FRISCO, Texas—Earning points late has become all too familiar a sight for FC Dallas.
Their 2017 season has been filled with comebacks, from MLS play to their earlier appearance in the 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League, and Saturday night proved no exception to this season-long run of salvaging success.
“[Head coach Oscar Pareja] came in at halftime and really got into us. We were flat,” said midfielder Kellyn Acosta. “We weren’t keeping the ball, and we weren’t ourselves. In the second half we pressed a lot, and we had the inner belief that we were going to win this game. I think that really paid dividends for us to get the result.”
FC Dallas found themselves facing their first loss of the season twice: The first time, in the 30th minute when Fanendo Adi found a clean look at net – the first goal scored against FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium this year.
“In the first half, we didn’t have control,” Pareja said. “Portland did not have control either, but they took the chance that they had on a set play that wasn’t a foul. That brought us a bad energy in that part of the half, and the game just started getting out of control.”
After the break where Pareja allegedly lit into his team, former Timbers forward Maxi Urruti was able to knot it up in the 61st minute, after single-handedly dancing through the Portland defense and clearing himself a window to curl a shot to the top-left corner of the net.
Just 10 minutes later, Portland forced FC Dallas into comeback mode yet again.
“Once the second half [came], we’re a totally different team,” Acosta said. “You can see it. We can feel it out there.”
Former MLS Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele rewarded his head coach’s decision to start him two games in a row – and for the third time this year – by being on the receiving end of a Hernan Grana hustle to the backline, bouncing the second equalizer home after it came to him in front of Jeff Attinella.
And yet the hosts know having to routinely find a rhythm late in the game isn't viable over the course of the season.
“For the first few minutes, we just need to be connected and connect on the simple balls. From there we can open up and make the more creative passes … but a lot plays into it. It’s just more of a concentration thing, and we need to be more mindful of the little things,” Acosta said.
Acosta and Pareja both pointed to a busier-than-normal schedule to start their season. But Acosta added he believes Dallas are the most fit team in the league, and Pareja downplayed the idea that slow starts are becoming habitual in Frisco.
“I don’t recall many times like that, but for me, one or two are enough,” Pareja said. “We were dealing last week with giving up late goals – one in Pachuca that cost us the [CCL] final and another in San Jose that cost us two points – and I was looking for those answers because it’s my responsibility.
“I don’t recall many, but if it’s one like today where we need to bounce back, it’s not good enough.”