FRISCO, Texas -- July couldn't have started any better for FC Dallas: three points in front of a sold-out crowd and the return of key starters Hendry Thomas and Mauro Diaz, both of whom had been out for an extended period of time due to injury.
Diaz’s return clearly raised the energy of everyone wearing red on Friday night, and his impact on the game was evident with a level of creativity the team hasn’t seen since his injury in late April.
“Mauro made us all feel that magic in the air and everything just calms down with him,” said head coach Oscar Pareja.
“Mauro is a great asset to the team,” said Homegrown player Moises Hernandez. “We’re happy he is back.”
Also returning was Thomas, an experienced defensive midfielder who had anchored the team to one of the best records in the league until his own injury on May 10.
Between Thomas and Diaz, FC Dallas got back two of the squad's most important players and their impact on the game was evident as soon as they came on: It nullified whatever momentum Philadelphia had built in trying to get back into the game.
“Nice getting a couple of guys back in Hendry and Mauro,” said Dallas centerback Stephen Keel. “You could see their impact immediately in the second half.”
“We finished with a smile on our face,” Pareja said. “It’s peaceful to see the talent on the field.”
This is how perfect a night it was: The Dallas game-winner came on an own goal. A series of passes between Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele forced an errant clearance from Philadelphia defender Fabinho that struck Philly's Sheanon Williams and went into the Union net.
“It’s magical,” Pareja said of the overall performance. “Today is one of those nights that make you proud of the job well done.”
Dallas’ luck was not all good as goalkeeper Chris Seitz appeared to injure his right quad on a goal kick in the 71st minute, and Adam Moffat apparently picked up an injury before he was subbed for Thomas.
“The symptoms are not very encouraging,” Pareja said of Seitz’s injury. An MRI is scheduled for Saturday morning.
Overall, though, FC Dallas played a complete game and found a way to finish off the match, something the club has had mixed results with during the season.
“In the second half, the team looked more mature and more intelligent,” Pareja said. “I saw a team that knows how to handle the peaks and valleys during the game.”