By Will Martin
What a difference a year makes!
2013 March 7th Opening Night gave us a matchup with FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids.
A game that FC Dallas won. The opposing coach for that losing team was the one and only Oscar Pareja who would proceed to take that Mile High Team to the playoffs.
Something Schellas Hyndman was unable to do in four of the last six years.
It only took Oscar Pareja 365 days to erase the taste of an Opening Day loss as the new coach of FC Dallas. It was at the hands of the Montreal Impact by a score of 3-2 before a chilly yet enthusiastic crowd of 18,011 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
When you consider there was a well deserved retirement ceremony down the road in Dallas this speaks to the high level of fan loyalty on display for a game played in absolutely frigid blustery conditions.
While the pre game warmups were happening in a steady rain pour as if on cue the clouds opened up and the rain quickly disappeared. Newest member to the TV team, Kevin Hartman, put the scarf on Uncle Lamar pregame and the teams slowly made their way to midfield for the two national anthems and start of play.
It matters not the sport in question. To me Opening Day is always special. The start of something new and maybe something big. The Montreal Impact would be without attackers Marco Di Vaio, Andres Romero, and Defender Nelson Rivas due to post playoff fighting following a playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo last fall.
Thus, it behooved FC Dallas to get out of the gate with an aggressive style and successfully execute the 4-3-3 scheme that Coach Pareja has been implementing throughout training camp.
Initially at issue was what looked to be an out of sync back line for FC Dallas. In the tenth minute Montreal got on the board first when winger Justin Mapp was able to run down the right side past Jair Benitez and Moises Hernandez. Mapp made a nice cross to Sanna Nyassi near the goalmouth which was then blasted past goalie Chris Seitz for an early 1-0 lead.
That score somehow awoke the Red For 90 FCD as six minutes later in the 16th minute Jair Benitez took the ball deep left side sending a cross pass to JeVaughn Watson who then diverted the ball to Blas Perez. Perez then cued the pass to Fabian Castillo as Castillo found the far corner past goalie Troy Perkins for a score and a 1-all tie.
A penalty on Jeb Brovsky in the 23rd minute on Mauro Diaz allowed Blas Perez a penalty kick that was top shelved past Perkins for a 2-1 lead at the break. There were three other instances where crisp crosses were sent into the box and goal shots either went just wide or wide high. It could have been 5-1.
Two minutes into the second half FC Dallas increased its lead to 3-1 when Mauro Diaz was successful on a free kick that found the corner of the net and sent 18,011 fans into a happy delirium despite the chilly conditions.
After the game Mauro Diaz wasn’t sure he got all of it when discussing his ‘golazo’.
“I thought the wall was too close to the ‘keeper,” Diaz said after the win. “…if I could put the ball over the top of the wall it would be really hard for the ‘keeper to react with it being so close. Luckily I hit it right and the ball stayed inside the post.”
Montreal would score one final time in the 65th minute when Andrew Wenger would connect on a kick during a shoddy substitution on FC Dallas’ end when Hendry Thomas was coming off the field injured and Michel wasn’t quick enough to stop the Impact’s Felipe from providing the necessary touch for Wenger to connect.
With that FC Dallas was victorious for the third home opener in a row 3-2.
Oscar Pareja was very content with the victory and even more impressed with the performance of number ten.
“Mauro showed what he’s capable of tonight and I think he can do even more than that,” said head coach Oscar Pareja. “I’m very glad he’s on the team.”
How about a little kudos from the captain Andrew Jacobson?
“He was very active all game. He always wanted the ball,” team captain Andrew Jacobson said. “He is everything you look for in a number 10.”
2013 Oscar Pareja was on the losing end on Opening Day with the Colorado Rapids. After 365 days the W and three points now sit alongside him and his team. FC Dallas next prepares for a road match with the MLS Cup Champions, Sporting KC, on Match 15th at Sporting Park before coming home for a game with Chivas USA.
The Impact’s visit to Texas was only their second. The meeting will be the only one of 2014 between both teams. MLS Soccer is back! In this the year of the World Cup, a new year, and a new era begin in victorious fashion.