FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas and LAFC continued their battles on the field with a hard-fought 1-1 draw Sunday night.
Down a man due to Matt Hedges’ last-ditch tackle on Carlos Vela in the 49th minute, Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez had to adjust his ideology to a more conservative approach against an explosive LAFC side.
“We’re always going to fight for three points,” Gonzalez said. “Whether it’s LAFC or [North Texas] SC playing their game. We want to score the next goal, we want to win the next moment, we want to win the next point. Let’s move to the right opportunity and fight for what we can. I thought we showed that spirit today.”
After a courageous 30 minutes from Dallas, the dam cracked. Bressan handled the ball in the box in the 80th minute, earning a penalty. Vela, who had missed a penalty in the first half, made no mistake of this opportunity and put it past FCD keeper Jesse Gonzalez to draw the game at 1-1. And while FCD may be disappointed with the overall result, the team did squeeze out a draw against the leader in MLS.
“We didn’t want to sit back too much,” FC Dallas veteran Ryan Hollingshead said. “We wanted to keep attacking with as much as we could. It was a bummer. Their goal was off the luckiest handball. We played well. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Sometimes they get lucky. Ramirez miss-hit that shot like I’ve never seen before and it turns out to be a PK. What are the odds?
“We played really well, and if that’s how they’re going to tie the game, what are you going to do about that? It’s so lucky. You feel good with our performance, but again, we want that win. Even with 10 men, the guys felt confident we could get the win, so it’s a little bit of a bummer.”
The possession numbers were not what Gonzalez wanted to see from his team, but as LAFC coach Bob Bradley subbed on players, such as forwards Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez, the mentality had to switch from the original gameplan.
“Everyone’s gotta pick up a little bit more of a job,” Hollingshead said. “You have to be ready to pick up that extra man’s job. More than that, we were hungry for the win. We saw there’s 40 minutes left and if we put the effort in, it was going to be hard for them to score on us. And it was. They couldn’t get through us and just got the handball. We feel like we put in a good shift, and all you can ask for is hustle. Just outwork them. They always have a man up on you, and it just comes down to who wants it more.”
Said Gonzalez: “I don’t think LAFC is a team that wants to dump balls into the box. They want to develop play and combine and get in with combination, so we changed our idea and got [Bryan] Reynolds in there to defend as a fullback. When we were able to win it in a low block, he has the speed and determination to counter, which he did on a few occasions. That was the idea.’
It took admirable performances from goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, Jacori Hayes, Hollingshead and more to prevent LAFC from getting on the score sheet. Gonzalez made save after save to keep the score close, while Hayes and Hollingshead each covered ground to stop the opposing attack.
“Even down a man, I had all the confidence that we could pull out the result,” Hayes said. “I thought the whole time that we’d get the win and I knew we’d find a way. Jesse was standing on his head, making unbelievable saves, and I thought the defense was very good. It’s just unlucky.”
Dallas opened the scoring in the 29th minute off the pace of Dominique Badji, who burned by LAFC right back Steven Beitashour. Badji’s burst of speed opened up the field and he found Ryan Hollingshead in the middle for an easy tap-in goal.
LAFC had an opportunity to tie the match going into halftime. Dallas center back Bressan challenged Vela and referee Chris Penso ruled that he did not make contact with the ball. Penso pointed to the penalty spot. However, Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez made a big save to keep the score 1-0 going into the break.
Diego Rossi attempted to take advantage of the 10 men, beating Reggie Cannon and curling a shot that forced a finger-tip save from Gonzalez. The ball struck the post in the 72nd minute.
Dallas will travel to Vancouver to take on the Whitecaps May 25, while LAFC will stay home to play the Montreal Impact May 24.