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FC Dallas extends lead in Western Conference, eliminates Orlando City

Oct 6, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa (8) celebrates his goal against the Orlando City SC with FC Dallas forward Maximiliano Urruti (37) at Toyota Stadium. (Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports)

FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas (16-6-9, 57 points) continued its hold on first place in the Western Conference with a 2-0 win Saturday night over Eastern Conference bottom-dweller Orlando City (7-19-4, 29 points) at Toyota Stadium.

Orlando’s 11-match winless streak coming into the match was not evident at first. The team came in with a game-plan. Dallas’ offense struggled to break down the Lions, and for much of the first half, the visitors were playing better than their first-place counterparts.

“I thought we played a very correct second half, especially after the first half, where we had some challenges,” FCD head coach Oscar Pareja said. “Orlando’s side played well and they created some options and some problems, but we found a way to correct it. Second half, we have the initiative to pressure them higher and have more determination to create some duels within the defenders and have the responsibility to get the ball back in the zones.”

Santiago Mosquera opened up the scoring for Dallas late in the second half after Michael Barrios found him open in the box. Mosquera took a touch before shooting past Orlando keeper Joe Bendik to make it 1-0.

It was a breakthrough moment for Dallas, which had been gaining momentum in the second half.

Orlando’s pressure halted. Dallas doubled its lead six minutes later.

Victor Ulloa, who had just surpassed playing 10,000 minutes in league action, dove for a header on a free kick from Maxi Urruti. The ball went in the corner of the net and gave FCD a 2-0 lead.

“It feels great,” Ulloa said. “I haven’t scored in about two years, and I’m happy to help the team on a special night for me to reach a special milestone.”

 

Dallas almost started the match off with a bang. Dominique Badji received a ball in the box and turned, hitting the ball on the bounce. It beat Bednik, but not the crossbar, before going out of play in the 9th minute.

Orlando City’s Mohamed El-Munir struck the post four minutes later, finding himself in space on the left-hand side before taking the shot. The Lions continued to pile on the pressure early, as midfielder Sacha Kljestan took a free kick in the 29th minute. Kljestan forced a tough save from FCD keeper Jesse Gonzalez, who jumped to his right side and knocked the ball out of play.

“In the first half, I thought they were sharp with the ball,” Pareja said of Orlando City. “Kljestan was getting the ball in the pocket behind Victor and Carlos [Gruezo]. Dom [Dwyer] was getting some balls there as well.

“We tried to anticipate … but they did well. The sequences they created on their left were good. [Chris] Mueller, being sharp, and the guy has pace, cutting inside, and El-Munir coming ahead and from the fullback position. That created a lot of chaos for us, and that’s the way they created two or three options on that side.”

The win, combined with Sporting Kansas City’s 1-1 draw Saturday against the Los Angeles Galaxy, gave Dallas a four-point lead in the Western Conference going into the final three matches of the season — including an Oct. 21 clash in Frisco against No. 2 Sporting KC.

Up next, though, FC Dallas will travel to the nation’s capital for a match Saturday against D.C. United at Audi Field. Orlando will be at home against New England that same day.

“It gives us a lot of breathing room going into D.C.,” right back Reggie Cannon said of the points gained against Orlando. “I have no doubt that whoever steps into that starting XI will do a good job. Oscar has prepared the team very well for this stage of the season, with a lot of depth, and I have no doubt that the team will get the three points and be solid on top.”

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