Dallas edges Nashville to keep home playoff dream alive

FC Dallas players and staff talked about the need to settle the score with Nashville after two losses and a draw earlier in the season. If that wasn’t incentive enough, the Hoops needed to win on the road to help the cause of earning a home playoff spot and a familiar name popped up to give them just that.

A couple of training ground injuries forced Luchi Gonzalez’s hand as both scorers against Houston – Fafa Picault and Franco Jara – missed out. Ricardo Pepi replaced Jara, and Ryan Hollingshead moved forward to left wing with Johnny Nelson coming in at left back.

“Franco and Fafa are two important players for us. They were feeling things yesterday. The medical staff felt would be a risk for them to push it today, so we felt it was better that we rest and recover them to have them ready for Minnesota, and especially for the playoffs. So we had to make some adjustments and we felt that having Ryan on a wing, which he’s done before – we did that against Kansas City away, he scored his first goal this season doing that – and we just felt it was a good adjustment. Johnny has good experience. He’s good in the backline on the left, so let’s go with this and see what we got to adjust.”

Luchi Gonzalez on the enforced changes

Gary Smith changed up his side from the weekend’s 1-1 draw with Chicago. Nashville moved from a 4-4-1-1 to a 3-5-2. Walker Zimmerman was the lone starter of the three former FC Dallas players, with Dax McCarty relegated to the bench and Dom Badji injured.

It took 15 minutes to see a shot from either side with Andres Ricaurte attempting a tame effort from outside the box as the two teams felt each other out. Nashville adopted a high line that Dallas began to tease balls over the top of, while the home side looked to its press to force a Dallas error.

Only two minutes later, Ricaurte spotted Jesus Ferreira in the center circle dropped in behind the Nashville midfield. Ferreira took a few steps as the front three broke out, and played a long ball for Ryan Hollingshead. Hollingshead had broken clear of Jack Maher to received the ball. Walker Zimmerman was able to poke the ball clear as the FCD winger advanced to goal, but Hollingshead was able to recover and get his shot off for FC Dallas’ first goal against Nashville in its third attempt.

“I mean, classic Hollingshead goal, right? Just scrappy, getting the rebound. I wasn’t sure if I was offside, and so I kind of slowed up and took a bad touch out of the air thinking they were going to call it, and they didn’t call it so I kept going.”

Ryan Hollingshead on the lead up to his game winning goal

It almost looked like the floodgates may open as Michael Barrios found Ricardo Pepi with a cross little over a minute later, but Pepi struggled to direct and headed at the ground in front of the keeper.

In the 34th minute, Nashville almost found an equalizer after Bressan misread a touch back from Thiago Santos. The defender was easily outpaced by Randall Leal to the loose ball in the Dallas area. Daniel Lovitz met Leal’s low cross with Bryan Reynolds producing a match-winning tackle to prevent the shot at the edge of the six-yard box. Dave Romney attempted a follow-up effort from outside the box after Thiago Santos’ clearance, but Jimmy Maurer got down to save with his knee.

Romney had a far better opportunity for his, and Nashville’s, second shot on goal with a header from a Randal Leal corner with the last action of the first hald. Much like Pepi at the other end, the Nashville defender could only manage to head the ball straight down in the direction of Jimmy Maurer.

A Daniel Lovitz free kick produced an entertaining bicycle kick clearance from Andres Ricaurte as the second half started slowly with Dallas looking to frustrate.

Nashville were attempting deep balls from the outside and forced a pressure moment on in the 61st minute after the Dallas players regained possession in the box. Bryan Reynolds stepped aside seeming to expect Bressan to play the ball out, but was forced to head back to Jimmy Maurer under pressure from a Randall Leal run. The moment was immediately followed by a deep cross that was mishit by Matt Hedges, with Johnny Nelson able to deal with the loose ball.

As the period of pressure ended, Dallas had a rare chance with a speculative shot from Michael Barrios that was blocked by Dave Romney into the path of Ricardo Pepi. The youngster attempted to shoot first time but was smothered by Jalil Anibaba with the ball going out for a corner.

Tanner Tessmann came into the game for Jesus Ferreira and immediately caused Nashville trouble. The would-be Clemson kicker ran on to a ball Barrios dummied down the right. After hurdling an Anibal Godoy tackle, Tessmann cut the ball low towards Ricardo Pepi but the Nashville defense were able to hack the ball out for a throw in.

Dallas had its first real chance of the second half in a move started by a strong interception from Bressan. The Brazilian cut out a pass, redirecting it to Andres Ricaurte, who in turn found Michael Barrios around the center circle with the back line to run at. Barrios drew the back three in with Ricardo Pepi overlapping in free space. Pepi powered a shot at Joe Willis where a low controlled finish may have been the best option.

Dallas’ substitutes seemed to be putting an immediate stamp on the game and Santiago Mosquera did so after replacing Ricardo Pepi in the 80th minute. An innocuous ball over the top should have seen a routine header from Walker Zimmerman, but the former FCD defender misread the flight of the ball, allowing Mosquera to run in behind. Willis had read the danger and come off his line leaving Mosquera only able to attempt to chip the ball into the keeper’s chest.

Nashville ran the ball straight down the other end, forcing a corner. Zimmerman managed to get his head on the corner, pushing the ball out to Jalil Anibaba at the back post to shoot. His effort beat Maurer but Ryan Hollingshead was able to make the clearance.

Dallas trended further back in a mid block with a flat back five. Zimmerman adopted a familiar position from his Dallas days as the late-game emergency striker to try an take advantage of the deep crosses Nashville had peppered the Dallas area with, but the visitors held on for a maiden victory over Nashville SC, and importantly took fourth place after Minnesota United dropped points against Chicago.

“We basically imposed their own style on them, and said ‘Okay, try to come break us down’. Try to use your attack and, and create something and they didn’t really have much. their only chances really were lobbing the ball in the box to their big guy [Jhonder Cadiz]”

Ryan Hollingshead on the style of play used against Nashville SC

FC Dallas now moves on to Decision Day as all 12 Western Conference teams play simultaneously at 5pm on Sunday. Dallas will travel to Minnesota, while the other game of importance in the race for fourth place is Portland hosting LAFC.

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