FC Dallas fought back from a dire opening five minutes that shipped a goal, going down to ten men, and having a goal chalked off. Despite the best Dallas efforts, including Nkosi Tafari’s second FC Dallas goal, a late gut punch by Denis Bouanga gave the reigning MLS Cup winners the points at BMO Stadium.
Nico Estevez’s challenges began early. Paxton Pomykal dropped to the bench after exiting the SKC game with hamstring soreness. Jose Martinez missed out entirely with a bad knee, and Sebastian Lletget missed out through personal issues after the status of his engagement to popstar Becky G was subject to the rumor mill in midweek.
Coach went for a 4-2-3-1 with Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo in a double pivot. Jader Obrian came in on the right, allowing Paul Arriola to play left wing with Alan Velasco at the 10 spot.
LAFC of course have both Kellyn Acosta and Ryan Hollingshead but the focus was on another player. Denis Bouanga was presumed out on international duty with Gabon. Despite playing 90 minutes in AFCON Qualifying on Thursday, he was shockingly available from the bench.
One of the two former FC Dallas favorites should have got on the scoreboard in the opening 90 seconds. Ryan Hollingshead made a strong run down the right side, shrugging off Facundo Quignon before finding Kwadwo Opoku in the box. Opoku’s cross met Hollingshead, but the 31-year-old’s effort rolled wide.
The champions didn’t have to wait long to get on the score sheet, from the resulting goal kick in fact. Dallas attempted to play out of the back as LAFC pressed. Quignon passed back to Maarten Paes, whose attempted clearance found Opoku. Alan Velasco was able to steal the ball away but Timothy Tillman easily got in front of the Argentine after a heavy touch, and slid the ball to the far post.
Another instance of When Playing It Out of the Back Goes Wrong followed moments later as a Sebastien Ibeagha pass out to Ema Twumasi was intercepted. Nkosi Tafari produced a fantastic tackle to prevent a Carlos Vela tap-in.
Dallas thought they’d got an equalizer out of nothing in the 18th minute. Paul Arriola crossed from the left after Velasco moved a long pass from Tafari out wide. The cross came to Jesus Ferreira in space, his shot was charged down with Edwin Cerrillo side-footing home from outside the area. Unfortunately for the visitors, Jader Obrian stood in front of the LAFC keeper, impeding his vision in a comfortably offside position, giving the VAR an easy choice to make in referring the play for review.
VAR came into play again just after the half hour. Ema Twumasi was shown a yellow card for a foul on Sergi Palencia. Twumasi seemed to leave an arm out across Palencia, but his elbow clearly made contact with Palencia’s face and the red card was shown after a review.
Coach Estevez brought in Geovane Jesus to rebalance the defense in the 42nd minute. Jader Obrian was the player pulled, who had failed to feature at all outside of his earlier offside.
FCD weathered the storm well in the first half. Nkosi Tafari and Sebastien Ibeagha dealt well with Carlos Vela. Edwin Cerrillo seemed to excel given the more Paxton Pomykal-like range. Marco Farfan looked like he had something to prove against his old team, not only getting forward but getting involved high up the field.
Farfan may have had the chance for FC Dallas in the 64th minute. Arriola worked the ball into the box down the right, his cross made its way through a crowd to Tafari. Farfan rushed into the box for a shot that blew past both John McCarthy and his post.
The 70th minute saw Nico Estevez pull his two Argentines. Facundo Quignon and Alan Velasco departed with Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Jesus Jimenez the replacements.
VAR Jair Marrufo left Dallas sweating after Nkosi Tafari gave the Burn an equalizer in the 74th minute. A free kick from Farfan found its way through to Ibeagha. The former LAFC center back repaid the assist from Tafari in Vancouver, knocking the ball back that Tafari who finishes acrobatically.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Dallas was destined for a late winner after Carlos Vela wasted a chance from the spot five minutes after FCD tied it up. The LAFC front man went to ground under a challenge from Tsiki Ntsabeleng. VAR spotted incidental contact, and a penalty was awarded. Paes’ record gets that extra notch it missed from last week’s double save as Vela could only find the crossbar.
Unfortunately Denis Bouanga had other plans after flying in from Central Africa to Southern California to make the bench. The Gabon striker made it six goals from six games in the 84th minute, putting the ball between Maarten Paes’ legs from virtually on the byline. A real heartbreak after the adversity Dallas had overcome through the course of the night.
The final play of the game seemed apt as Jesus Jimenez saw a shot smothered by Giorgio Chiellini at the end of a strangely short five minutes of stoppage time, with that horrible feeling that Dallas were on the verge of another equalizing goal even after three sub stoppages, the VAR review for the penalty as well as a lengthy VAR check on Tafari’s goal, Bouanga’s winner, and several breaks in play for yellow cards.
FC Dallas returns home on April 1 against the Portland Timbers.