By Will Martin
College Night at Toyota Stadium on March 29th meant that for ten dollars you could enjoy an end zone seat with a great view on a great weather night for soccer in North Texas.
The first 5,000 fans who made the trek to the park got a free clapper. Mavericks fans have used this perk for years. For FC Dallas play it’s a nice alternative than those obnoxious vuvuzelas (soon to be heard when the World Cup kicks into high gear).
The 2-0-1 FC Dallas had a match with the Portland Timbers (0-1-2). Throughout the history of this match the home team has never lost. Last year in their meeting in Frisco on May 8th both teams played to a 1-1 draw. Two players for the Timbers who gave FC Dallas fits last year were both named Diego (Spanish for Jim). Mr’s Valeri and Chara always have that inimitable knack for getting in the right place at the right time with the right cross and the right pass.
FC Dallas would be without the services of Andrew Jacobson or Adam Moffat. Victor Ulloa would make his first career start for the FCD.
On an absolutely picture perfect night for soccer it appeared early on that FC Dallas would run away with this game. Three scoring chances in the 27th, 28th, and 29th minute would all be denied by bad luck.
A JeVaughn Watson header of a blast would strike the top of the goal post and bounce away. A kick by Fabian Castillo was called off when FC Dallas was off-side. A third scoring opportunity was nixed on a great kickout by goalie Andrew Weber.
The attack mentality of FC Dallas paid off in the final moments of the first half when Blas Perez headed a shot past Weber after a cross by Jair Benitez and a header by Kellyn Acosta .
This match would become a 10 on 10 matchup when red cards were given to both Michael Harrington and JeVaughn in the 39th minute of play. Neither player looked to do more than to provide a playful shove yet the ref gave a quick whistle.
Portland tied things up at 1-all in the 66th minute when Maximilian Urrti was set to pass off to Kalif Alhassan only to have the pass deflect off of Matt Hedges and into the goal. You could hear the capacity crowd of 16,045 collectively groan in unison.
You know that the slogan for FC Dallas in 2014 is ‘Red For 90’. How about adding a new slogan/mantra? ‘Magical After 85’! Just like in Week 1 with the game winner, the heroics in the extras at KC, Michel’s penalty kick score in minute 86 last week, this night it was Mauro Diaz causing a mob scene in the far corner of Toyota Stadium when he shifted from left to right foot on a rebound of an FCD free kick.
To quote a former baseball player Diaz hit it where he wasn’t, to the far left corner of the goal as FC Dallas proceeded to mob Diaz after that game changer. FC Dallas held on for a 2-1 victory to finish March 3-0-1. First place in the Western Conference and the most points in all of the MLS for the moment.
We visited with Zach Loyd postgame about the month that was.
Victor Ulloa was the talk of the boisterous locker room post game. How did it feel to start and win?
“It was amazing. I don’t have words to describe how happy I am,” said Ulloa. “It’s a big day for my family, my friends and all the people that have believed in me. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been patient for a while and I just thank God and thank the coach for having the confidence to believe in me.”
A sentiment equally echoed by Coach Oscar Pareja to the media.
“A very good game for Victor. We expected that he would take a little while to settle on the field and I thought probably after 15 minutes in the first half, he settled and started playing with confidence,” said Pareja. “His second half was great. He proved to himself and to many people that he can play this game. I’m very proud of Victor.”
Veteran defenseman Steve Keel offered the following on the poise of Ulloa.
“If you had come and watched the game without knowing, you wouldn’t have believed it was his first start,” said Keel. “To come in the middle, the way he dropped in the hole and received balls under pressure playing and distributing, that’s a key role for us and I think he stepped in and did awesome…everything you want in that position was great so I don’t think we missed a beat in there.”
Next week April commences with the renewal of the battle for the Howitzer in the Texas Derby. FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo go at it. Houston will be coming off a 2-1 defeat themselves. One can only imagine how hostile the confines of BBVA Stadium is going to be on Saturday night.
“We get to go on the road with a tough challenge, but we’re up for it,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz. “We’ve gone into tough places, played well and gotten points out of it. We’re going to go down to Houston and look for three points.”
Before we look ahead to the return of an April 12th meeting with the Seattle Sounders, Clint Dempsey and the return of Kenny Cooper here’s a final video visit for the month of March with Oscar Pareja and what was without a doubt a magical march to remember courtesy of great defense and yes that kid Mauro!
4/5 @ Houston Dynamo 7:00 P.M.