“Amargura. Pura amargura.”
Oscar Pareja’s postgame press conference at Estadio Hidalgo ran some nine minutes in length, but his opening words aptly summed up the evening for his FC Dallas side.
The Spanish phrase translates as “bitterness, pure bitterness” – Pareja’s reaction to the agonizing circumstances of his team’s 3-1 loss to CF Pachuca, which sees the Liga MX club advance to the CONCACAF Champions League final by a 4-3 aggregate score over the two-legged semifinal series.
Big games are often decided by tiny margins at pivotal moments, and so it was for FCD on Tuesday. After missing several clear scoring chances in the first half, Dallas conceded the initiative down the stretch and appeared to be on death’s door when Hirving “Chucky” Lozano cracked home Pachuca’s second goal of the night with 10 minutes left in regulation, putting them up 2-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.
But the visitors clawed their way back, Cristian Colman nodding in the critical goal that leveled the series at 3-3 in total goals and pointed the night towards a 30-minute extra time period.
“Pachuca and FC Dallas had the same mindset, a rematch game with options on both sides,” Pareja later said. “We came today to try to be the protagonists in a difficult stadium against a good opponent. We approached with the intention, as always, to find a goal and look for a victory. But for many parts of the game, the team succumbed to Pachuca.
“I thought the game plan was very well executed,” he added. “FC Dallas players had a terrific plan. I'm very proud of this group, that they came today and played in Pachuca with one of the best teams in Mexico.”
As the game clock approached the full 90 minutes, FCD striker Maxi Urruti dropped to the turf, unable to continue due to an apparent groin injury.
Pareja contacted the fourth official to arrange a substitution. But the man in the middle, Honduran referee Melvin Matamoros, let play continue as Pareja fumed. Lozano took full advantage of the situation, beating FCD goalkeeper Chris Seitz with a treacherously-dipping cross/shot in the second minute of injury time to send his Tuzos on to the final.
“After the 90 minutes played and after playing a game like tonight, we had an unfortunate moment where we’re asking for a change for a minute and 15 seconds and we weren’t authorized to do so. I have to think for the team and say that play is equal to an error,” said Pareja.
“The communication with the referee was done. We were just waiting to get the authorization, because the player was in the middle of the field waiting for the moment. We cannot send the player in without being authorized. So that was my frustration at the end of the game. But I have to respect that it is a game managed by the referees, because they are the authority of the game and we have to accept that.”