PANAMA CITY, Panama – It's tough to pinpoint the one particular moment when FC Dallas lost control of their CONCACAF Champions League game Wednesday night against Tauro FC.
Both Jair Benítez and Fabián Castillo were shown straight red cards in the second half of a game where referee Marco Rodríguez handed out eight cards, and the FC Dallas defense conceded five goals for the first time since May 2008.
FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman described the game as “very bizarre” in his postgame press conference and pointed to a particular series of plays in the game’s opening minutes where he sensed uneasiness.
“I think when we were attacking on corner kicks and getting called for fouls,” Hyndman said of the shift in momentum during the match. “There were a lot of things that we didn’t understand, [like] Ruben [Luna] getting his first yellow, and we were trying to get an answer to what was it about so we could at least tell him to stop doing it.”
FC Dallas ended the game with nine men and the forthcoming one-game suspensions to Benítez and Castillo will weaken the left side of FC Dallas’ formation in the all-important final match of group play against Toronto FC.
Hyndman did, however, praise his players for sticking it out on a dark night at Estadio Rommel Fernández.
“Give our guys a lot of credit for having nine players on the field,” he said. “I wish we wouldn’t have got the two red cards because not only did [the cards] suck in this game, but also they’re going to suck in the next game without two players. “
Luna shines in start
The lone bright spot on the muggy Panamanian evening, meanwhile, was the play of Luna.
The 19-year-old Home Grown player – who leads the Reserve League team with four goals – started and scored his first two goals of the international club tournament, shooting home a ball to the far post in the 85th minute before striking a penalty kick past Tauro goalkeeper Álvaro Anzola in stoppage time.
Luna also drew the first FC Dallas goal – a successful penalty conversion taken by Benítez – when he fought for a ball in Tauro’s 18-yard-box.
“I tried to keep it simple – just score – and I'm glad I was able to,” Luna told FCDallas.com. “It was a great experience for me personally, but obviously a tough result. I've never been in a situation like that, so I was happy with the coaching staff that gave me the opportunity.”
After watching his team struggle through September with three consecutive shutout losses, midfielder Bruno Guarda finally made his return from an ankle injury suffered on Sept. 4 against Tigres UANL in the second leg of the Rio Grande Plate.
Guarda played the entire second half on Wednesday night, coming on for Maykel Galindo.
“It was too bad that [his injury] happened in a friendly game,” Guarda said after the Tauro match, “but I’m back healthy and going to help the team any way I can. It’s been too long away from my teammates, but I’m back and ready to help.”
The injury came at an unfortunate time for Guarda, who had started four of the five previous league games leading up to his injury and had provided Hyndman with necessary depth in the midfield.
“It was a little frustrating, but that’s not going to stop me from wanting to play and wanting to show my coaching staff what I can do,” Guarda said.
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com.