The circus tuly came to town as seven-time Ballon d’Or winner and recent World Cup MVP Lionel Messi arrived at Toyota Stadium to put on a show worthy of the buzz around his arrival.
From selling out in little over 10 minutes, and the thousands of dollars made on the secondary market, to the miles of queues wrapped around Toyota Stadium, it was a unique experience and a massive contrast to the four-or-so thousand who witnessed Dallas’ win over Mazatlan four days prior.
“I think we have to be feel very proud about our team and what we did,” said FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estevez. “We could have scored seven goals today against a team that did very well in all the other games, and I think we put them in a really difficult position today. To be honest, I think we should win this game.”
Just the two changes from the win over Mazatlan as Marco Farfan and Sebastien Ibeagha came back into the lineup. Liam Fraser and Asier Illarramendi have yet to join up with their new team after deadline day signings announced on Wednesday.
The first chance fell to the ‘other #10’ as Jesus Ferreira steered a Bernard Kamungo cross wide with a header on the edge of the six yard box, just 80 seconds in.
Ferreira got a little closer in the fourth minute, in fact in the back of the net. Geovane Jesus swung a cross in from the Dallas right that Kamungo was able to get a good header on. Drake Callender got both hands to the ball but could only find Ferreira with it. The FCD striker finished from a yard out with his second touch only to see the flag raised on the far side.
Oscar Pareja had a couple of strong opinions about refereeing in Miami’s favor and Nico Estevez will likely feel the same grievances when he watches the game back on Monday after Leo Messi swept home a ball from outside the box in the sixth minute. Maarten Paes couldn’t reach the exquisite curling effort, however the linesman raised his flag as Josef Martinez stood offside in Paes’ line of sight. The Video Assistant Referee had referee Cesar Ramos check the footage, which looked clearly like interference in play from an offside position, and still decided to overturn the call to give Messi his sixth goal of the tournament.
The man of the minute slipped in Robert Taylor with a similar chance that Paes came up big for once again. The ball fell back to Messi, who attempted to chip the ball to the far post but Tafari headed the ball off the line.
The Burn drew level in the 37th minute through another Argentine who has a penchant for scoring big goals. Alan Velasco threaded a neat pass through the Miami defense for Marco Farfan to race onto. The former LAFC man whipped in a low cross that Facundo Quignon hit a one-time left-footed first time half volley past Callender.
Bernie apparently didn’t read the script as the Tanzanian youngster gave FCD the lead in the 45th minute in another move started with a beautiful pass by Velasco. Jesus Ferreira and Kamungo ran at the Miami defense, the former squared a pass at the edge of the box, and the Abilene kid worked his way through three defenders before scoring from a tight angle.
Miami came out with a little more urgency but Dallas soon found a rhythm as both Bernard Kamungo and Jesus Ferreira narrowly headed wide.
Ferreira really should have extended the lead in the 54th minute. A ball cleared out of the midfield hit the Colombian-American and fell invitingly to run on to ahead of Kamal Miller. Ferreira seemed in two minds whether to shoot or go round the keeper, giving Miller enough time to catch up and make the stop.
An observation of Messi’s early performances has been how much space teams have been willing to give arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. Facundo Quignon paid his compatriot close attention, nicking the ball off Messi’s foot on the ground in the box and forcing Messi to make more use of his team mates than coach Tata Martino would probably care for.
Coach Estevez went to the bench in the 58th minute, seeming to respond to criticism over previously trying to shut up shop and defend leads too early. The Spanish coach switched his wingers out, with Paul Arriola replacing Kamungo and Eugene Ansah in for Jader Obrian.
The Argies kept scoring as Alan Velasco smacked a searching free kick from far over near the left touchline. Somehow the low delivery eluded every single player and settled inside Callender’s back post.
“I accomplished one of my biggest dreams today,” said Alan Velasco of facing Lionel Messi. “It was such a surreal experience that after many years of watching him play, I finally got to share the field with him. I am happy for that experience but also upset because of the score. We were up two goals and lost focus which made us lose a game we should have won.”
Miami kept a busy few moments alive with a 65th minute goal of their own. Benjamin Cremaschi had just subbed in, immediately crashing a cut back from Jordi Alba and rifling it into the roof of the net for inside the six-yard box. Needless to say, that chance came as a direct result of some great work by Messi on the edge of the Dallas box.
Miami scored again three minutes later but made it 4-2 to the Texans after Robert Taylor slid in to try and intercept Paul Arriola’s cut back in the Miami area. Drake Callender came agonizingly close to getting a finger tip on the ball.
Estevez went to his bench twice more. Paxton Pomykal replaced Sebastian Lletget in the 69th minute. Two more followed in the 77th as Ema Twumasi came in for Geovane Jesus, and Tsiki Ntsabeleng slotted in for Alan Velasco who appeared to have taken a knock.
According to my revered colleague Jon Arnold, it should have been Marco Farfan’s dream to head in a Leo Messi free kick, and he did just that. Unfortunately for the Hoops’ left back, his emphatic finish was against his own team in the 80th minute after a Tsiki Ntsabeleng handball on the left corner of the area. The replay showed Farfan under no pressure for one of the more bizarre own goals you’ll see.
Another free kick in a dangerous area, this time favoring Messi’s left foot and the World Cup winner curled high inside Paes’ near post to tie up the game in the 85th minute.
If you wanted to know what would happen if you took the worst team in the league and put the best player in the world in it, you got a great experiment as Dallas made Miami look amateur at times, cooking the defense. Conversely, three elite players with an attacking flair passed the ball around FCD like they weren’t there in phases.
With six minutes stoppage time shown, Dallas’ best chance looked like a penalty shootout. Tsiki Ntsabeleng didn’t help that cause, fouling Busquets dead-center of goal, 25 yards out. Messi could only find the wall. That spurred the home side to a late surge but the whistle arrived to send it to a shoot-out.
After the coin toss, proceedings moved down to the empty north end just like the Charlotte game and Messi would shoot first for Inter Miami. He sent Paes the wrong way.
Paul Arriola came up for Dallas, powering his shot down the middle. Paes started to play mind games with Sergio Busquets. The Spaniard scored with a panenka before the pair shook hands.
Paxton Pomykal’s return hasn’t been at the pace he’d like, and hammering his penalty high into the old Beer Garden isn’t going to make turning that around any easier.
Leonardo Campana, Facundo Quignon, Kamal Miller, and Jesus Ferreira all scored to leave Cremaschi able to seal the win. The Miami native sent Paes the wrong way with a neat finish to the bottom right corner to see Inter Miami through to the quarter finals and a game against either Charlotte or Houston.
Midseason distraction or meaningful competition, Dallas has found some form in front of goal, brought several players back to be close to full health, and can look forward to a rest before resuming league play in Philadelphia on August 20.