FC Dallas seals Copa Tejas in final home game

FC Dallas salvaged something from 2021 by landing the inaugural Copa Tejas in the team’s final home game of 2021. Jesus Ferreira and Franco Jara scored the goals as Dallas made it three wins against MLS new-boys Austin FC.

“The players feel good about it. They were able to reward themselves, and deliver something to the fans and the club.”

Marco Ferruzzi

Marco Ferruzzi made three changes from the loss to Real Salt Lake, as Paxton Pomykal, Ricardo Pepi, and – finally – Nkosi Tafari. Pomykal slotted back in after Szabolcs Schon deputized on the left wing for a game. With Franco Jara’s scoring run over, El Tren makes his return to the start. A real headscratcher of Ferruzzi’s interim tenure was the immediate dropping of Tafari, who had been the team’s best performing defender through its most successful run. With Jose Martinez carrying a knock, the 2020 draftee pairs with Matt Hedges in the FCD back line.

While the last game was a sprint from the first minute as Austin attempted to play out of the back against Dallas’ high press, the third and final meeting between the teams more lulled into existence as Josh Wolff’s side once again attempted to maintain possession while Dallas sat in a mid block inviting the visitors looking to counterattack. Jader Obrian had an early shot comfortably saved, while Austin saw a couple of efforts from outside the area blocked.

Ricardo Pepi is tied with Diego Fagundez for most goals scored in a season by a teenager. While Pepi came into the game searching for that record 14th, the now 26-year-old Fagundez gave the lead with a gorgeous curling effort from the edge of the Dallas area. The hosts sat back in the box and failed to adequately close the Uruguayan down after receiving a cross-field ball from Alex Ring in the 36th minute.

While the focus has been on Pepi, Jesus Ferreira has quietly put together an MVP season from the ten spot. The Dallas number nine picked up his eighth goal of the year just 110 seconds later. Ema Twumasi released Jader Obrian down the right side. Obrian played a low ball into the box with Ferreira slipping past three defenders to tap in at the back post.

The remainder of the half came and went, and Ferreira almost gave Dallas a dream start to the second half. The Homegrown picked off a header from Ring in the Dallas half, and found himself clear through after a one-two pass with Pepi. Brad Stuver held his ground and took advantage of a heavy touch running down the left side of the Austin box.

“We felt like we could pressure them. We had to sustain numbers there. At one point we tried to do an in-game adjustment where we wanted to push Jesus [Ferreira] in there a little bit higher with Pepi, because we were getting in and around them but we still weren’t having either that final pass.”

Marco Ferruzzi

With Dallas’ pace advantage growing clear over the Austin defense, a long ball just shy of the hour mark earned Dallas a sizeable advantage in the form of a red card shown to Hector Jiminez. Paxton Pomykal ran onto a long ball out of the back from Nkosi Tafari. Pomykal went down after Jiminez pulled at his arm in a good enough position to be considered denial of a goal-scoring opportunity. After a lengthy VAR check, referee Silviu Petrescu pointed Jiminez down the tunnel without the need for a review at the pitch-side monitor.

Dallas has historically struggled to break down the low block that Austin were forced into by the red card and it took a smart substitution to break the block in the 80th minute.

Paxton Pomykal had made way for Szabaolcs Schon to inject some extra pace into the attack, but it was the swap of Franco Jara for Brandon Servania that gave FCD the late lead. Ferreira found Obrian down the right side to feed a cross in that Jara was able to find with his first touch to restore the lead.

The hosts continued to press for a third to the approval of the smoke-laden supporters section but all happily settled for a first win for Ferruzzi, the team’s first since beating Austin in August, and the win that sealed the first edition of Copa Tejas MLS.

Nkosi Tafai, Ricardo Pepi, and Matt Hedges lift Copa Tejas in front of The Rhine. (FC Dallas Communications)

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