It took more than 70 minutes scoreless minutes at Toyota Park on Saturday -- following the 90 these teams logged in a 0-0 draw on March 11 in Kansas City -- but FCD broke through.
The 1-0 home victory at Toyota Stadium leaves Dallas as MLS' lone unbeaten, with a 4-0-2 record and 14 total points.
“It was one of our most complete games,” said midfielder Kellyn Acosta. “We could have capitalized a little more in front of goal, but defensively we were real sound. Carlos [Gruezo] and I did a good job getting the ball back, and I think our possession was a lot higher.”
Though only one goal came off FC Dallas’ 11 shots, the first goal scored by an FC Dallas defender this season came at the perfect time.
Maynor Figueroa – known for being aggressive in the attacking third for FCD – came crashing into the box in the 77th minute, caught USMNT staple Graham Zusi flatfooted, and found himself on the receiving end of a Michael Barrios cross to head in the game’s only goal.
Barrios is usually a starter for FC Dallas, but he came off the bench in the 73rd minute 776437481" tabindex="0">tonight – his second sub appearance of the season. Pareja said he just wanted to “refresh” the flank by sitting Barrios, adding more volume on the wing rather than have the vertical threat Barrios presents.
It was a decision that proved successful when Barrios used his fresh legs to set up the game-winner.
“Mikey coming from the bench is lethal,” Pareja said after the match. “He comes from the bench with speed when he’s fresh, and he can change the game.”
Pareja downplayed the narrative of MLS’ two last remaining unbeatens squaring off before the match, but now with FC Dallas as the lone club with a goose egg in the loss column, it’s clear his team will now have the biggest target on its back.
But Pareja said his team doesn’t focus on the outside chatter – even if the target does continue to grow.
“I don’t recall a moment when the next game is not as important or more important than the one that just passed,” Pareja said. “It’s the willingness of the group to not just keep adding points, but to keep adding hierarchy to the league.
“Being respected in the league is not easy,” Pareja added. “We know that we have to be adding all of those elements so people can see FC Dallas is not just a team that who can add points again, but can win games.”
Though beating Sporting Kansas City may be the club’s best achievement so far this young season – at least in terms of league play – Portland may have something to say about FC Dallas feeling the target is on their back.
The Timbers, who are atop all of MLS with 16 points – two more than Dallas – come to Frisco 776437482" tabindex="0">next Saturday.
“Next game, surely people will be thinking we have not been beat yet, but we don’t put those facts into our head,” Pareja said. “We just keep moving forward. This game tomorrow will be in the past. We’ll take the best out of it, correct certain stuff, but Portland is in our minds already.”