Despite goals from Jeff Cunningham, Kenny Cooper and Aaron Pitchkolan, FC Dallas was edged 4-3 by Clube Atletico Paranaense in the first leg of the 2009 USA-Brazil Challenge played Wednesday night at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil.
FC Dallas wasted little time to put the home side on its heels, narrowly missing a scoring opportunity 30 seconds into the match. Dave van den Bergh lofted a ball over the Atletico Paranaense defense to Cunningham, who had found space alone at the arc. The 32-year-old forward used one touch to bring the ball to his feet and struck a right-footed shot that went just inches wide of the right post.
Atletico Paranaense countered with a close opportunity of its own five minutes later. Forward Wallyson ran onto a through ball with FCD defender Daniel Torres pressuring him on his side. As goalkeeper Dario Sala came off his line, Wallyson lunged to get his toe on the ball from the top of the area, but Sala was there to scoop up the ball at the penalty spot.
Wallyson again stretched the field in the 15th minute, running up the right flank in an effort to collect a through ball played by Douglas Maia. Sala was forced to come off his line for a second time, and as he dove to the ground at the edge of the penalty box, the goalkeeper managed to knock the ball out of touch off of Wallyson's foot with his left hand.
After several minutes of conceding possession to Atletico Paranaense that included three Dallas yellow cards in a span of two minutes, Jeff Cunningham put Dallas on the board in the 29th. It was Blake Wagner and van den Bergh who started the play with a quick combination up the left side of the field. Wagner then sent a ball toward the right corner flag for Eric Avila, who did well to keep the ball from passing over the line for a throw-in. As a defender closed in on the FCD midfielder, Avila flicked the ball over the CAP player's foot and played a low ball to Jeff Cunningham inside the box, who one-timed it into the net from 12 yards out.
The home took side struck back to tie the game up 10 minutes later. CAP midfielder Michel surprised the Dallas defense by receiving a short corner kick and whipping a cross to forward Kamali, whose header hit underneath the cross bar and bounced just over the goal line, to send the two teams into the locker room tied 1-1 at the break.
Dallas made two changes at halftime, inserting former Atletico Paranaense player Andre Rocha on the right side of the midfield for Avila, and Costa Rican trialist Alvaro Sanchez up top for Cunningham.
Atletico Paranaense, who made no halftime substitutions, took the lead for the first time 10 minutes into the second half. With the ball near the right touchline, midfielder Jhonatan played what was intended to be a cross into the box. The ball traveled untouched through the crowded area and past an outstretched Sala to make it 2-1.
Dallas evened the score five minutes later. As van den Bergh dribbled up the left flank, Torres made an overlapping run past the Dutch midfielder. After receiving the ball near the endline, Torres dropped it back to van den Bergh, who sent the ball into the area for Cooper, who took advantage of his size by jumping over a CAP defender and heading it home.
But less than a minute later, Atletico Paranaense again took the lead. Gabriel received the ball near the left corner and sent a low cross to Douglas Maia, who was alone inside the penalty area for a first-time finish.
Atletico Parananse would extend the lead in the 73rd minute on a penalty kick by Michel. As Wallyson was working hard to get on the receiving end of a cross from Gabriel, Andre Rocha made contact with the forward, knocking him to the ground and thus setting up the spot kick.
With nine minutes to play, FCD was able to pull within one goal. Andre Rocha sent a free kick from the right side of the field to Drew Moor at the back post. Moor's header traveled across the box to Jamie Watson, who managed to get a toe on the ball and flick it into space. Second-half substitute defender Pitchkolan latched onto the loose ball and one-timed it past the Atletico 'keeper to make it 4-3.
Although FC Dallas was unable to strike again, the third goal could prove valuable, as the USA-Brazil Challenge friendly series is decided on aggregate goals scored. The second leg of the third annual series will be played at Pizza Hut Park on March 14 (7:30 p.m. CT). Dallas, now 3-3-2 in preseason action, will next face the Clube Atletico Paranaense U-20 team on Friday, March 6 at the CAP training center in Curitiba before catching a flight back to Dallas that evening.
Midfielder David Ferreira, who was recently acquired by Dallas on loan from Atletico Paranaense, was not available for Wednesday night's game due to a mutual agreement between both clubs.
FCD - Jeff Cunningham (Eric Avila) 29
CAP - Kamali (Michel) 39
CAP - Jhonatan (unassisted) 55
FCD - Kenny Cooper (Dave van den Bergh, Daniel Torres) 60
CAP - Douglas Maia (Gabriel) 61
CAP - Michel (penalty kick) 73
FCD - Aaron Pitchkolan (unassisted) 81
FCD (4-4-2): Dario Sala (GK), Blake Wagner (Aaron Pitchkolan 55), Daniel Torres, Steve Purdy (Michael Dello-Russo 83), Drew Moor, Dave van den Bergh (Bruno Guarda 75), Pablo Ricchetti, Dax McCarty, Eric Avila (Andre Rocha 46), Jeff Cunningham (Alvaro Sanchez* 46), Kenny Cooper (Jamie Watson* 80).
FCD - Daniel Torres 22 (caution)
FCD - Dave van den Bergh 22 (caution)
FCD - Dario Sala 24 (caution)
FCD - Andre Rocha 48 (caution)
FCD - Pablo Ricchetti 55 (caution)
FCD - Bruno Guarda 89 (caution)