he took defenders one on one. David, once again, was the driving force of the attack, feeding Perez and Cooper.
With the likes of Hassli and Warshaw thrown into the mix it could only put a positive spin on the game. It also put 5 out of 11 players on the field that are normally substitutes for FCD. Being the best team “on paper” has now translated into being the best team in MLS. It’s no longer a myth or a rumor, FC Dallas has proved their worth in MLS and will make a huge impact if they continue to beat teams like Houston, LA, and Real Salt Lake.
With strong performances from the team as a whole, it was only a matter of time before FC Dallas scored to tie the game. Only 6 minutes had passed since Portland went up 1-0 when Perez was taken down in the box as he was running onto the ball. The game had rough tackles all night and a penalty kick was bound to happen for either team. Dallas’ very own Kenny Cooper was set to take the PK at the 77th minute and just beat an out stretched Portland Goalkeeper, Donovan Ricketts. Cooper celebrated with the fans sitting in the Beer Garden, also home to the Dallas Beer Guardians. The PK is Coopers second goal of the season even though he could quite possibly be at 4 goals. This is due to a bad offside call and a goal that was determined an own goal.
The rest of the game was mostly FC Dallas taking hold and attacking from all angles. Portland did a superb job on denying FCD any good opportunities on goal. As the match ended, not one player looked satisfied with the tie. It was the same look the players had at halftime, the look of frustration.
Keep an eye out for both teams because they’ve got their eyes not on a playoff run but at winning an MLS Cup! FC Dallas plays DC United at home May 11th at 7:30pm.
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