The Breakdown: San Jose Clash at Dallas Burn – 1996 franchise opener

Well, here it is, Major League Soccer arrives in Dallas with the Dallas Burn playing host to the San Jose Clash. The first real professional soccer in the Metroplex in 15 years, and where better for it to take place than at the historic Cotton Bowl.

Lineups and Tactics

Coach Dave Dir is looking to get things on track after a disastrous 4-0 loss to Minnesota Thunder in a closed-door scrimmage at the Cotton Bowl earlier in the week.

Tom Soehn (torn knee ligaments) and Mark Santel (separated shoulder) are out. Santel isn’t the only allocated player missing as Hugo Sanchez remains under contract in Austria. Jeff Cassar and Brian Haynes also missed most of training camp to be with the US Olympic team ahead of the summer games in Atlanta.

Dir does name three of his Colorado Foxes players (Mark Dodd, Chad Ashton, Ted Eck) from the 1994 APSL Championship game in a 3-5-2 that almost resembles a 3-4-3. The formation compresses to more of a flat 3-6-1 with Kreis and Rodriguez dropping back.

Mark Dodd gets the start in goal behind a back three of Richard Farrer, Ed Puskarich, and Diego Soñora. Soñora only made it into Dallas earlier in the week missing the entire Burn preseason.

Leonel Alvarez anchors the midfield with Lawrence Lozzano, Chad Ashton, and Gerell Elliott ahead.

Jason Kreis sits behind a front two of Washington Rodriguez and Ted Eck.

Dir made two substitutions, both straight swaps. John Kerr Jr. is the Burn’s first ever substitute, replacing Ashton in the 74th minute. Jimmy Glenn gets the final nine minutes after Washington was kicked around the Cotton Bowl field.

Dallas Burn lineup for the opening game in franchise history. Top row (L-R): Leonel Alvarez, Mark Dodd, Ted Eck, Lawrence Lozzano, Ed Puskarich, Richard Farrer. Bottom row (L-R): Chad Ashton, Washington Rodriguez, Jason Kreis, Gerell Elliott, Diego Sonora.

San Jose named an unchanged 4-4-2 from their opening win over DC United.

Tom Liner starts in goal ahead of a central pairing of John Doyle and Michael Emenalo, Tim Martin on the left side of the defense with Troy Dayak opposite.

Paul Bravo and Jorge Rodas take up the center of the park, flanked by Benedict Iroha and Victor Mella.

Jeff Baicher starts up top alongside the scorer of MLS’ first ever goal, Eric Wynalda.

Goals

It was a fast and furious 90 minutes but the two sides couldn’t muster up a goal in regulation, although we came close to seeing a goal on a couple of occasions.

The visitors had the ball across the face of Dodd’s goal ten minutes in.

Ed Puskarich attempts to clear a header off the post. The ball fell to US National Teamer, Eric Wynalda, on the far side of the end line, who drove it low towards Jeff Baicher. The ball slipped past Leonel Alvarez only for Jason Kreis to dramatically slide in from behind and knock the ball away from Baicher and into Dodd’s hands.

The Burn had a strong appeal for a penalty late in the first period as Michael Emenalo put a hand up to stop Lawrence Lozzano‘s goal-bound header.

Dallas should have had the ball in net with 11 minutes left on the clock. Jason Kreis played a hopeful ball for Gerell Elliott to chase. Paul Holocher tried to head the ball back to Liner in the Clash goal, but Elliott is able to get in front and knock the ball clear to Washington Rodriguez. Holocher atoned for his weak header by closing down Rodriguez and preventing the empty-netter.

MLS is conducting a FIFA trial for a hockey-style shootout, and the two teams got to be the first test case for the 35-yard attempt. The concept, also used in the NASL, is thought to be a more soccer-oriented style of tiebreaker than the traditional penalty kick.

Attackers have five seconds to shoot with no rebounds, but can take as many touches as desired prior to the shot.

Wynalda stepped up first, rolling the ball into the penalty area before attempting to place the ball over a diving Mark Dodd, but the Richardson-native got a touch on the ball to kill the play.

A frustrated Wynalda later said “I just missed it. It wasn’t any brilliance on his [Dodd’s] behalf.”

Instead, one of Wynalda’s US National Team teammate’s from last year’s surprise run to the Copa America semifinals recorded his name as the first player to score in a shootout in MLS. John Kerr Jr slammed his effort into the top right corner moments after finding out he was up first for the Burn.

“I found out 30 seconds before I took the shot,” Kerr. “Nobody could find coach after the game to get the lineup.”

Victor Mella tied things up for the Clash before Lawrence Lozzano put Dallas back in front. Dodd produced three saves, including tipping John Doyle’s shot onto the post, to give the Dallas Burn its first point.

El Bueno

It wasn’t the full three points but a win of any kind is a great start for this franchise.

Dallas has one of the lowest season ticket sales figures at 2,500 but it was great to see an opening day attendance of 27,779. The Cotton Bowl’s capacity for soccer is 25,425 leaving Burn staff rushing to remove tarps from three sections on the south end line.

“I had 28 ticket windows open,” said Burn GM Billy Hicks. “We almost didn’t have enough. Ten minutes before the game, we still had a lot of people waiting in line.”

Mark Dodd gets my player of the game vote. Four saves in the shootout, as well as a couple of great stops during the game. Dodd was under almost every cross. His only mistake came in missing the corner that led to Baicher almost scoring. Dodd narrowly beats out San Jose’s John Doyle, who gave the Dallas offense a headache all afternoon.

Leonel Alvarez gave the performance you want from a player on the league maximum $192,500. The defensive midfielder was omnipresent on the Cotton Bowl field with every play, both offensive and defensive, going through the Colombian star.

The backline was outstanding. Ed Puskarich and Diego Soñora ensured that Eric Wynalda wasn’t a factor, and Richard Farrer was able to join Soñora in attack. The former Boca Juniors captain also had a long-range shot come back off the crossbar.

Camino del Medio

The Burn needs to gel. All the late arrivals didn’t help Coach Dir. Soñora hasn’t even been in town for a week, and his forward runs seemed to confuse Gerell Elliott and Chad Ashton at times.

Dallas tried to overload San Jose with pace. Elliott, Lawrence Lozzano, and Washington Rodriguez looked like they were chasing down Michael Johnson at times. All three faded through the second half. The Texas summer isn’t going to be kind to that all-out style.

Jason Kreis struggled to find his place on the field. We expected to see the 23-year-old sit just behind the front two, although Kreis was forced back into the midfield in order to be involved in the game. Kreis did have a couple of flashes, highlighted by a nice turn and shot at the start of the second period.

Muy Feo

Man those Clash jerseys are ugly! A weird mustard yellow, red, green, and light blue. United Colors of Benetton wants its color scheme back.

Next Game

The unfortunately named Kansas City Wiz are in town on Thursday, April 18. The Wiz beat Colorado 3-0 in their opening game behind a brace from Digital Takawira.

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