The final result was not what FC Dallas were hoping for, but the hard-fought road point they picked up had them feeling plenty proud.
Faced with another set of player availability challenges, Dallas used a relatively new formation to earn a draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was not the win that they could have had if not for conceding a second-half penalty kick, but the 2-2 draw against the Western Conference competitors at BC Place left Oscar Pareja and his players plenty encouraged.
“Great job for our players, great sacrifice with certain difficulties we have prior to the game and within the game,” said Pareja.
Missing three of its usual wingers, Dallas traveled to British Columbia with the goal of picking up three points with a 5-3-2 formation that it had used twice before. More of a 3-2-3-2 formation with two defensive wingbacks in Moises Hernandez and Zach Loyd used to get forward, and three central defenders, the formation allowed Dallas to use experienced players in a way that created challenges for the Whitecaps. FCD had used it against Columbus in MLS play at the end of June as well as against the Carolina RailHawks of the NASL in US Open Cup play.
“We decided to go with that formation knowing that we will have options with Blas [Perez] and Tesho [Akindele], and we wanted to be solid in the middle,” Pareja said. “I thought we clogged when we wanted, we made it difficult for them.”
Although the team gave up an early goal to Darren Mattocks, Dallas was able to rebound with a veteran’s goal from Perez that resulted from good attacking play from both wingbacks. Hernandez got the ball forward and played Michel into the Whitecaps’ penalty area, and the Brazilian crossed the ball to an oncoming Loyd. The ensuing header smashed off the corssbar, but the rebound fell to Perez and he made no mistake with his chance from close range.
A penalty kick from Michel not long after gave FC Dallas a 2-1 halftime lead.
“I think we handled them well tonight,” said homegrown midfielder Victor Ulloa. “Maybe on that first goal we were sleeping a little bit, but we managed them well.”
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Dallas was without three regular starters before they even left Texas as Andres Escobar picked up an injury during the week, Fabian Castillo was serving the last match of his four-game suspension, and Je-Vaughn Watson was also absent. And then during the first half, veteran defender Matt Hedges was injured and had to be subbed out at halftime.
“It was harder without Matt in the second half,” Pareja said.
But thanks to effective efforts from substitutes Peter Luccin and Mauro Diaz, as well as some impressive late saves by goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, the team was able to absorb a penalty kick call early in the second half and hold on for the draw.
“We leave with a point,” Ulloa said. “It was important to start on the right foot and I think we did that tonight.”