Why MLS Cup contenders should be even more concerned about FC Dallas

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Urruti and FCD are flying high. (USA TODAY Sports)
Urruti and FCD are flying high. (USA TODAY Sports)

FC Dallas had itself a week.

First, Dallas bested Pachuca 2-1 last Wednesday in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, the winning goal courtesy of a spectacular free kick by Kellyn Acosta. No MLS team has ever won the competition, and if FCD can come through in the second leg on April 4 in Mexico, it will speak to the club’s rising ambitions.

It’s in Major League Soccer play, however, where Dallas has the keenest sense of unfinished business.

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Last season, FCD had its eyes on an unprecedented treble up until the penultimate week, when Mauro Diaz injured his knee against the same Seattle Sounders team that would knock it out of the playoffs in the conference semis.

That Dallas will be without Diaz until at least this summer caused some league observers pause when parsing MLS Cup contenders. But as FCD showed against Pachuca and again in Saturday’s 2-1 home win over the New England Revolution, coach Oscar Pareja’s squad is more than strong enough and deep enough to succeed even in Diaz’s absence.

With some starters taking the weekend off and others playing on short rest, FC Dallas came from behind at Toyota Stadium to beat the Revs on a pair of second-half goals by Maxi Urruti.

“The way they looked in the last 60 minutes of the game, for me, was remarkable,” Pareja told the Dallas Morning News.

And he was right, even if his team wasn’t especially dominant or offensively dynamic.

Saturday’s performance showcased what makes this Dallas side such a tough out. In rallying from a goal down, FCD was resilient, united and not easily shaken. That spirit has carried over from two straight years at the top of the Western Conference, even without Diaz and Fabian Castillo, the talented winger who forced a move to Turkey last summer.

Dallas is going to be just fine in Diaz’s absence. And when it does get its playmaker back, look out.

ONE TOUCHES

Some other observations from the third weekend of MLS action:

As early-season MLS matches go, they don’t get much better than Portland’s 4-2 home win over Houston on Saturday night.

A curmudgeon might bemoan the lack of defense, but both teams ripped into each other from the opening kickoff.

The Dynamo, again flexing the muscles of its new-look attacking front, took a deserved 2-1 lead into the break when Alberth Elis picked out fellow Honduran Romell Quioto just before halftime.
Portland struck back in the second half, swarming every Houston touch to turn the game in its favor. Diego Valeri scored with his head for the second consecutive home week, Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman combined for a Goal of the Week nominee and Fanendo Adi clinched the three points with an 88th-minute strike.

Portland is the only perfect team remaining in the league with three wins out of three. But Houston, even in defeat, again looked like a completely different team from the one that finished last in the West in 2016.

Goal of the Week.

Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (though it feels disingenuous to credit Seattle’s go-ahead goal to just one player).


Left back Joevin Jones started the move by dribbling the ball between Sal Zizzo’s legs near the end line, cutting back a pass for Nicolas Lodeiro. The Uruguayan playmaker hadn’t been at his sharpest – Jones actually wouldn’t have had to take on Zizzo if Lodeiro’s earlier pass hadn’t led him too far – but his cross toward Morris was inch-perfect.

Morris finished with a simple header at the back post to notch his first goal of the season, and the defending champs went on to defeat the Red Bulls 3-1 at CenturyLink Field.

One could feel Bruce Arena cringe when Morris fell to the turf holding his ankle late in the first half of Sunday’s Sounders-Red Bulls game.

The United States men’s national team is already down one forward, with Bobby Wood being scratched for the team’s upcoming pair of crucial World Cup qualifiers with a back injury. And it still might lose Morris, who limped around the locker room following the win over New York.

Morris,who joined the USMNT in San Jose on Sunday night to undergo further evaluation, said he expects to be good to go for Friday night’s qualifier against Honduras. The injury was severe enough, however, to make Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer seriously consider pulling off his young forward at halftime before Morris persuaded him otherwise.

Atlanta United home games are becoming must-see events for MLS fans.

A rowdy crowd sold out Bobby Dodd Stadium for the second straight United home game, and this time, they went home happy. Up a man for almost 80 minutes after an early Chicago Fire red card, Atlanta steamrolled the visitors 4-0 behind a pair of Josef Martinez goals.


Howler of the Week.

David Bingham, San Jose Earthquakes.


It’s one thing for a goalkeeper to make a mistake on a goal-bound shot he probably should have done better on. It’s quite another to redirect a shot clearly headed wide into your own net.

Soony Said’s tame shot from distance was so hopeless that the Sporting Kansas City forward turned to run back down to the other end of the field when the ball squirted between Bingham’s arms, changed course off his leg and dribbled into the net.

Oh, and it proved to be a valuable insurance goal when San Jose pulled a goal back in stoppage time of its 2-1 loss at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday night.

Matt Pentz covers Major League Soccer for FC Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter @mattpentz.

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