Real Esteli made them sweat for it on a sweltering evening in Frisco. But thanks to a late blast by Maynor Figueroa, FC Dallas pulled out a victory in the opening match of their 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League campaign on Thursday night.
FCD dominated possession throughout the first half as Esteli sat deep and soaked up pressure at Toyota Stadium. But the Nicaraguan champions grew into the game as their hosts spurned myriad scoring chances, only for Michael Barrios to pop up at the far post moments before halftime and bundle home a low cross from the left by Ryan Hollingshead.
The story changed swiftly after the break, however, as Esteli caught Dallas napping after the restart and snatched a goal against the run of play.
Striker Juan Berdun broke in behind Walker Zimmerman in pursuit of a long ball from Franklin Lopez, Zimmerman badly mistiming his lunging attempt to cut out the danger. With ample time to set himself, Verdun smashed a cracking angled finish over goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez's shoulder and off the far crossbar from a sharp angle.
Esteli craftily tried to kill off the game and salt away a road draw, frustrating FCD to no end. But Figueroa rescued his team six minutes from full time when he ranged forward and curled a lovely first-time strike into the top corner after an inviting layoff from Maxi Urruti.
- 44' – DAL – Michael Barrios (Ryan Hollingshead)
- 48' – RES – Juan Berdun (Franklin Lopez)
- 84' – DAL – Maynor Figueroa (Maximiliano Urruti)
- Full box score
1. DISASTER, AVERTED: With only four games per team in the CCL group stage, slips and errors are magnified, especially when you're playing at home. So it's safe to say that FCD, much like Portland the night before, dodged a huge bullet by pulling out the victory in this one. The Texans travel to Guatemala to play CD Suchitepéquez in their final group game on Oct. 20, the final week of the MLS regular season, and would much rather not go there needing a positive result.
2. MAYNOR COMES GOOD: It's been an indifferent season thus far for Figueroa, but the Honduran veteran made a major contribution to FCD's CCL hopes with his gorgeous late goal in this one. Not only was the timing clutch, but the strike itself was clinical and unstoppable – not bad for a defender.
3. REAL DEAL: With solid tactical discipline, good goalkeeping from Justo Lorente and dangerous, well-timed forays out on the break, Esteli could argue that they deserved more from their performance. They gave Gonzalez several scares, most notably when Gregorio Torres clanged the woodwork with a blast from range on the half-hour mark. They may yet ambush Dallas when the two teams meet again in Nicaragua on Aug. 24.
- DAL: Wednesday, Aug. 10 at LA Galaxy - US Open Cup semifinal (10:10 pm ET, ESPN2)