FC Dallas assured they will take part in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, getting a pair of goals from Roberto Mina to defeat Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Pizza Hut Park.
FC Dallas won their first-ever MLS game at their new home and put an end to a 10-game league winless run, two short of the league record.
Mina was given the start in place of Carlos Ruiz, who suffered a late injury, and responded with a goal in each half, his fourth and fifth of the season, as the home side dominated. Local product Jamie Watson pulled a goal back for Real just two minutes after FCD took their two-goal lead, but the Hoops held on to clinch their postseason spot.
Ruiz suffered a hamstring injury Saturday, and Mina was put into the central striker role in his place. Honduras international Ramon Nunez continued his solid form wide on the left and created chances throughout the match, forcing D.J. Countess to dive right to make a save in the 12th minute.
Two minutes later Nunez yet again made his presence felt with a nifty backheel to spring David Wagenfuhr running in the clear up the left flank toward goal, only to see the RSL defense close down the space.
Mina combined with the winger on the other flank to put the Hoops ahead after 17 minutes. Arturo Alvarez collected a pass on the right and brought three defenders to him before looping the ball to Mina in the penalty area.
The Ecuadorian quickly turned and drove a shot from a poor angle over Countess off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net to put the Hoops ahead.
FCD dominated the early stages of the match, with Alvarez and Nunez providing dangerous service from the flank. It took Real until the 38th minute of the half to get their first attempt at goal, which Scott Garlick scooped up.
Recent acquisition Mark Wilson created another chance for FC Dallas four minutes later, forcing Countess to shuffle left to save and then dive to parry the rebound away from the sliding Mina and keep the margin within reach.
Real nearly caught FCD napping in the 44th minute as Robert Scarlett blistered a left-footed shot that peeled the paint off the far post, but the home side went into the break still in charge.
Alvarez started the second half as he ended the first, slicing through the Real defense and taking a rare right-footed effort that sailed just high of the goal in the opening minutes.
It was only a matter of time before FCD doubled their lead, and in the 52nd minute they finally hit home. Nunez put on a dribbling clinic on the right before springing Rhine free. He fought off a shoulder challenge before sliding a simple pass to find Mina all alone in the center of the goal area and he tapped in his second goal of the match.
But just two minutes later, Real halved the lead through local standout Watson, a halftime substitute. A corner kick was headed toward goal by Melvin Tarley, and standing in front of Garlick, Watson flicked the ball past the outreached arms of the FCD 'keeper to give the visitors new life.
But the Hoops played keep away over the final third of the match to preserve the victory. Mina nearly capped off a hat trick in style in the 77th minute, sending a full overhead bicycle kick just over the goal, but it wasn't necessary as FC Dallas clinched the club's first playoff berth in three years.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Roberto Mina (FC Dallas)
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.