Last season FC Dallas came within a game of the MLS Cup relying on youngsters and locally cultivated talent. Youngsters will have times when they slip up, as they did last week in the Tejano Derby vs. Houston, a 5-0 pasting by the Dynamo. Determined not to let that happen again, coach Oscar Pareja instructed his players to play within themselves, use they had practiced, and above all, forget what happened last week in the Bayou City.
It took some doing, but FC Dallas finally broke through in the second half with a placement over power free kick by Mauro Diaz in the 80th minute. His fellow Argentine Maxi Urruti iced the game with a solid effort of his own – a screamer that found the top corner of the net 7 minutes later. The score would stay at 2-0, sending the faithful home happy after having to deal with some unseasonably chilly weather in North Texas.
The result should not have been much of a surprise, considering FC Dallas had the Lion’s share of possession. Were it not for a few spurts at the open of each half by Montreal, the dominion of the round ball would have been Dallas’ and Dallas’ alone.
There was a reason for that. After studying film, Oscar Pareja instructed his players to bracket Impact playmaker, Ignacio Piatti and limit his off the ball movement. Piatti started strong, but his influence on the game diminished rapidly, and by the middle of the second half, he had all but disappeared. With it, much of Montreal’s possession. Impact did find some fresh wind when their Ivorian superstar, Didier Drogba, made his 2016 debut. In fact it seemed that the former Chelsea icon inspired both teams to pick up the pace. FC Dallas seemed to be in a hurry to score a goal before Drogba, and Montreal wanted to make that happen.
Despite his legend status, though, the stars of the the show tonight were the FC Dallas midfielders. The holding midfielders Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa were excellent in repossessing the offense, while Fabian Castillo, Michael Barrios and Mauro Diaz all took turns with daring and darting runs into the danger area. Their speed and ball control gave Montreal fits, they just could not complete the play with the ball in the back of the net. Usually that spells trouble – a player like Piatti, and Drogba, of course, can make teams pay for their offensive shortcomings.
But nothing it was unnecessary foul just at the top of the box gave Diaz the chance to showoff his free kick skills. His shot badly fooled Montreal keeper Evan Bush, and gave the 14,502 fans the moment they had hoped would happen all night. With Montreal opeining up to try and find the answer to equalize, it was FC Dallas who put an end to things a few minutes later with Urruti getting his 2nd goal of the season.
The Atmosphere at Toyota Park is lively, but a little labored. There are drums, a small group of ultras, and the same chants we hear everywhere – but the local flavor is what stands out the most. It was good to hear the crowd sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and a trumpet player belted out the theme to the “Dallas” TV show in the 2nd half. In case I had forgotten where I was.
Dallas has a good young team and as solid a midfield as one will see in MLS. If they can somehow limit the inconsistencies that are a product of youth, they will have a part to play in determining the Western Conference champions.
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