FC Dallas punches playoff ticket with emphatic Texas Derby win

FC Dallas went into the day with two objectives – retaining El Capitan and punching its ticket to the playoffs – and achieved both with an emphatic 3-0 win over the Houston in the regular season home finale.

Luchi Gonzalez named an unchanged lineup from the midweek win over Miami, while Houston made five changes from their 2-1 loss to LAFC on Wednesday.

“We talked about trying to impose early and not be reactive. Let’s show that that we’re not just going to settle for a draw even though the draw would qualify us that we’re playing here to win we want to win the series of the derby.”

Luchi Gonzalez

Dallas has the better of the opening exchanges with a couple of half chances, but it was their third shot on target in the 17th minute that presented the game’s first opportunity.

A long clearance up field was headed down the left side by Fafa Picault with the winger racing on to his own ball. Spying Franco Jara unmarked in the box, Picault attempted a low left-footed cross that curled slightly behind the Argentine giving him a tough shot that he directed at Marko Maric.

The home side wouldn’t take long to make the momentum count as Picault pulled the ball onto his right foot to play an in-swinging cross to Michael Barrios at the far post. The Colombian winger headed the ball down across the six-yard box with Jara able to make the crashing run to force the ball in off Maric.

Andres Ricaurte had quietly been pulling strings in the attack, feeding the initial ball to Picault on Dallas’ opener. Ricaurte firmly made his presence known just six minutes later with an inch-perfect cross from deep right for Picault to head in his second goal of the season.

Houston weren’t sitting lame despite the score line, with an immediate response from kick off. Following the first goal, Adam Lundkvist found Darwin Quintero at Jimmy Maurer’s far post but put his volley wide. Ariel Lassiter did force Maurer into a save although the ball was comfortably wide.

Bryan Reynolds took a kick to the head and underwent a concussion assessment by the league doctor on the sideline. The doctor escorted the Homegrown back to the Dallas bench to break the bad news on Big Bad Bryan. Johnny Nelson came in on the left with Ryan Hollingshead moving to the right.

Houston finished the first half on a strong note, breaking into the Dallas area several times but either finding a Dallas defender with each shot, or failing to connect with the ball at all.

Houston moved to a higher block as the second half began, hoping to pressure Dallas into a mistake but it was the visitors who almost let the game slip further away as Jesus Ferreira found his way on to an errant pass in the midfield and played Franco Jara through one-on-one but the Argentine forward rolled his shot wide.

The Dynamo’s struggles continued despite a teasing low cross from Lassiter that had the Dallas defense scrambling. One orange-clad forward whiffed at the shot before Jose Bizama slammed a shot off a defender and out for a corner. He would see another shot blocked away by Johnny Nelson moments later.

“It’s about making plays and putting chances away. Also defending your goal, and the guys have really taken that that objective very seriously. You can see it in their play. They’re just continuing to have joy, and fun, with moving the ball.”

Luchi Gonzalez

With Houston starting to dictate play, Luchi Gonzalez brought in Tanner Tessmann for Jesus Ferreira just shy of the hour to shore up the defensive midfield. Houston responded with a triple change, bringing on Mauro Manotas, Tomas Martinez, and Boniek Garcia.

Ricaurte hasn’t scored since his fantastic volley in Houston, and should have got his second Texas Derby goal as Johnny Nelson made his way up the left. A square pass for Franco Jara made its way to Andres Ricaurte who tried to chip Maric, but couldn’t find the goal.

He would test the Houston keeper a few minutes later as Dallas began to reassert themselves in the game, seeing a shot saved and lifting another over the bar after being slipped clear on the right by Franco Jara, thanks to another Nelson pass.

Following a quarantine period due to indirect exposure to COVID-19, Reto Ziegler would join the returning Santiago Mosquera in replacing Jara and Barrios, with Dallas moving into a 3-4-3 formation to close out the final 15 minutes.

Fafa Picault found the time just before the final whistle to stretch the lead with a solo effort, knocking an errant Houston pass in the Dallas half away before running the loose ball down to the Houston end and slotting the ball home to seal the win, the playoff berth, and the cannon.

The win pulls Dallas ahead of Houston in the all-time series with the Hoops’ eighth El Capitan season win, though some Dallas fans may point to the team eliminating their in-state rivals from playoff contention as the bigger bragging point.

“I think mathematically it’s still open and and you see Portland has pulled away a bit, but I think between Minnesota and LAFC there’s still ground to be to be taken there. We certainly are going to just focus on Nashville now and be ready.”

Luchi Gonzalez on the team’s chances of securing a top four place for a home playoff.

On the back of two wins, Dallas heads to Nashville on Wednesday night with a point to prove before a Decision Day meeting in Minnesota.

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