Toni Nhleko's goal in second-half stoppage time lifted the Dallas Burn to a 1-0 victory against the MetroStars on Sunday night at Giants Stadium, moving the Burn off the bottom of the Western Conference table while putting an end to the home side's three-match winning streak.
Just as it seemed the match would end in a scoreless draw where both teams struggled to dominate the midfield, Nhleko headed home an Oscar Pareja cross for the match winner.
The free-flowing contest began with both teams playing possession-oriented soccer, but few quality chances were earned in the attacking third. The first shot of the match did not come until the 13th minute when MetroStars midfielder Joselito Vaca ripped a shot high from well beyond 20 yards.
The MetroStars gradually pushed the Burn back on their heels as the first half progressed. In the 38th minute, Eddie Gaven sent a ball through to Cornell Glen in the left side of the penalty box, but Burn defender Steve Jolley chased down the Metro attacker and wound up deflecting the shot away.
The ensuing corner was cleared out to Vaca, who redirected a sizzling, short-hopper towards the Burn goal where goalkeeper Jeff Cassar made the only save of the first half.
The half came to a close with the best chance of the night for the MetroStars. This time John Wolyniec ran down the right flank until directing a cross intended for Glen, who beat Cassar to the ball about 10 yards from goal. But Cassar interfered just enough to rush Glen into a wide shot to send the sides to their locker rooms scoreless.
The MetroStars again produced the better of the chances after the break. In the 52nd minute, Vaca found Wolyniec on a long cross, and Wolyniec held the ball with space on the left side, but angled shot went well high and into the stands.
In the 63rd minute, Vaca sprung Tenywa Bonseu down the right side with enough space to race unopposed to the goal line. But Bonseu's cross to substitute Sergio Galvan Rey may have been a bit too hard, and the Colombian forward was unable to direct it on goal, instead it bouncing all the way through the area.
As time wore on, both goalkeepers took their turns keeping the match scoreless. In the 78th minute, Carey Talley's cross left Eddie Johnson wide open in front of MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker, and his challenge saw him knock the ball away with his feet before Johnson could get off a quality shot.
On the other end, second-half substitute Tim Regan was able to unleash Wolyniec for a chance on Cassar, but the Burn 'keeper stepped up and made a crucial save to give his side an opportunity for the victory.
As stoppage time beckoned, the MetroStars became spread out after a poor clearance and Pareja picked off the ball just outside the area. He raced deep into the right side of the MetroStars penalty area where his perfect cross found an unmarked Nhleko in the box, and his powerful header left Walker no chance.
The Burn (8-8-5, 29 points) are now back in a third-place tie with the Colorado Rapids, and next Saturday they will be in San Jose for a key conference match. The MetroStars (9-7-5, 32 points) squandered an opportunity to go to the top of the league, but are still six points clear of the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference, and they next travel to Colorado next Saturday night.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Toni Nhleko, Dallas Burn
Dallas Burn (8-8-5) vs. MetroStars (9-7-5)
August 15, 2004 -- Giants Stadium
DAL -- Toni Nhleko 5 (Oscar Pareja 4) 91+
Dallas Burn -- Jeff Cassar, Carey Talley, Matt Behncke, Steve Jolley, Chris Gbandi, Ronnie O'Brien, Bobby Rhine (Toni Nhleko 81), Simo Valakari, Brad Davis (Eric Quill 66), Eddie Johnson, Jason Kreis (Oscar Pareja 75).
Substitutes Not Used: Scott Garlick, Clarence Goodson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Eddie Johnson 3, Jason Kreis 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 23 (Eddie Johnson 7); OFFSIDES: 4 (Eddie Johnson 4); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Brad Davis 3); SAVES: 2 (Jeff Cassar 2)
MetroStars -- Jonny Walker, Tenywa Bonseu, Kenny Arena, Jeff Parke, Joselito Vaca, Ricardo Clark (Tim Regan 81), Mike Magee, Eddie Gaven, Chris Leitch, John Wolyniec, Cornell Glen (Sergio Galvan Rey 46).
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Lisi, Seth Stammler, Fabian Taylor, Zach Wells.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Sergio Galvan Rey 3, John Wolyniec 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Joselito Vaca 1, John Wolyniec 1); FOULS: 16 (7 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Cornell Glen 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Mike Magee 3); SAVES: 2 (Jonny Walker 2)
DAL -- Brad Davis (caution; Pushing, Holding) 64
DAL -- Chris Gbandi (caution; Professional Foul) 69
MET -- Kenny Arena (caution; Pushing, Holding) 72
MET -- Mike Magee (caution; Diving, Exaggeration) 83
MET -- Tenywa Bonseu (caution; Pushing, Holding) 86
MET -- Eddie Gaven (caution; Diving, Exaggeration) 92+
Referee: Andrew Chapin
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; Bahij Salman
4th Official: Ken Heller
Time of Game: 1:52
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.