FRISCO, Texas – In a thoroughly strange match, FC Dallas extended their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-1 defeat of the winless Portland Timbers Saturday night at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas’ Mauro Díaz earned the home team the victory with a canny finish in the 84th minute. After the ball was sent back in following an FCD free kick, the Argentine playmaker shifted to his right and fired a low shot past Timbers goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
Dallas had taken the lead in first-half stoppage time as Jair Benitez played in a far-post cross which was headed into the ground by Kellyn Acosta, and then headed past Weber by an unmarked Blas Perez. Benitez was a menace down the left side in the first half, sending in several dangerous crosses.
That breakthrough came after both teams were rendered a man down on a strange sequence in the 39th minute, as Portland’s Michael Harrington and Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson were both sent off by referee Sorin Stoica for an off-the-ball incident. Apparently Harrington grabbed Watson's jersey, prompting the FCD midfielder to take a swing at Portland's left back.
Harrington’s red card ended his consecutive-minutes streak at 1,710 minutes. Had he played the full 90, he would have tied a Timbers team record.
Dallas started the match slowly but ramped up the pressure in the middle of the first half, creating three chances in quick succession. Fabian Castillo appeared to put the hosts in the lead in the 30th minute, but strayed just offside. Díaz had played the winger into the box alone on the left before he coolly curled the ball into the far corner.
Dallas weren’t able to take control of the game in the second half as Portland leveled the score on another odd play in the 66th minute. Portland forward Maximiliano Urruti’s pass for substitute Kalif Alhassan deflected off the foot of Dallas captain Matt Hedges, wrongfooting Seitz as it caromed into the net.
Portland nearly went ahead five minutes later in the 71st as Alhassan played Valeri into the box, but the Argentine was only able to send the ball straight at Seitz. Alhassan caused Dallas’ backline all sorts of problems after his introduction, nearly curling a shot into the top corner in the 77th minute after solid build-up play.
The Timbers looked to be the team more likely to break the deadlock until Díaz’s winner.
Dallas travels to Houston next week to take on in state rivals the Houston Dynamo, who lost 2-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
Portland host Clint Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders in a Cascadia showdown next Saturday. The Timbers will likely be without star midfielder Darlington Nagbe, as he pulled up lame in first-half stoppage time against FCD and did not return for the second half.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Mauro Diaz||Crank up the bandwagon: Energy, imperious playmaking and a nose for goal makes him MLS's hottest player.|
|2||Blas Perez||The crafty Panamanian plagued the Portland defense with his intelligent movement and rugged physicality.|
It took a while, but the Argentine came to grips with this game, then took it over. Needs a bit more luck around goal.