First-half defensive issues cost Dallas Austin
FC Dallas’ season ended after a three-minute period put the game out of reach. Passive play, poor ball movement and a few defensive breakdowns supported the visitors from a corner throughout the first half.
“The first half we didn’t look ready, we didn’t come out like we were ready,” Matt Hedges said. “We didn’t show intensity and it showed. And you can’t win playoff games by playing half time.
As the Huntsmen dropped like dead flies towards the end of their first-round match with Minnesota United, Paxton Pomykal was the only casualty. Pomykal was declared available on the bench after completing a full training session. Brandon Servania took his place in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
Matt Hedges was called into action barely a minute in as Diego Fagundez managed to beat Ema Twumasi to head a Sebastian Driussi cross past Maarten Paes, but the GOAT was able to hook what had been reduced to a bobble to the goal line.
Moussa Djitte started on former FCD striker Maxi Urruti and justified the choice in the 26th minute. Brandon Servania attempted to head the ball clear at the near post, which cleared the ball away from any other FC Dallas defender. Ema Twumasi left Djitte, leaving the Senegal striker with an easy finish from six yards out.
Things went from bad to worse in the 29th after allowing Driussi a clear run through midfield. The Austin playmaker won the ball back in midfield after a heavy touch that was mastered by Alan Velasco. After dodging Jose Martinez with ease, before hitting the ball flush with Paes.
After struggling against Austin’s low block, Dallas finally found a run in a good position before first-half stoppage time as Paul Arriola managed to fire a shot under a challenge, the first effort from Dallas. It ended the worst half of football the team had played in 2022.
Nico Estevez turned to Franco Jara at the break. The veteran forward replaced Brandon Servania with Jesus Ferreira behind the front line to combat Austin’s low block.
Dallas immediately looked better, with Alan Velasco threatening a low ball into the box that was hacked by a defender, before the team created a chance for Ferreira at the top of the box.
Dallas may have gotten away with a kill in the 54th as an FCD corner was cleared to Diego Fagundez. The former New England man battled with Marco Farfan chasing the loose ball towards the halfway line. Each player had a shirt handful as Farfan fell, leaving Fagundez a clear run to Paes, but the referee blew gave Dallas the benefit of the doubt and blew for a free kick.
The midfielder demanded the presence of Paxton Pomykal, and coach Estevez duly obliged on the hour mark to replace Facundo Quignon. Nanu came to replace Ema Twumasi at the same time. Austin also took the opportunity to trade Djitte for Maxi Urruti.
After a shaky first half, Alan Velasco seemed to be closing in on the player he has been lately, forcing a save from Brad Stuver with a 30-yard effort. His touch had returned and it was he who pushed away a goal in the 65th minute.
Excellent combination play between Pomykal and Farfan down the left resulted in a cross from the former. Velasco picked up the ball on the edge of the box, attempting a one-two with Franco Jara who took a lucky rebound off Alex Ring to leave him at a nice height to fly past Stuver.
Austin still looked dangerous at the break and forced Maarten Paes into a 70th-minute save after Emiliano Rigoni found Fagundez loitering around the edge of the unmarked area. The Uruguayan shot low in traffic but Paes managed to push the ball out of harm’s way.
Jader Obrian had been involved in some antics around the corner takers in the first half, and would get his chance in the 75th minute with Farfan pulled out. Nanu moved to the left, with the two playing as attacking full-backs.
Ferreira almost equalized in the 79th, with a long looping header from a center by Sebastian Lletget. Stuver and the crossbar combined to stop the clumsy effort.
The Dallas war is dumping everything forward, leaving only center backs, and Paxton as a backup 6 or deep playmaker. Driussi saw a close-range header firmly pushed away from a Rigoni cross from the right.
It took a remarkable save to keep Austin in front with four minutes remaining as the two full-backs combined. A looping high cross from Nanu found Obrian at the far post. Stuver looked beaten but managed to graze a foot to clear the ball away. Dallas made one final change when Tsiki Ntsabeleng replaced Velasco.
Ironically, Dallas would win a free kick in a position you’d like Velasco to. Dead spot from the penalty area, 25 yards out, after Paxton Pomykal was caught attempting a volley. Ferreira was not maintaining his usual level in the Q2 stage and quickly jumped at the chance.
Despite five minutes of stoppage time, the Hoops seemed out of ideas. After winning a free kick on the halfway line, the whole team came forward except for Jesus Ferreira who fired it. The greatest goal threat was the one furthest from the goal and the ball was immediately returned to him. When in possession, they enjoyed keeping possession of the ball rather than doing anything with it, reminiscent of Luchi-ball.
The first year of the new era lasted longer than one would have predicted over the winter, but the manner of defeat left a feeling of an untimely end.
“It’s heartbreaking to end the season like this,” said Jesus Ferreira. “We know everyone has given their all over the year to get to where we are now. We couldn’t get the result this time, but we’ll keep a cool head in the meantime. looking forward to next season.