PORTLAND, Ore. – FC Dallas took a gut punch in the closing minutes of their Western Conference Championship 1st leg clash with the Portland Timbers, conceding a late goal to seal a 3-1 loss and put their Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs hopes in serious danger.
The situation seems dire for the Texan side, but they’ll take solace not only in knowing that they were able to grab an away goal, but that they’ve already overcome a first leg deficit once in this postseason.
In the Conference Semifinals, Dallas gave up a late free kick goal to Clint Dempsey to fall into a 2-1 hole against the Seattle Sounders, only to return home to Toyota Stadium and grab a dramatic 2-1 win of their own before taking the series in a penalty shootout.
“It helps us a lot,” FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez told reporters after the game of the confidence the Seattle turnaround gives them heading into the second leg. “We have that confidence that we came back on Seattle and hopefully we can come back here against Portland.”
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Though the result was well-earned by the Timbers on the evening, Dallas generated a number of chances, putting five of their 11 shots on target, including a 62nd-minute strike from center forward David Texeira that handed them a crucial away goal.
“Fortunately, we scored a goal which leaves the series open. We'll take the game to Frisco where we've done it before," Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja told reporters after the game. "I believe in this group. I know this group can do it. We have the talent, energy and character to do it. Sometimes we put ourselves in spots that aren't necessary, but that's the game and once again this is the team that I trust. We'll do it in Frisco."
The Portland result will demand a slightly wider margin of victory than what occurred against Seattle, given Dallas’ two-goal deficit in the series. A 2-0 win would put them through on the away goals rule, but if Portland score, FC Dallas would need to win by three goals or more to win the series outright.
FC Dallas, who posted an MLS-best 13-2-2 home record in the regular season, have gotten the type of result that would put them through eight times in 2015: five wins by three goals or more and three by a 2-0 scoreline. One of those three-goal wins came against none other than Portland, 4-1 in Frisco on July 25. Coincidentally, that win came after the Timbers had beaten Dallas, 3-1, three months earlier in the year.
“It’s a good point,” FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja told reporters after the match. “Every game brings different stories and we didn’t want to put ourselves in this spot, but that said we have done it before and I believe in this group.”
But this is a whole new series, and the playoffs see the pressure ratcheted up from regular-season games in April or even July. Despite the higher stakes, though, FC Dallas will try their best to keep cool heads.
“There’s always pressure,” Gonzalez said. “No matter what, you always have pressure. We’re a team that can bounce back, we’ve shown that before, and I think we can get the result we need at home.”