FC Dallas gained the upper hand in what will likely be a heated rivalry with the Los Angeles Galaxy over the next month, claiming a dominant 4-1 victory on Wednesday night at Pizza Hut Park and taking over sole possession of second place in the Western Conference.
Roberto Mina scored a pair of goals to cap off a three-goal burst over the final 11 minutes of the first half that sent FC Dallas on their way after things got started off on the wrong foot through an own goal from the Galaxy. The Galaxy pulled a goal thanks to an own goal themselves, but Abe Thompson's goal in stoppage time finished off the match.
It was the first of three meetings between the teams over the next 10 days -- two in MLS play and also in the final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next Wednesday. If the standings hold where they are, the teams would also then face each other in the Western Conference Semifinals.
FC Dallas once again got quality play from the flanks, and Ramon Nunez and Arturo Alvarez nearly put the home side after just three minutes. Nunez forced Galaxy 'keeper Kevin Hartman to dive right and stop his shot, and the rebound fell to Alvarez, who brought a save out of a diving Hartman to his left.
Just as they had in the last meeting between the teams, the Galaxy had Chris Albright in a wide midfield role, and he nearly put the Galaxy in front in response. He played a one-two with Landon Donovan in tight quarters and shielded the ball well in the box before hitting a right-footed shot that glanced off the right goalpost.
Donovan seized the opportunity in the 22nd minute to create his own chance after he stumbled into the box before looking to beat FCD 'keeper Garlick with a flick, but the keeper's kick save cleared the ball.
The Galaxy then gave FCD a huge gift in the 34th minute. Right back Troy Roberts, under some pressure, sent a rolling back pass to Hartman. The 'keeper seemingly took his eye off the ball to look up field -- only to watch in horror as the ball over his boot and into the goal to give the Hoops the early lead.
Mina then doubled the score four minutes later. He chased down the ball in the left corner and cut toward goal before firing from a tight angle. But the shot deflected off the back of Galaxy defender Pablo Chinchilla and into the goal as Hartman dived the other way.
The Hoops then hit for the third just before halftime. Bobby Rhine played a long ball down the right flank to a sprinting Nunez, who raced into the box toward Hartman on the angle. His low shot rebounded off the Galaxy 'keeper into the goalmouth where the onrushing Mina tapped in for his second goal of the night, seventh of the season and fourth in two games as the home team took a commanding lead to end the half.
The Galaxy came close to grabbing a goal in a wild sequence in the 73rd minute. With the ball bouncing around the FC Dallas area, Donovan collected it near the end line on the right side of the goal and a took a shot that rebounded off Garlick and fell right to substitute Joseph Ngwenya, but the Hoops 'keeper recovered to keep the shutout intact.
Los Angeles did pull to within two when a cross from the right flank to the back post was headed directly into his own goal by FCD right back Bobby Rhine in the 86th minute.
But the Hoops restored their margin in added time, Ronnie O'Brien looping the ball over a static L.A. defense where Thompson -- another second-half substitute -- held off his defender before slotting the ball underneath Hartman to send FC Dallas into next week's Open Cup Final against the Galaxy riding a wave of optimism.
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.