FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas took advantage of some quality international competition to work a number of players back into match fitness, and despite a 2-0 loss on Wednesday night to the English Premier League's Aston Villa, the fact a good number of players got quality time means the team can consider the game a success.
Some had been out for injury and some just had not been able to break the lineup yet. Mauro Diaz, David Texiera, Michel, Walker Zimmerman and Danny Garcia got significant minutes after a variety of injuries. Young players Nick Walker, Ryan Hollingshead and Richard Sanchez also got significant time and good experience. On top of that, Fabian Castillo was able to play a full game to maintain match fitness while he is serving a four-game suspension that will be up after the team's game on July 27.
Overall, Dallas used 21 players on the evening, juggling playing time with an eye towards Sunday’s big match against direct playoff opponents Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada (5 pm ET, MLS Live, TSN/RDS2 in Canada).
“At the end of the day, we have a lot of answers,” said head coach Oscar Pareja said. “We played some minutes for people who are not normally in the lineup. I thought it was a great exercise.”
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Dallas had one of the better chances in the first half, and it highlighted the creativity of Dallas’ No. 10. Diaz worked the ball into the Aston Villa penalty box in the 34th minute when space opened up on his left for Andres Escobar to run into. A well-weighted ball went to the Colombian’s feet, but his shot went high.
“He had a good 45 minutes,” Pareja said of Diaz. “It took him a little while to find the ball. He started finding the rhythm and the ball started finding him. Perfect for what we were looking for him.”
Dallas got another chances when the team worked the ball into the Aston Villa penalty area and Michel was able to put a hard cross into the goal box, but Villa 'keeper Shay Given was able to corral the ball.
In the 44th minute, though, a mix-up at the back led to a Villa breakaway with Darren Bent feeding Andreas Weiman for a shot that Raul Fernandez was only able to get a hand to before it fell into the Dallas goal.
Shortly after the halftime break, another breakdown at the back led to Walker fouling Gabby Agbonlahor at the top of the Dallas penalty area. Charles N’Zogbia made no mistake on the free kick, burying the shot in the upper left corner of Sanchez’s goal.
Sanchez did account well for himself in the 90th minute. N’Zogbia got another chance in the area, got away from his defender to get off a quality shot but the young goalie grabbed the hard shot destined for the upper corner.
“From a goalkeeping standpoint, standing your ground and resetting, trusting your reactions,” Sanchez said about the late save. “I thought I reacted well.”