FC Dallas cemented a top-two finish in La Copita on its second match day with a shootout win over new MLS franchise Austin FC.
Luchi Gonzalez named what appeared to be a likely opening day lineup with Jimmy Maurer starting in goal behind Matt Hedges and Jose Antonio Martinez. Johnny Nelson made the start at left back with Ryan Hollingshead on the right.
Edwin Cerrillo lined up as the lone defensive midfielder after Thiago Santos’ departure to Gremio. Bryan Acosta and Andres Ricaurte completed the midfield.
Franco Jara started up front flanked by new signings Jader Obrian and Freddy Vargas.
Austin FC coach Josh Wolff made wholesale changes to the team that lost 2-0 to Houston.
Freddy Vargas carried on his superb preseason in the 11th minute. After taking down a ball played over the midfield, the Venezuelan winger made a solo run into the left side of the box. After cutting back on to his right foot to evade a sliding challenge, Vargas fired high into the far corner of the net.
FC Dallas were carving open the Austin back line through the pace of Vargas and Obrian. The only thing missing was the finish.
After Vargas ran the ball into the box once more, Jader Obrian forced a save from Brad Stuver that fell kindly to Andres Ricaurte at the top of the box. The Colombian shanked the ball back to Stuver in the Austin net.
Vargas again worked the ball into the box for a Dallas chance that went begging, this time off a corner. Matt Hedges attempted to flick the ball on from the near post, which fell to Jose Antonio Martinez. The Spaniard’s cross-cum-shot found the foot of Hedges close to goal, but the ball would end up in the south end seating at Toyota Stadium.
The defensive pair did combine moments later to increase FCD’s lead after a Vargas cross met the head of Martinez. A powerful header struck Stuver’s far post before Matt Hedges was able to react first to the rebound from a couple of yards away.
As good as Dallas looked on the ball, they struggled out of possession with a mid-to-low block that often failed to press.
Five minutes into the second half, Jared Stroud scored out of nothing. With his back to goal at a tight angle, the former Red Bull was under pressure from Matt Hedges and Bryan Acosta, but managed to turn and shoot low past a perplexed Jimmy Maurer.
It would only take three further minutes for the MLS new boys to draw level. With a loose ball bouncing around in the box, Johnny Nelson attempted to control the ball with his chest, leaning too far and handling to gift Diego Fagundez the chance from twelve yards.
The Hoops had a pair of decent half-chances in search of the lead. A free kick from deep was misjudged by a rushing Stuver, who attempted to punch the ball in a crowd of players. Hedges won the header but his effort narrowly fell wide.
Obrian then added to the Fabian Castillo comparisons as he took the ball out of midfield with a deft touch before outpacing four players. Similar to his compatriot, the shot selection and execution didn’t match the quality of the run.
FC Dallas made the first change of the day with with Tanner Tessmann replacing Bryan Acosta, but Austin’s Cecilio Dominguez made an immediate impact following his substitution shortly after. After coming on, the forward immediately made a run down the Dallas right before going to ground under pressure from Ryan Hollingshead. The referee pointed back to the spot, and Dominguez converted.
“First half, we talked about coming in with energy. Second half, we’re just not fitness wise, physically, we’re not just we’re not there yet, we don’t have a rhythm and to sustain and especially when you’re playing this younger and fresh group of them, they took it to us for 15-20 minutes and they turned the game around. So this is a good lesson for us better we learn it now than against Colorado.”Luchi Gonzalez
Austin FC made a full line change, while Luchi Gonzalez brought on Eddie Munjoma for Johnny Nelson, as well as making some attacking adjustments. Ricardo Pepi replaced Franco Jara, and Jesus Ferreira sat behind him after switching with Ricaurte.
Obrian’s willingness to chase and challenge led to two late chances within seconds of each other. First, closing down Stuver and forcing a loose ball to Pepi with an open goal. The 18-year-old sought to shoot but couldn’t get clear of his marker. The right winger then followed a loose ball out of the Austin box, passing to Vargas whose square ball was finished nicely by Ferreira to make it 3-3 with five minutes remaining.
Per the rules of La Copita, the teams went to a penalty shootout to break the tie. If you didn’t think it was Dallas’ day between the individual errors and a soft penalty, the ominous signs continued with the first shot of the shootout – a weakly struck penalty that Jimmy Maurer dived on only to see the ball bobble up into the net.
Maurer did go on to make a save against Danny Hoesen and watched Dominguez drag his shot wide as Vargas, Obrian, Ferreira, and Pepi all converted to give FC Dallas a 4-2 shootout win to seal two points and a winner-takes-all game in Houston on Saturday.