Tafari heroics help Dallas to a point in Seattle

FC Dallas withstood a first half barrage, and some late heavy pressure to grab a rare point in Seattle to end a run of games against the top three in the West.

“I thought today, even if we didn’t get the time goal, I’d still be proud of the group to show a response, to show a push, to show a great effort and representation of the club. But we got the goal, we earned that… It was commitment, it was numbers, it was effort and duels – things that sometimes aren’t pretty but can help to turn things into points.”

Luchi Gonzalez

What do you change after getting consecutive wins for the first time in 2021? Absolutely nothing, and Luchi Gonzalez did exactly that. Two players were back to make the bench, Bryan Acosta from the Gold Cup, and Andres Ricaurte returned from suspension.

Christian Roldan’s return was the big news for the Sounders, and he created the first real chance of the game in the 15th minute. A run down the right ended in a cut back across the edge of the area. Edwin Cerrillo was in reach of the ball but let it run past only to see Joao Paulo smash the ball for Jimmy Maurer to tip on to the post and out of danger. Joao Paulo had forced a save out of Maurer a couple of minutes prior, but a comfortable parry off a shot from outside of the area.

FC Dallas tried to find a way through, playing Szabolcs Schon and Paxton Pomykal in behind the Sounders wing backs, and attempting to find Ricardo Pepi over the top, but Yeimar seemed to be a ball magnet, defending everything in sight leaving Dallas without a shot in the opening period.

Seattle soon picked up the initiative again with Freddy Montero denied by a fantastic reaction save by Jimmy Maurer. That was surrounded by half a dozen clearances from Nkosi Tafari, who would end the half on nine. That staggering figure still couldn’t stop Seattle from managing 11 first half attempts.

“The profile of the teams we play Seattle and SKC are really good in the wings, getting crosses in the box and then trying to beat you on your weak side shoulder. That’s just really what you’re good at, first and second place teams so they’re really good quality.”

Nkosi Tafari on the crossing that had led to consecutive games with double-figure clearances

FCD could have had a penalty in the opening minutes of the second half as Yeimar attempted to barge Ryan Hollingshead while chasing a ball down the left side of the Seattle box. Both players went to ground off the fair contact, with Yeimar picking up the ball on the ground. Referee Fotis Bazakos opted for the easier call, awarding the Sounders a free kick.

Seattle got closer and closer. Just after the hour, Paxton Pomykal produced an acrobatic clearance for a cross intended for Brad Smith, in a period of play that ended in Kellyn Rowe missing just wide after collecting a header from Bressan.

Dallas finally got a shot on target seconds later. Ricardo Pepi received a ball from Ryan Hollingshead after a dummy run by Facundo Quignon grabbed the attention of the Sounders back five. Pepi dragged the ball back to his right foot and away from Shane O’Neill, but Stefan Cleveland ultimately had a comfortable stop on the low shot from the edge of the area.

Changes came in the 66th minute with Jader Obrian replacing Szabolcs Schon on the right wing, and Bryan Acosta replaced Jesus Ferreira.

Obrian immediately won a free kick, taking a knee to the ribs from Yeimar. The set piece led to a corner that brought about Dallas’ best chance as Quignon saw a half volley in the box clawed off the line by Cleveland in a great reaction stop.

Disaster in the 72nd minute, and on the day Ricardo Pepi was named an MLS All-Star, the 18-year-old may have earned some extra training reps in defending set pieces. A Joao Paulo free kick from deep met the head of Freddy Montero, evading the reach of Jimmy Maurer. Montero was being tracked by Pepi on the set piece but the youngster was caught ball watching, allowing Montero a clear run in the box to be one of three players contesting a header with Tafari.

“This one was on me. I could have done a better job of checking my awareness and clearing the ball. I hadn’t realized what was necessarily behind me. I could have done a better job of getting into Montero.”

Nkosi Tafari on the fifth set piece goal that FC Dallas has conceded in 2021.

Luchi needed an attack that could make a greater impression against a strong back five and it came. Pepi would soon depart for Franco Jara, Andres Ricaurte subbed in for Edwin Cerrillo, and Freddy Vargas for Paxton Pomykal. Added pace around the sides, and a greater aerial presence up front with ten minutes to salvage the team’s modest winning run.

Nkosi Tafari once again produced an incredible display at the back, with double figure clearances in consecutive games, and a great recovery run to block a shot from a wide open Raul Ruidiaz.

But the second year pro’s finest contribution came in the first minute of stoppage time. Tafari stayed high up the field after a corner. Andres Ricaurte looped in a cross from the right with the ball finding its way to Tafari after Franco Jara’s aerial challenge with Xavier Arriaga. The 24-year-old hit a low ball in the direction of the goal that Jara was able to direct past Cleveland to save a point and move to a three match unbeaten run.

After a tough season so far, FC Dallas has come away with seven points in a three game run against the Western Conference’s top three teams ahead of a weekend meeting with Austin FC. The MLS new boys outlasted ten-man Houston at home, winning 3-2 to pull themselves within two points of the two Texas Derby rivals.

1 Comment

  1. Tarari has been the MVP for the last couple of games in my opinion. I’m not sure if MLS will have an expansion draft this next season, but I would probably expose Bressan or Martinez before I would expose Tafari . His athleticism is better fit for this league and his passing has gotten better each game.

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