By Will Martin
For the first time since the 2014 season began weather would not be an issue last Saturday night. FC Dallas (4-1-1 13 points) would have their only meeting of the season in Frisco with T0ronto FC (3-2-0 9 points).
A packed house 17, 406 strong would make their voices heard early and often. Some of the vocal jibes directed at one time midfielder Jackson Goncalves. Toronto also without the services of Jermain Defoe.
Toronto FC would strike first in the 21st minute when Issey Nakajima-Farran found the net after a kick attempt was blocked and deflected back into the path of Mr. Farran who would then strike it past goalie Chris Seitz for an early 1-0 lead.
One of the strong suits for FC Dallas in 2014 has been making good things happen with set pieces. This would hold true in the 37th minute when Matt Hedges would successfully put a header past Toronto Goalkeeper Julio Cesar after a corner kick by Michel to knot things up at 1-apiece.
More from Matt Hedges about set pieces.
“We’re one of the best set piece teams in the league and Oscar says he thinks we’re one of the best in the world at it and I can’t say I disagree with it,” Hedges said in the locker room after the game. “We’re always dangerous with Michel & Mauro always serving it in and we’ve got big guys in the box that win all kinds of balls. It helps us win a lot of games. When the offense isn’t clicking, we can always try to get a set piece and that’s a dangerous weapon.”
Earlier in the match Michel darn near had himself another goal near the 27th minute when a penalty kick looked like it was headed for the net before Cesar used his hands to knock the ball above the post which caused the Frisco faithful to let out a collective groan.
The match remained tied at 1-1 through the intermission and well into the second half. It was very apparent that FC Dallas had the upper hand in ball possession and shot attempts courtesy of a team record 16 corner kicks.
“Getting a lot of corners shows that we’re getting into the box and creating dangerous play,” said Hedges. “Even if we don’t score those chances on goal, we’re creating another opportunity to score from the corner kick.”
FC Dallas’ slogan for 2014 has been ‘Red For 90’. Once again FC Dallas did something near the end of regulation when Michel would take a penalty kick that was headed beautifully by Stephen Keel to Blas Perez who would blast it past Julio Cesar in the 88th to send the Toyota Stadium crowd home happy as FC Dallas improved to 5-1-1.
After the game the first order of business by Coach Oscar Pareja was to thank the fans.
“It’s the great job that the front office is doing with the fans and the incredible job that the fans are doing with this franchise right now. They help us a lot,” Pareja said. “They were pushing all the time, and that felt great. We felt that energy in the second half when we needed it.”
Stephen Keel also quick to acknowledge the FCD faithful.
“When they come out and support you as awesome as they have, it’s just great,” Keel said. “The fans are just as much a part of it as we are. We share that three points with them. It’s not just this game, but it’s been all year they’ve been absolutely massive.”
With the victory it marked the 9th time Oscar Pareja’s group would score in the final 30 minutes of a given game. Shots favored FC Dallas 17-11. There was a whopping advantage in passes 435-286. Ball possession favored FC Dallas 60% to 40% and yes the corner kick factor 16-4.
FC Dallas sits at the top in the Western Conference with 16 points. Still the most points in all of the MLS and still in first place for at least another week. They now prepare for a road visit to the nations capital and a game with DC United before playing the New York Red Bulls on May 4th at 2pm CST.
Get those tickets now…and May the 4th be with you.
1st place FC Dallas has a nice ring to it.
4/26 @ D.C. United 6:00pm