Oscar Pareja - FC Dallas - Celebrating

FC Dallas took a slow burn approach on Thursday in their Group H finale in CONCACAF Champions League play.


But by the time the final whistle blew, they built a metaphorical blaze in Guatemala City.


Dallas beat Suchitepequez 5-2 on the night to finish the group in first place and book a ticked to the CCL quarterfinals, where they will take on Panamanian side Arabe Unido in the spring.


Given the Central American locale, the fact that Dallas have one eye on Sunday's Decision Day game against LA (4 pm ET, FS1 | MLS LIVE in Canada) with the Supporters' Shield on the line, and with a rotated lineup in Guatemala, the outcome could have been so different.


FC Dallas went down 2-0 against Suchitepequez by the middle of the first half, but instead of throwing in the towel and turning their full attention to Sunday's game, the visitors fought back, scoring five unanswered goals before the game was done.


"One more time our players showed a lot of character despite the circumstances in the first half, where we gave up a very early goal and then it was 2-0," FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. "It was a different road and the boys found a way to tie the game up before the half ended and that was important. We knew that having control of the game would give us options to score. We understood the dominance we had in the aerial game and set pieces. We had patience."


Three of FCD's regular starters who did play in Guatemala City, Carlos Gruezo, Matt Hedges and Atiba Harris, scored their team's first three goals to come back and ultimately turn the game around.


For Harris, who scored the game winner, it was far from his most skillful goal, as a parried save from Suchitepequez goalkeeper Manuel Sosa literally bounced off Harris' chest as he was making a run to the far post and went into the net.


But that mattered little to the defender.


"Right place right time," he said. "I’ve been learning from Maxi [Urruti] and Carlos [Ruiz] to just get in the box. It was a great ball by Mauro Rosales and the ‘keeper gave me an assist. I’ll take it."


For Dallas, while this week may be a busy time, the CCL win will likely be savored a bit more when the MLS season ends, as they begin to gear up for a potential run to the Champions League semifinals, and maybe even beyond, in the spring.


"It’s fantastic to put the club in the next stage of the CCL," said Pareja. "Especially at this moment, when we are fighting for the Supporters’ Shield and the difficulty with the news about Mauro Diaz last week and despite that the boys stepped up again and everyone who has waiting for their moment and opportunity, they came up big today.


"I’m very proud of the players who are not regulars in the lineup because the points and advancing tonight is due to the effort that they had."