FC Dallas beats Pachuca to position itself for CONCACAF Champions League final

Acosta produced the match-winner to continue his hot start to 2017. (AP Photo)
Acosta produced the match-winner to continue his hot start to 2017. (AP Photo)

The 2016 Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield winners for the best regular-season record faced the 2016 Liga MX Clausura winners on Wednesday in a rare equivalent test between soccer teams from the United States and Mexico.

And with a credible 2-1 win over Pachuca, FC Dallas demonstrated that it remains the gold standard of MLS, even if a title remains elusive, by jostling into fine position to become just the third MLS team to reach the final of the current format of the CONCACAF Champions League – and the first to lift the trophy.

[ Follow FC Yahoo on social media: Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr ]

Indeed, Oscar Pareja’s side gave a very nice account of itself, but its slow start proved costly.

In just the third minute, Erick Aguirre turned the corner on Hernan Grana on the end line and cut the ball back for Franco Jara. The Argentine shook off Carlos Gruezo, chested it and volleyed it in off the near post. The ball settled just over the line by the other post.

In short order, Jara would get two more cracks. But his aimless blasts were twice denied by Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz.

It took FCD a while to get going. Cristian Colman was the first to break through, played in by the red-hot Kellyn Acosta, the 21-year-old midfielder who earlier in the day was called into Bruce Arena’s United States national team for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Colman popped his finish wide, though.

Before halftime, Dallas set things right. The sharp cross from Grana was pawed away by goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco, but Maxi Urruti karate-kicked the rebound into the net to equalize.

Dallas grew emboldened in the second half. Acosta’s shot from the edge of the box was parried by Blanco and dinked into the net by Colman, but the latter was offside.

Gruezo then unloosed a rocket that skimmed off the crossbar.

And in the 58th minute, Dallas got its deserved winner. Acosta smashed in a wonderful free kick, beating Blanco from a good 25 yards and burnishing a quickly growing reputation. For a while, Acosta was even trending on Twitter in the United States, rather an accomplishment for a midweek game in the still largely unloved CONCACAF Champions League.

Pachuca threatened a few more times, but Seitz was up to the task. And Dallas came closer to getting a third than to giving up an equalizer. The visitors, in the end, were lucky to end the match with all 11 men. Jorge Hernandez put in a savage tackle on Urruti that was somehow only punished with a yellow card.

We can still count on one hand the number of times MLS teams have won on Mexican soil. Dallas won’t need to on April 4. A tie in the return leg will do fine. But even that will be a challenge. The payoff, however, would be the chance to finally bring a continental title back to the United States.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

What to Read Next