A Drab Texas Derby sees Dallas and Houston split the points again

Points on the road have been tough to come by in 2021, but Dallas may have had enough in them to push for all three in Houston after coming back from a goal down in an uninspired second leg of the Texas Derby.

“Leaving with one point, it’s not the best, but I like to be realistic about it. We don’t normally get points on the road. Regardless, I think it was definitely a winnable game. but outside of that it’s decent that we at least got the draw.”

Nkosi Tafari

Just a single change after the disappointing loss to Seattle at home. Freddy Vargas replaced Jader Obrian on the wing for his first start since May. The bigger change may be the shift to a 4-1-4-1, dropping the wings a little deeper and Jesus back in to more of an eight role.

Luchi Gonzalez has had a tough time keeping his backs healthy, and that task wasn’t made any easier when Bressan hit the deck chasing a loose ball with Maxi Urruti in the third minute of the game. The Brazilian immediately grabbed his left shoulder after landing heavily. Jose Martinez entered the game for his first action in two months.

For a derby that should be crucial to both clubs saving their seasons, the game lacked any urgency through the opening quarter. That all changed in the 24th minute after Fafa Picault took a cross-field pass down and around Ema Twumasi. Nkosi Tafari did a better job of containing Picault, until Twumasi clumsily charged at Picault to give Allan Champman little choice but to point to the spot. The former FCD winger converted the penalty, sending Jimmy Maurer the wrong way.

FC Dallas seemed to struggle with the 4-1-4-1, particularly Jesus Ferreira whose slightly deeper eight role saw the Homegrown only touch the ball eight times in the first half hour, with Ferreira often dropping back behind Edwin Cerrillo or out in the wider spaces you’d expect to see Freddy Vargas occupy to try and find the ball.

Things finally looked like they may pick up a little over five minutes before the break with some shaky defense presenting opportunities to both sides.

Ryan Hollingshead intercepted a poor attempted pass out of the back from Darwin Ceren. Hollingshead shot low from beyond the D, but pulled it a couple of feet wide.

Immediately at the other end, Adam Lundkvist put in a cross from deep with an unmarked Matias Vera racing in towards the back post. Fortunately for the visitors, Vera’s finish lacked any control.

Dallas would record its first shot on target moments later through a Bryan Acosta effort from outside the box, but it was nothing to really challenge the Dynamo keeper.

Luchi yanked Freddy Vargas at half time, bringing Jader Obrian on at the right wing. The Venezuelan’s biggest impact was the three free kicks given away. That also brought about a change in shape to more of the familiar 4-3-3 with Jesus Ferreira pushed higher into a position to impact the game.

“We came into the half knowing that it wasn’t good enough. We needed to have a response, and I thought the boys certainly showed that from the beginning of the second half. Creating opportunities with pressing and putting away chances.”

Luchi Gonzalez

Both teams struggled to create chances but Dallas finally got a first clear cut chance, and an equalizer. Houston’s Teenage Hadebe rose highest to meet a Bryan Acosta corner, but the defender could only flick the ball on to Ricardo Pepi past the back post. The 18-year-old took a touch and shot with Hadebe getting a block but the ball fell to Nkosi Tafari who gladly took the opportunity for his first goal in Major League Soccer from just outside the six yard box.

As much as Jader Obrian for Freddy Vargas sounded like an uninspiring change, Obrian complimented Ema Twumasi on the Dallas right. With Fafa Picault providing the only creative spark from either team thus far, Obrian’s pace in tracking back was a welcome addition, as well as a greater tactical understanding in how to stay engaged when Twumasi overlapped going forward.

The 58th minute saw a third change for FC Dallas. Szabolcs Schon had put in a shift, even if it wouldn’t be a defining night in his FCD career. Only one misplaced pass, but a strong showing off the ball in terms of both support and high pressing. Kalil ElMedkhar subbed in for his earliest FC Dallas appearance, his first before the 77th minute.

FC Dallas immediately took the lead with the move starting from a Jimmy Maurer long pass meant for ElMedkhar. The ball ran long, with Zarek Valentin recycling the possession to Marko Maric in the Houston net. Under pressure from Ricardo Pepi, Maric popped the ball into open space that Jesus Ferreira was able to get to first. Ferreira slipped the ball to Pepi, for El Tren to score his first goal in a month.

Houston could have had an immediately reply in the 61st minute after Edwin Cerrillo gave away his third unnecessary free kick in the defensive third – while already on a yellow card. Lundkvist once again delivered the ball into a dangerous area. Hadebe beat Tafari to a header on the edge of the Dallas six yard box. Tafari did just enough to see Hadabe’s header wide, but it was a strong sign that the game wasn’t over yet.

Another scare a few minutes later after Tafari got a touch on a low cross. The ball came to the head of an unmarked Matias Vera again, this time dead center of the box six yards out, but he couldn’t react in time as the ball glided out towards Griffin Dorsey then for a goal kick.

Jose Antonio Martinez had the rare distinction of subbing both in and out of a game. The Spaniard limped off holding the right hamstring that had kept him out previously, with Matt Hedges a 68th minute replacement.

Vera had two chances in close, but would give the Dynamo a share of the points from outside the box in the 72nd minute. Bryan Acosta was dispossessed attempting to run forward with the ball, it broke to Zarek Valentin who found Vera in the space vacated by Acosta’s run. A low shot from the edge of the box eked past Jimmy Maurer, who may have been unsighted by a run across the ball by Maxi Urruti.

Dallas hadn’t been in the habit of making great attacking moves, but Ryan Hollingshead played a spectacular cross-field low through ball for Jader Obrian in the 75th minute after running the ball out of the back. The Colombian raced on to the pass, forcing a save from Marko Maric that the Dynamo keeper fumbled. Obrian appeared to roll his ankle in the process of shooting or you would have fancied him to be first to the rebound.

The powder blue-clad Huntsmen dropped into a low block for the final ten minutes, but Jesus Ferreira had one final test for Houston in the closing minutes. Kalil ElMedkhar intercepted the ball in the defensive third, bringing it forward before playing Ricardo Pepi centrally. Pepi advanced, squaring to an open Jesus Ferreira 20 yards out. Ferreira’s first time curler was headed for the top corner before being acrobatically tipped over by Maric.

Two draws with one more to play in the Texas Derby. For those keeping count on Copa Tejas, Dallas remained unbeaten with five points, two clear of next opponents Austin FC.

Most importantly with a growing list of injuries and some fatigue in the squad, it’s eight days until the short trip to North Austin. Ricardo Pepi’s goal comes at a good time, carrying the youngster into the MLS All-Star festivities.

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