Two teams with1-1-1 records may have seen a perfect statement game on the horizon as the Texas Derby came to Frisco for the only time in 2021. The game took on some additional significance in being the first game in the MLS-edition of Copa Tejas. Unfortunately for the USL-originated competition, it will have to wait until August for a first win as FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo played out an uninspiring 1-1 result.
“I thought we did well to control the game with possession. We got more crosses, we got more shots. But we didn’t sustain it.”Luchi Gonzalez
FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez went with just one change from last weekend’s 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers. Franco Jara replaced Ricardo Pepi up front.
Matt Hedges and Jimmy Maurer returned from injury to take a place on the bench alongside new signing Szabolcs Schön.
The two sides mostly felt each other out for the opening 15 minutes until FC Dallas broke through the middle with the ball at the feet of Freddy Vargas. Vargas played a defense-splitting pass into the path of Ryan Hollingshead, overlapping on the right. The full back served up a low cross for Franco Jara but the Argentine’s shot was well held by Marko Maric.
Dallas were struggling to find a way through a deep back six but Freddy Vargas almost had the chance of a lifetime after Andres Ricaurte and Tanner Tessmann Houston’s Derrick Jones with the defense attempting to build out. Ricaurte won the ball and found Vargas open on the edge of the area. The Venezuelan winger took a step into the box only for Adam Lundkvist to make a fantastic recovery and nudge the ball away.
Against the run of play the visitors would soon have the lead after a cross from Memo Rodriguez down the right found the arm of Bressan leading the Brazilian to be booked. Offseason departure Fafa Picault stepped up to take the spot kick with Phelipe pointing left, the diving to his right as the ball rolled where he pointed to.
Dallas immediately pressed for an equalizer and wouldn’t wait long. A ball was played from an advanced position to Freddy Vargas on the Dallas right. With the Houston defense attempting to push up, Vargas played a cross-field ball into Bryan Acosta. Acosta stroked the ball across the face of goal with Maric diving to push away, leaving Jader Obrian with an empty net at his mercy.
The visitors hadn’t threatened much in the half, but waited until the very last seconds to break from an FCD corner. The ball was cleared as far as Joe Corona towards the edge of the area. The former USMNT midfielder ran the ball out and found Maxi Urruti down the right. Urruti dodged a tackle from Eddie Munjoma, but a strong recovery from Bryan Acosta saw the Honduran marshal his former team mate wide enough to stop Urruti posing a threat with a shot before the half time whistle sounded.
Luchi’s side looked overly relaxed in possession, lingering on the ball long enough to allow a Houston player to press from nothing. Even against weakened opposition, the bite that was present against Portland wasn’t evident in the FC Dallas team.
“I haven’t had any setbacks in the past almost-five weeks now. I don’t have any pain playing and I’m I’m feeling really good on the field. So I think from a health perspective I’m 100% fitness wise.”Paxton Pomykal on his fitness
The game did get significantly choppier but the introduction of Paxton Pomykal in the 57th minute almost conjured a second goal as Pomykal was found in space down the left. Running at Tim Parker, Pomykal cut the ball on to his right and lined up to shoot only to lay the ball laterally to Andres Ricaurte. Whether Ricaurte hoped to lob Maric or play a return ball, the Dynamo keeper ended up with an easy gather. Pomykal later remarked that he probably had a better look at the shot than Ricaurte.
Bressan was the talking point moments later, pulling down Picault close to the edge of the area. Referee Alex Chilowicz visibly reminded the defender of his earlier yellow card. Memo Rodriguez and Maynor Figueroa lined up the free kick from the left side of the box, with the former finding a big gap at the side of the wall which Phelipe was just able to cover.
Not content with a lack of chances, Coach Gonzalez made a double switch with Ricardo Pepi replacing Frano Jara, and Szabolcs Schön getting his debut.
“There’s always that that risk when you have a new player and they’re adapting. We’ve done video with him even before he got here. He’s, he has studied our games. We also we also saw him ready because he trained all week doing individual training with fitness, ball work and then he joined the group.”Luchi Gonzalez on Szabolcs Schön being introduced after only two practice sessions with the team.
Neither player was involved in the chance that came next as Paxton Pomykal and Andres Ricaurte combined to bring the ball out of the Dallas back line. Ricaurte hit a long ball over the top for Jader Obrian to run on to down the right wing. Obrian cut inside and shot off his left only to see Figueroa block the effort.
The Hoops began picking up their momentum, with two dangerous moments in quick succession. Paxton Pomykal threaded a ball through to Jader Obrian in the box. Maric was able to dive onto the ball as the linesman raised his flag with the referee playing advantage for Houston. The ball almost immediately found its way to Ricardo Pepi as he forced his way past Matias Vera into the Dynamo area, but Vera was able to push the young forward wide before winning a free kick.
Houston took out their two most threatening players – Picault and Rodriguez – while Dallas went back to offense with Dante Sealy. As much as the packed Rhine and couple dozen Houston fans were living every kick of the ball, the play from both sides ended closer to a preseason friendly than a chance to make a statement against the team’s biggest rivals.
“I felt like some of the problems we had was with our quality. Poor first touches, poor decision making, passing it to guys that were in no man’s land [with] guys on their back and nowhere to go. Then we got countered and used a lot of our exertion and energy recovering. Then we get back, turn and look forward and be winded just from tracking 75 yards on the sprint to cover a counter.”Paxton Pomykal on what he saw within the game causing FC Dallas trouble
That laissez-faire approach almost came back to haunt the North Texans as the clock struck 90. Ryan Hollingshead lost the ball deep in Houston territory. With little tracking back, two passes down the right hand side led to Maxi Urruti outpacing Jose Martinez – covering Hollingshead’s left back spot – before forcing a save from Phelipe that almost bounced through to a team mate but for Eddie Munjoma flicking the ball clear.
The five minutes passed by with the largest trouble to either side being a cross from Andres Ricaurte that struck Zarek Valentin in the face before the former Portland Timber was cleared to resume play.
Houston should be the happier of the two sides but the game will serve as a missed opportunity should the top teams in the conference start to pull away over the coming weeks.
Dallas travels to Minnesota in a week’s time. The Loons have been the surprise of the Western Conference for all the wrong reasons, losing all three games at the time of writing before Minnesota’s game in Colorado on Saturday night.