RSL fall short in Pizza Hut Park
Real Salt Lake all but saw their postseason dreams finally put to an end, as FC Dallas claimed a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002 with a 2-1 victory under a broiling Texas sun Sunday afternoon at Pizza Hut Park.
Roberto Mina scored twice for the Hoops, in the 17th and 52nd minutes, before local Dallas product Jamie Watson provided a sweet homecoming when he pulled a goal back in heading home Real's only marker in the 54th minute.
Real Salt Lake had very limited chances as John Ellinger sent out his team in a 4-5-1 with Melvin Tarley filling the lone striker's role.
FC Dallas boss Colin Clarke put out his team in its usual scheme, though Mina got the start as the target forward for the Hoops after a hamstring injury to Carlos Ruiz in Saturday's training session. Mina caused major headaches for Real center backs Brian Dunseth and Eddie Pope throughout the match.
The first promising chance for the Ecuadorian came in the 12th minute as a Ramon Nunez shot was deflected by RSL 'keeper D.J. Countess, but Mina was in an offside position as he tried to jump on the rebound.
A patchwork Hoops side, who were also missing Simo Valakari in the center of midfield, kept the pressure on and took the lead shortly thereafter.
Arturo Alvarez collected the ball on the right flank, drew three Real defenders to him and then looped the ball to Mina in the area. He spun away from his defender and hammered a nearly impossible shot from a tough angle that rattled off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal to give FCD an early lead.
RSL were stifled for much of the first half, not getting an actual shot at goal until the 38th minute of the half. The busiest man of the half for Real was Countess, who was forced into several diving saves.
But Real midfielder Robert Scarlett nearly tied the score in the 43rd minute as he won a loose ball from Bobby Rhine on the flank and stepped forward to hammer a powerful right-footed shot, only for it to come back off the right goalpost.
FC Dallas doubled their lead shortly after the start of the second half. Nunez sliced through the Real defense on the right before playing to an overlapping Rhine, who fended off a challenge. He then sent a square pass to a wide-open Mina standing in the six-yard box, and he side-footed home with the easiest of finishes in the 52nd minute to give the Hoops a two-goal cushion.
Real wasted no time in fighting back as halftime substitute Watson was the recipient of a Tarley header from a corner in the 54th minute. Tarley sent the restart goalward and Watson -- with his back to the goal -- made a crafty flick-on header over FCD 'keeper Scott Garlick to give Real a glimmer of hope for a result.
Following the goal Real went with a more attacking lineup, as Chris Brown came on for Brian Dunseth, but to no avail. FCD allowed the visitors little possession while creating some danger of their own, especially Mina who nearly connected on a bicycle kick in the 77th minute and had a role in several other dangerous chances.
The Hoops held on for the victory which put as end to their 10-game league winless streak. For Real Salt Lake, they are now 12 points behind fourth-place Colorado with six games (and a possible 18 points) still left. The two teams face each other this Wednesday in Denver for the first of three meetings over the final weeks of the season.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Roberto Mina (FC Dallas)
Scott Joiner is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.