Apr 21, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Jacori Hayes (15) and defender Matt Hedges (24) defend against Philadelphia Union forward David Accam (7) during the first half at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas continued its unbeaten start to the season with a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in front of an announced 13,326 watching in the drizzling rain.
Mauro Diaz scored his first goal of the season off a penalty and Maxi Urruti doubled the lead late as Dallas looked to beat the struggling Union at home.
“I thought it was a very good game from us,” head coach Óscar Pareja said. “First half with a different look, and the plan was to allow Philadelphia to have the ball in the middle. We knew we could hurt them on the counter and use the space they may give us, exposing their fullbacks and going that high. We had, in the lineup, four forwards that could get in behind. That’s where we created our chances.”
Defender Matt Hedges drew the penalty after being taken down by Union centerback Auston Trusty on a corner. Trusty pushed down Hedges in the back and referee Alan Kelly did not hesitate as he pointed to the spot in the 63rd minute.
Diaz, who came on as a substitute for Santiago Mosquera in the 61st minute, slotted the ball past Andre Blake and gave Dallas a 1-0 lead in the 64th minute.
“That call changed the game drastically,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s a game on a wet night when guys are falling. There is a lot of contact in the box. I think you can let that one go. Auston does recover and gets his foot on the ball. Disappointing in that regard but the referee made the decision. We were punished and that is the way it is going for us right now.”
Roland Lamah, who earned the start at forward, found Urruti in the 74th minute on a through ball. Urruti rounded Blake and shot the ball into the open net to make it 2-0.
“It’s a huge three points at home,” midfielder Jacori Hayes said. “It’s been a while since we’ve won at home and we stay undefeated as well. It was a big three points and we jump up in the table. We got the job done, finished our chances and kept the clean sheet.”
The Diaz substitution forced Dallas to switch into their 4-2-3-1 shape that the team tends to run in matches. The Huntsmen are very fluid in formations, something coach Pareja likes.
“We are having some flexibility on the lineup and the map of the team and the things are coming along,” Pareja said. “That provided us not just different options but some competitiveness within the team that will make us better.”
“We kind of needed that,” Hayes said. “Their defensive mid was picking up the ball too much and dictating the tempo of the game. We were losing the possession battle. We were still creating chances but we weren’t in control like we should’ve been so that formation change was huge for us. We needed that to have a better second half.”
Jimmy Maurer continued his great run of form this season with an outstanding double save in the 58th minute. A cross from deep found winger David Accam, who hit it on the volley and forced a quick save from Maurer. As the FCD keeper was on the ground, CJ Sapong looked to finish the spill, but the former New York Cosmos player laid a handout and pawed away the shot.
“It was unbelievable, it was great,” Pareja said. “Jimmy’s doing a great job and has been doing those saves. But he’s providing us a lot of maturity there and communication and I have to recognize sometimes that when you win games and when you score goals the highlights go to the forwards. But tonight, the highlight of the game was that save.”
Said Maurer: “It’s just instincts and reactions just from training because you’re not thinking. It’s so quick. Accam got a volley off on a cross, he got loose, got a volley. [I] was able to get down to my right and make the save, but I wasn’t able to hold or push it wide, kind of left it in front. Then Sapong came in and I was just able to get my left hand up in time and get the block and I was happy to see it go out of bounds.”
Philadelphia had opportunities early on in the second half and looked to steal the game, much like Colorado did to Dallas two weeks prior. Fabrice-Jean Picault found a wide-open Sapong in the middle of the box in the 56th minute, but the American put the header over the bar.
“I thought the first 15 minutes, we dominated,” Curtin said. “Then they had 15 [minutes] and the final 15 was kind of up in the air after we settled down. Andre made some big saves for us, but it was definitely their tactic to come down our right-hand side, based on last week’s game.”
Dallas continued creating opportunities in the 4-4-2 formation but early on could not finish. Mosquera and Cristian Colmán connected on a give-and-go in the 21st minute but Mosquera’s shot was pushed wide. Another breakaway seconds later resulted in a Michael Barrios shot saved by Blake to keep it scoreless.
More and more missed chances racked up for Dallas.
“I think we look good with more rhythm,” Pareja said. “Tonight I [saw] a team with more intensity along the game. We were not as intermittent as we had been at the beginning of the year. Today, I see a team with more rhythm. I like it.”
Philadelphia is now winless in five matches and has struggled to score goals, only having one goal in those five matches.
“It’s difficult,” Curtin said. “We have to stick to what we believe in. We have to continue to keep the ball. We need to penetrate more. We tried to play more down the middle. We had some success there but not as much as we would have hoped for but yea, it’s a challenge right now to keep the guys positive, keep their heads up. We’ll get back. We’ll sit down. We’ll look at the tape. We’ll make adjustments. I thought that the guys who came into the game actually showed some life, which is a positive. We’ll have some decisions to make now.”
FC Dallas will travel to the Bronx next weekend to take on New York City FC in a potential battle of the unbeatens, while Philadelphia will return to the Talon Energy Stadium to take on D.C. United.