FC Dallas' 1-0 win over Houston was the kind of complete performance head coach Schellas Hyndman had been expecting from his side all season.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
FCD’s five previous matches had been characterized by a wealth of missed scoring chances and momentary lapses in concentration that led to goals conceded. This win—their first of 2010 and their first-ever at Robertson Stadium—had none of these issues as FCD showed incredible attention to detail.
Hyndman’s back four played a very solid game. Center back Ugo Ihemelu, who had the game’s only goal off a corner kick in the 74th minute, played especially well. The only negative for Ihemelu, who scored his first goal since joining FCD last August, came in the 11th minute when Houston’s Andrew Hainault got inside of him on a corner and sent a header wide right.
Rookie right back Zach Loyd also performed well in the first half, but he was taken off at halftime for Eric Avila as Hyndman wanted to see more offense. Heath Pearce took Loyd’s spot and delivered a great slide tackle on Brad Davis in the 65th that likely saved a goal.
And speaking of defense, center back George John and left back Jair Benitez both also combined well in keeping Houston’s legitimate scoring chances to a minimum. In fact, early in the second half, FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman vied with Houston’s Luis Landin for possession near the touch line—a play that looked eerily similar to one last week that led to New England’s only goal. However, this time Benitez was nearby to back up the play and he was able to clear the ball from danger.
Making his second start of the year between the posts, Hartman was solid. Granted, he wasn’t called on to do much and there were several small cases of miscommunication between him and the FCD back line, but the veteran keeper performed well overall.
Any discussion about how effective FCD were defensively has to include holding midfielder and captain Daniel Hernandez. For the entire night, Hernandez was a beast in the middle of the park. He was a threat on free kicks and also stepped in defensively where needed, most notably in the 87th minute when he took the ball away from Davis inside the box after a nice feed from Danny Cruz.
Why exactly Benitez was sent to the showers early in the 72nd is still a bit of a mystery. Though he struck Landin squarely in the face with his left arm as the two battled in the air, the replays showed a red card was perhaps harsh as the incident do not appear malicious.
However, FCD once again showed incredible character and came away with the win despite being a man down. Two minutes after Benitez’s ejection, Dax McCarty lined up for a free kick from the right side.
For the second straight week McCarty’s ball was on point, finding Brek Shea near the far post. Shea got his left foot on the ball, sending it toward the opposite post where Ihemelu was waiting to head it over the head of Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad and into the back of the net.
Tonight’s win could be a springboard for bigger and better things for Hyndman’s team. On the same night that D.C. United also got their first win, Dallas delivered the performance everyone knew they were capable of.
Now, FCD head back to Frisco to prepare for a Saturday visit from D.C. United. What was originally shaping up as a potential battle of the only two winless teams in MLS now looks sure to be an interesting match.