FC Dallas put a tough night in Austin firmly in the rear-view mirror by taking down MLS Champs LAFC thanks to goals from Bernard Kamungo and Sam Junqua.
“We were very strong in the first half,” said FC Dallas head coach Nico Estevez. “We managed to try a different fixture and when it came to the second half we pressed more and continued to attack. It definitely helped us a lot in the second half as we did a better job and managed to score two goals.”
Another day, another threadbare lineup. With Jesus Ferreira scoring hatties in the Gold Cup, Jader Obrian’s return was of the utmost importance but the Colombian ‘personal reason’-ed himself out of the roster.
Ahead of the expected back five we saw another double pivot of Edwin Cerrillo and Facundo Quignon with Sebastian Lletget at the 8. Sam Junqua continued his Ryan Hollingshead-esque run of different positions, starting at right wing opposite Alan Velasco. Bernard Kamungo got the start at the 9.
Although the lineup graphic shows a 4-4-2, this was very much a 4-3-3.
The hosts had the ball in the net in the ninth minute. Facundo Quignon headed an Alan Velasco across the LAFC. John McCarthy dove out to stop an emerging chance, colliding with Sam Junqua and dropping the ball for Geovane Jesus to finish off inside the six-yard box. Referee Sergii Boiko rightly called the foul to rule out the Dallas goal.
The reigning MLS Cup champs tested Maarten Paes in the 20th minute as Mateusz Bogusz directed a free kick through traffic that the Dutchman had to get low to flick away.
The ensuing corner, and mass of headers between the two sides trying to secure territory, ended up with a ball cleanly finding Denis Bouanga unmarked. The French-born striker couldn’t add to his 11 goals in 2023, completely missing the ball with his attempted volley.
LAFC is more often than not in a 4-3-3 similar to FC Dallas. Steve Cherundolo set out a 3-5-2, which saw the visitors overload the midfield, but gave Dallas plenty of opportunity to attack the left flank. As LAFC attempted to play through the middle, Facundo Quignon was in his element with a series of shut-down tackles in tight space.
Dallas gradually sat back through the half, adopting a mid-block as the team struggled to break forward. Bernard Kamungo struggled to find the right spaces, edging out to the left wing and finding himself shut out wide by Ryan Hollingshead and Denil Maldonado. Their center back partner, Giorgio Chiellini, should have given LAFC the lead just prior to the break, making a run for a Bouanga cross that the Italian European Championship winner couldn’t direct on target.
Two half time subs from LAFC put the visitors back in their usual 4-3-3, and brought Kellyn Acosta on for another ‘home’ game for the former FCD homegrown.
The other sub was Kwadwo Opoku, and the Ghanaian midfielder gave Dallas a scare in the 52nd minute, with a diving header off a teasing free kick that Bogusz flashed across the Dallas box. Opoku made contact close to the end line, almost making the tight angle towards Paes’ goal.
FC Dallas gained and unlikely lead in the 56th minute off a set piece that really should have been cleared away. The corner came in from Geovane Jesus, Ilie Sanchez could only direct the ball back towards his keeper with a soft touch in the middle of a crush of players challenging for the header. Kamungo reacted fastest, poking the ball past McCarthy for his second FC Dallas goal.
Into the final half hour and Denis Bouanga visibly frustrated as he’s unable to break through former team mate Sebastien Ibeagha. Cherundolo turned to Carlos Vela to work some magic. The Mexican forward wasn’t involved, but LAFC almost-immediately released Bouanga in space only to see him miss from inside the box.
Nico Estevez also went to his bench, in the 69th minute, bringing on Jose Mulato in place of Kamungo. Both Marco Farfan and Geovane Jesus required treatment, forcing a hydration break and a chance for the team to regroup. Amet Korca came in for Jesus, and Tsiki Ntsabeleng returned from a knee sprain to take the place of Sebastian Lletget in midfield.
That Vela magic almost came to fruition in the 81st minute. The former Arsenal man plucked the ball out of the air, made a run out to the left and teased a low cross in front of Paes that was barely out of reach of the LAFC attackers in a position the Hooped defenders were at real risk of an own goal.
That was immediately followed by an enormous cheer for Paxton Pomykal‘s return from injury. The No.19 replaced Alan Velasco on the left wing.
“They’ve been incredible the whole year and it really shows the depth of our squad and the talent we have,” said Paxton Pomykal. “Our depth pushes everyone, we’re not a roster with 11 guys. We have over 20 guys that have high quality and I’m really for Bernard (Kamungo) and Sam (Junqua) that they had big performances and they were big reasons why we won.”
If the game had a feel-good vibe to it, that went to another level in the last minute of regular time. Sam Junqua picked up the ball on the right touch line, dribbled around Bouanga and three team mates on his way toward the LAFC area. After exchanging passed with Tsiki Ntsabeleng, the former Houston man stepped aside Ryan Hollingshead before launching a left-footed effort past McCarthy. The goal was Junqua’s first for FC Dallas, and second MLS goal after notching for Houston in 2020.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Huntsmen, back in action on Tuesday with DC United coming to town for Frisco Freedomfest before a weekend trip to Colorado. The Rapids are rock bottom of the MLS standings. DC United is faring better over in the East, only three points behind Dallas. Remarkably each of DC’s last three games have featured a red card.