CARSON, Calif. – FC Dallas chalked up another road victory Wednesday night, charging into Los Angeles to snare their second 3-2 triumph of the season over the struggling-but-talented LA Galaxy, and it's starting to look a little bit like 2015 or 2016. Or the early months last year.
Dallas (6-1-5), the last Major League Soccer side with just one defeat this year, are level with Sporting Kansas City on points per game atop the Western Conference table, two points back with a game in hand after pulling out tight wins in two of the league's tougher venues.
Jesse Gonzalez was the hero against Toronto FC on Friday night, making nine stops – and snuffing Sebastian Giovinco's early penalty kick – as Dallas rode a Maximiliano Urruti goal and held on through seven tough minutes of stoppage for a 1-0 victory. Wednesday's win had its share of highs and lows, as Dallas showed off a sizzling attack en route to a three-goal lead, then grinded through a tough final 18 minutes, including eight and a half minutes of stoppage, to claim three more points.
“It has been a great week for us, indeed …,” Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja told media outside his team's locker room on Wednesday. “The tactical discipline of the players has been remarkable. I think we are finding different ways to face different teams. We're changing the models, we are having different strategies, we're [effectively rotating] the players. Making everybody to get more integrated into what we want.
“And that refreshes and that just reinvents us as well, just gives us different ways to win. But, just to give you a good sentence, I think the tactical discipline of the players is unbelievable.”
FCD became the fourth MLS club with 100 road wins and did so with a lineup featuring a few guys that haven't been seen a whole lot – Gonzalez, Cristian Colman and Ryan Hollingshead foremost among them – but made big impressions.
Hollingshead, who had played just 67 minutes across five league games this year, scored the first goal, fed Colman's strike just before halftime to make it 2-0, then saved a Perry Kitchen shot off the goal line just a few minutes before Carlos Gruezo's first MLS goal boosted the advantage to 3-0. Gonzalez made several superb saves before Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck in the 69th minute and again, with Dallas down to 10 men, in the 97th. Colman caused LA's weary defense havoc all night, or until he was red-carded, in the 80th minute.
“The players showed [impressively] for 80 minutes,” Pareja said. “And I'm going to say 80 minutes, because I don't think the image of this game has to be the last 10 minutes, or the [additional] time that they aggregated. I hope that the people don't get that image. Our team for 80 minutes did an excellent job; the tactical part was really good. They scored three goals against a great side. Los Angeles is a very strong team.
“Unfortunately, I think [the game changed] with the red card, which we cannot understand what happened there still. We just saw the review, and, seriously, it just put us in a bad spot, and then LA just throws bodies at the box, and then the game just becomes long ball and defending. And they have size there, they have players who are 6-foot-4, 6-5, and we [don't have such] size. So it was just difficult. But we held the result and we walk out with three deserving points.”
“We have been cruising in the last month [after] the league has started with not too much belief [in us by others],” said Pareja, who guided Dallas to Western Conference titles in 2015 and 2016, the Supporters' Shield-U.S. Open Cup double in '16, and had his team atop or second in the West into August last year before a late fade kept them out of the playoffs.
“I'd rather just let these guys grind and work and earn the stuff, but comparing them with any team today or putting us in any ranking [makes no sense]. It's just a long journey, and what we're going to do is keep working. I believe in saying that we have to get better in every [manner].”
Pareja is particularly happy with his team's growing maturity.
“You don't have a shortcut for matureness,” he said. “Matureness is experiences, is failures, success, moments like this. Moments like we have had in the last three games, where we have to grind in the last eight minutes. ... This will make us more mature -- that I'll say. That matureness, there is not a shortcut for that. We will learn.
“Today there were many positive things that I saw in the team. In the 80 minutes, I see a team with personality, managing the tempo, keeping possession of the ball much more, getting more players involved, being effective in the box. Many things happened today that just make us very optimistic.”