FC Dallas put the disappointment of their opening Leagues Cup game to advance from the group stage behind goals from Sebastian Lletget, Eugene Ansah, and Jesus Ferreira.
“The way we responded today makes me really proud of our guys and really proud of this team,” said FC Dallas midfielder Sebastian Lletget. “Losing is always tough and this was a quick turnaround but that does help when you have a result that doesn’t go your way, you want to play right away and I’m happy that we got the win.”
Coach Nico Estevez rolled out virtually the same team that found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a wasteful final minute of stoppage time on Friday.
Nkosi Tafari rotated out for Jose Martinez, partnering Sebastien Ibeagha in defense. They sat ahead of the returning Maarten Paes, with the familiar full back pairing of Marco Farfan and Geovane Jesus.
Edwin Cerrillo was given the chance to put a rough couple of performances behind him, starting at the six in place of Facundo Quignon. Sebastian Lletget and Alan Velasco once again played as the eights, behind Jesus Ferreira. Jader Obrian and Bernard Kamungo took up place on the wings, swapping often.
The game threatened to come to life in the seventh minute after Bernard Kamungo made a driving run down the left, breaking into the box and attempting a shot. Goalkeeper Raul Gudino blocked the chance, but a combination of Jesus Ferreira and Sebastian Lletget kept the play alive before a speculative cross from Ferreira almost found its way in.
Dallas looked dangerous in possession past the half way line, the problem was getting that high up the field. They’d gain a huge advantage in the 11th minute as with Kamungo racing on to a through ball from Jader Obrian. Rushing clear, Kamungo went down under a challenge by Alan Montes. Referee Joe Dickerson was left with little choice but to show the Necaxa defender a red card. There was contact, albeit slight, and Kamungo would have been clear through on goal with only the keeper the beat.
home neutral site venue team made the advantage count in the 24th minute and it was Sebastian Lletget with consecutive games with a goal. With Dallas in possession adjacent to the Rayos’ area, Necaxa attempted to hold the line of offside, but Sebastian Lletget was able to easily slip behind unmarked to receive a pass from Bernie Kamungo before firing past Gudino.
The Hoops rode their momentum, immediately winning the ball back and getting Ferreira into the box. A cross in the aftermath saw a toe poke at the back post under pressure from Sebastien Ibeagha hit the woodwork.
Obrian to Kamungo worked a treat the first time, and should have again in the 36th minute, with the pair breaking clear of the defense, but Obrian’s feed from the left didn’t have enough power behind it, allowing for a defender to slide in and remove the threat.
After the refereeing disaster on Friday, Dickerson held his ground. Alan Velasco and Geovane Jesus picked up yellow cards through the first half. Play was pulled back and a yellow shown to Cristian Gonzalez for a shirt pull, as well as one to a team mate for dissent.
Another post strike came just four minutes after the break. This time it was Marco Farfan making a very similar run to Lletget’s goal against Charlotte. Obrian fed the pass, as Farfan smashed the ball low off the far post, ricocheting down the end line.
Necaxa had its first real chance int he 53rd, witnessing a Maarten Vincent Paes masterclass. Jorge Rodriguez looped a cross from deep on the left into the front post. Andres Colorado powered a header across goal only to see the Dutchman seem to pull the ball from almost behind him at full stretch.
Right on the hour mark Coach went to the bench for a triple substitution, all straight swaps. Nkosi Tafari swapped with Jose Martinez. Sam Junqua replaced Geovane Jesus, and Eugene Ansah came in for Jader Obrian.
After having a certain goal robbed of him, Ansah doubled the lead almost immediately after coming on in the 62nd minute. Sebastian Lletget teased a cross from the right side of the box that the Ghanaian crashed in at the back post.
Paul Arriola made his return to action in the 67th minute, replacing Bernard Kamungo. The FC Dallas captain made his first appearance since limping out of his prior return game in Austin back in May with an upper leg injury.
The winger played a big part in Dallas’ third goal, pressuring Alfredo Gutierrez into a poor back pass from midfield that Jesus Ferreira ran on to score his 23rd goal of 2023. He almost turned provider trying to force a ball across goal for an Arriola run moments later.
Paxton Pomykal was the next of the players not risked against Charlotte to make an appearance, replacing Sebastian Lletget in the 78th minute.
Mentality was Nico Estevez’ keyword in preseason, and something he highlighted as lacking in Friday’s game, particularly in the penalty shootout. Whether it was aided by the early red card, his team showed a much more clinical nature, a mentality that the ball would do the work, and even one that has long eluded the Huntsmen as they stretched the lead and closed the game out.
Four points seals FC Dallas’ participation in the round of 32, but their immediate future depends on results elsewhere.
Charlotte FC hosts Necaxa on Saturday night. Given that head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker, a draw with a penalty shootout win will clinch the group for the Eastern Conference club. That would see FC Dallas finish second to set up a round of 32 clash with Mazatlan and keep open the chance of hosting Leo Messi’s Miami at Toyota Stadium the following round.
Should FC Dallas win South 4, Atlanta or Cruz Azul would come to Toyota Stadium with a shot at a potential rematch of the 2017 Concacaf Champions League semi finals against Pachuca in the round of 16, and a potential game with Miami in the quarter finals.
In either case, Dallas gets ten days rest safe in the knowledge they will host the round of 32 with an increasingly healthy team having welcomed Arriola and Pomykal back, plus Lletget finding his feet.