The pressure piles on as FC Dallas lets slip a three-goal lead over RSL

FC Dallas found itself in the unusual territory of a three-goal lead against MLS Western Conference leaders RSL. Unfortunately that’s as good as it got as the team collapsed to a 3-3 draw.

“It’s unacceptable to lose this game. The mistakes we made and the goals conceded are avoidable.”

Nico Estevez

Petar Musa got some well-earned parental rest for the Open Cup game, but returned to head-up the starting XI. Patrickson Delgado lined up opposite the returning Paul Arriola. Jesus Ferreira’s knock in Tampa kept the Young DP out of the roster.

Two more returns as Asier Illarramendi and Liam Fraser returned to the lineup in the center of midfield, and the back six pretty much picks itself.

MLS top scorer Chicho Arango made his presence known immediately, battling Maarten Paes for a loose ball in the opening minutes that the RSL man eventually stabbed wide.

Matt Crooks should have given Salt Lake the lead in the 15th minute. Andrew Brody floated a cross in from the right wing. Diego Luna was afforded a free header at the back post, that he chose to look for a team mate along the edge of the six-yard box. Crooks arrived in the right place but just couldn’t control his header.

Maarten Paes has recaptured his form, but a rare blip from the new Indonesian citizen almost let RSL in moments later. A poor pass to Illarramendi was taken by Braian Ojeda. Paes forced Ojeda wide on his surge into the box. Luckily for the Hoops a chipped ball into Arango didn’t produce anything.

Dallas took until the 28th minute to register its first shot – after Arango alone had recorded six – through Petar Musa. The Croatian managed to pull off an impressive shot on the turn under heavy pressure, but nothing to trouble the RSL keeper.

In the heat and humidity, the first half largely devolved to a pattern of RSL attackers caught offside and FCD shots from distance. Dallas started to claw their way into the game after the water break as Patrickson Delgado saw a low drive held, while Paul Arriola had a long effort at Zac MacMath punched back at him.

“We pushed Marco (Farfan) a little bit higher on the press, this allowed us to build press earlier and then trap them in one area and win the ball back. After, we just found the pockets. We did a really good job at finding Paul (Arriola) and Patrickson (Delgado) in those pockets and that helped us to create dangerous chances.”

Estevez on changes made after the hydration break

The opening goal came from distance in the third minute of stoppage time as the Burn took the lead. Delgado played a short corner to Asier Illarramendi on the Dallas left. The Basque midfielder looped in a cross that MacMath looked to have a straightforward punch on, but somehow he bobbled the ball over his own head and gifted Dallas the lead going into half time.

Buoyed on by the lead, Dallas got a hot start to the second half. MacMath made a nice stop on a Musa effort in the 49th minute, then Musa saw another shot cleared off the line two minutes later.

The wingbacks have been an issue for FC Dallas thus far in 2024, but Twumasi and Marco Farfan were both getting forward and making some incisive runs inside the Real Salt Lake back line.

MacMath was the gift that kept on giving, with Delgado claiming the prize in the 57th minute. Maarten Paes claimed a corner before throwing it long in search of Delgado. Zac MacMath ran out to the center circle in an attempt to clear the ball before Delgado got to it, but the former Colorado keeper fluffed it, leaving the Ecuadorian with an empty netter.

Less than 90 seconds later, Paul Arriola pushed the lead to three. Illarra forced a turnover in the midfield, eventually finding Arriola on the right side of the area for the captain’s first goal of 2024.

Diego Luna pulled one back in the 61st minute. Crooks won the ball in the midfield and sent through Andres Gomez with a beautiful defense-splitting pass. Gomez squared the ball to the RSL homegrown for an easy tap-in.

Both coaches went to the bench minutes after the run of goals. Pablo Mastroeni made four changes, Nico Estevez only two in the 66th minute. Bernie Kamungo replaced Paul Arriola, and Dante Sealy subbed in for Marco Farfan.

Two of those four Real Salt Lake substitutes combined to pull the lead back to one in the 73rd minute. Maikel Cheng found Anderson Julio on the visitors’ left side with Ema Twumasi caught upfield. Julio cut inside and launched a rocket high inside Paes’ near post from the corner of the box.

With ten minutes left, Nolan Norris came in for Liam Fraser. Norris saw a yellow 35 seconds after getting on the field to add to the bookings Paes and Sebastien Ibeagha had received for timewasting. Abdou Ndiaye had a solid start to his MLS career as a referee, but he was a little particular on the cards.

Dallas pushed forward in search of a fourth inbetween spells of bunker ball. Goalscorer and provider for the first – Patrickson Delgado – made his way off in the 88th minute for Sebastian Lletget.

The western conference leaders have made a habit of late goals, and they grabbed a share of the points in the eighth and final minute of added time. A short corner was worked out to Nelson Palacio in the ‘D’. Without a red shirt close by, the Salt Lake sub shot low through a crowd of players. A deflection off Ibeagha carried the ball beyond Paes’ reach to complete the three-goal collapse.

FC Dallas enjoyed a strong middle third of the game, with two huge errors by MacMath gifting a three goal lead. RSL dominated either side of that, doubling FC Dallas’ xG including two shots off the post.

Plenty of questions have been raised of the choice to play a back three despite only having three recognized senior center backs on the roster – one of whom remained on the bench – and wide defenders that struggle with the wing back role. A mention of mistakes by young players by Estevez seemed to be aimed at Dante Sealy, who didn’t need to put the ball out for the corner that led to the equalizer. The reality of the situation was that he was put in a poor position by his coach, as an attacking player you wouldn’t want to close out a lead in an unfamiliar position.

Such a dramatic collapse can only raise more questions ahead of a run of three games on the road to the teams immediately behind RSL in the standings. The first part of that starts with the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night, before hanging around in Southern California for a visit to LAFC on Saturday night.

1 Comment

  1. Plenty of problems when you have a collapse like that and plenty of blame to go around, but man oh man did I not understand those subs at 66’. Bernie didn’t really give you anything at all and couldn’t keep possession of the ball but at least he was mostly a non-factor. Sealy on the other hand… I groaned out load sitting in the stands when he checked in. He seems to find a way to make some critical errors every time he’s on the field.

    I know options are limited with all the injuries but subbing on a pair of offensive minded guys who are notable liabilities on defense when you’ve got a 2 goal lead is absolute madness.

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