FC Dallas nearly got their 2008 season off to a good start before Chivas USA came back for a late equalizer, the two teams eventually settling for a 1-1 draw Sunday afternoon at Pizza Hut Park in a battle of the last two regular season champions of the Western Conference to kick off the MLS season.
Juan Toja gave FCD the lead in the 21st minute, but substitute Maykel Galindo answered in the 84th minute to give Chivas a share of the points.
With Drew Moor and Arturo Alvarez suspended for the match, FCD head coach Steve Morrow called upon Aaron Pitchkolan to play on the right of the FCD back three and Abe Thompson to line up alongside Kenny Cooper at forward. In addition, Morrow went with Marcelo Saragosa in the midfield in favor of Pablo Ricchetti, while U.S. under-23 international Dax McCarty also started on the bench.
Thompson was especially active for the home side on the opening half. In the seventh minute, he received a great ball inside the opposing box but shot was right at Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Three minutes later, Thompson benefited from a great feed from Toja, but once again Guzan was there for the denial.
Chivas USA started the match without several key players. Galindo was recovering from sports hernia surgery in January and didn't start, as Atiba Harris was selected to partner Ante Razov in attack. Another big absence for the Red-and-White was defender Claudio Suarez, who left for Mexico City on Friday after a death in the family.
Early on, Harris was a factor in the Chivas attack. In the 13th minute, after a great pass from Francisco Mendoza to Harris at the far post, Harris just missed giving his side an early lead as his effort went wide right.
Then in the 20th minute, he got a great pass from Ante Razov but FCD 'keeper Dario Sala was up to the challenge and made a great save at close range on his shot. The rebound fell to Sacha Kljestan but his effort went wide.
Barely a minute later, a stellar individual effort from Thompson led to FCD's opener. The Hoops forward received a ball from Bobby Rhine inside the penalty area, and with Jim Curtin and Jesse Marsch closing in, laid the ball off to Toja. The Colombian then converted from about eight yards out with a left-footed blast into the far side of the net.
At the break, both sides had four shots apiece but three of FCD's attempts were on frame compared to just one for Chivas USA.
Neither team made any changes to begin the second half. The first good chance after the break came in the 49th minute when Chivas USA's Jesse Marsch got a nice look from the right side of the Hoops goal thanks to a giveaway by FCD left wingback Blake Wagner. Marsch's shot was right at Sala and he made the textbook stop.
In the 51st minute, Chivas midfielder Paulo Nagamura found Razov dashing toward the FCD goal but his rising shot was saved by Sala and knocked over the crossbar. Then a minute later Jonathan Bornstein found Kljestan open inside the FCD 18-yard box but his effort was saved by Sala.
Cooper signaled FCD was coming back into the match in the 55th minute when he made a couple of great moves to the right of the Chivas USA goal to find some space from about 20 yards out. But his shot was saved by Guzan.
However, in the 56th minute, Chivas USA's hard work in the attacking third nearly paid off. Kljestan again found considerable room to operate inside the FCD box on the right side. He attempted to beat Sala far post but his shot hit the left side of the frame and bounced free, and none of his teammates were nearby to put in the carom.
FCD nearly made it 2-0 in the 72nd minute off a Rocha free kick. The Brazilian midfielder took the kick about 20 yards from the opposing goal and sent a booming ball toward the far post, where Hoops defender Adrian Serioux was waiting. Serioux got his head squarely on the ball but his effort bounced up off the turf and wide to the left of the goal.
Chivas USA took advantage of the miss when their pressure finally led to the equalizer six minutes before the end. A long ball from midfielder by substitute Raphael Wicky was misplayed by center back Duilio Davino in front of the FCD penalty area. The former Mexican international, making his MLS debut, tried to trap the long ball but instead saw it get away. Galindo latched onto it and took a shot from inside the restraining arc that went between Sala's legs for the equalizer.
In the 90th minute, Kljestan nearly made the highlight reel with a stunning go-ahead goal. He sent a great corner in from the near flag that found Justin Braun, who made his MLS debut when he came on as a 73rd-minute substitute, to the right of the Chivas USA goal. But his header went wide right, missing the net by mere inches.
Yet FCD wasn't done either. Two minutes into stoppage time, Dominic Oduro dashed up the right flank and after making several great cuts, spotted Rocha just inside the middle of the 18. But Rocha's shot went wide right and with it the final chance for either team to take the three points.
In the second half, Chivas USA outshot FCD by an 18-4 margin to finish the game with 22 shots to the Hoops' eight. Eight of the Red and White's shots were on frame compared to only four by FCD, three of which came in the second half.
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.