FC Dallas tied defending MLS Cup Champs Real Salt Lake 1-1 on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. The tie combined with their Game 1 win means FCD advances to the Western Final.
It also means my prediction of a RSL win in this series proved fallible. Going into the series I felt FCD had come back from its various injuries far to late in the season. Dax McCarty hadn't played well since his return, Daniel Hernandez and Ugo Ihemelu had hardly played at all, and George John kept re-injuring himself.
But then Javier Morales drew that ill timed red card and opened the door for the Red Stripes. RSL just wasn't the same without their best player in the game 2, FCD took advantage as Dax McCarty had his best game yet, and the recently recovered defense held on for the tie.
FC Dallas advances to the Western Conference Final for the third time in club history (’97, ’99, ‘10) and will now face the winner of LA Galaxy and Seattle, Dallas could even host if Seattle manages the upset.
Western Conference Semifinal – Second Leg
Real Salt Lake 1, FC Dallas 1
Rio Tinto Stadium – Sandy, Utah
DAL – Dax McCarty (Brek Shea, David Ferreira) 17
RSL – Robbie Findley (Nat Borchers, Andy Williams) 79
FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman, Jair Benitez, Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Jackson Goncalves (Eric Alexander 88), Dax McCarty, Marvin Chavez (Zach Loyd 61), Brek Shea, Daniel Hernandez, David Ferreira, Jeff Cunningham (Ruben Luna 77).
Substitutes Not Used: Dario Sala, Eric Avila, Jason Yeisley, Bruno Guarda.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Jeff Cunningham 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (three players tied at one); FOULS: 10 (David Ferreira 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (two players tied with one); CORNER KICKS: 3 (David Ferreira 3); SAVES: 5 (Kevin Hartman 5)
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell (Collen Warner 56), Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Grabavoy (Paulo Araujo 73), Kyle Beckerman, Andy Williams, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio (Robbie Findley 65), Fabian Espindola.
Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Reynish, Jean Alexandre, Nelson Gonzalez, Chris Wingert.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (two players tied with three); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (six players tied with one); FOULS: 9 (Jamison Olave 4); OFFSIDES: 3 (Fabian Espindola 2); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Andy Williams 6); SAVES: 2 (Nick Rimando 2)
RSL – Jamison Olave (caution; reckless foul) 25
DAL – Marvin Chavez (caution; reckless foul) 27
RSL – Ned Grabavoy (caution; dissent) 29
RSL – Nat Borchers (caution; reckless foul) 34
DAL – Zach Loyd (caution; dissent) 84
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Greg Barkey, Sean Hurd
4th Official: Jair Marrufo
Time of Game: 1:58
Weather: Clear, 58 degrees
FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman
It’s a great result for FC Dallas. I said to the players we’ve been training for nine months for this special game. We’ve been preparing ourselves, pushing ourselves, working hard. We’re a fit team. We do well on the road. Nine months. Anybody who knows anything about having a baby, it takes nine months. It was a great result for us. Even though it was a tie game, it was a victory for us to go into the conference championship.
On the early pressure…
We started off on level one and then we talked a little bit about going to level two and using that 40-45 yards of space for the counter attack and we had a couple of great one-on-one situations that could have made it a little bit easier for us. It was a great goal from Dax McCarty. I’m really pleased and proud of the boys for sticking to the plan and focusing.
On Dax McCarty’s goal…
We know that Brek has a complete physique that can become a handful. That was a wonderful ball played into him and then he laid it off his chest and I thought Dax did a really good job keeping his composure and finishing. The thing we always talk about is just staying with the principles of the game. If you get width, that’s going to open up the center.
On the result…
What a great job Real Salt Lake did. My hat is off to them. They fought with every bit of energy. The crowd was fantastic. It took a good performance for us to come away with the result we wanted. For us it was a hard-fought match.
On Dax McCarty’s performance…
Dax is not a player that gets a lot of goals for us and this year he missed eight weeks of training with an injury, so he was just coming back. We kept playing him because we knew there was something special in him that was going to come through and tonight was that time. When players are held accountable, some players accept that accountability and some players don’t like that. Dax has really come around and become one of our leaders on the field.
On Marvin Chavez…
It was a game where he was just so dangerous. For weeks, we kept on encouraging Marvin to run at people because he’s got so much speed it forces people to take him down from behind. They had three players with yellow cards. We were hoping to keep the pressure on them and maybe they’d pick up a second yellow, but it wasn’t going to happen today. But, Chavez had a very good game.
FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea
On the playoff atmosphere…
Tonight’s game was just like all the playoff games so far, just like today’s match between Colorado and Columbus. Both teams left everything out on the field. It was an exciting game. They really started bombing us there at the end, but we held on for the win.
On Real Salt Lake pushing offensively…
They were pushing the whole game, so we had breakaway chances on the counter that we should have finished. Their crowd kept them in the game. That crowd was awesome. They were loud for all 90 minutes, and we had to dig deep.
FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman
Overall thoughts on the match…
I think we did well to get the early goal and it made it a little more difficult for us when we had to defend, but when we did get the ball we were able to attack and put [Real Salt Lake] under pressure because they put so many numbers forward. I thought everybody came up with plays when we needed to come up with plays.
On eliminating the defending MLS Cup Champions…
I think to eliminate a team like Real Salt Lake that you have so much respect for really allows you to have confidence going forward. They have a great group of players and a great coaching staff. I think that our ability to come here [to Rio Tinto Stadium] and do what we needed to do so that we could move on is something that we are pretty proud of at this point.
On moving forward in the playoffs…
I think that there is a level of confidence, but I also think there is a level of responsibility. When you beat a team out like that and they had all their hopes and ambitions and aspirations to go on, now we take that burden and we hope that we are able to do the things that [Real Salt Lake] wanted to do. I think there is a belief in this locker room and a belief in each other that we can get it done and so we look forward to the game tomorrow night [between the L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC] to see who we will be playing next week.
FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty
Overall thoughts on the match…
We have a lot of heart on this team. We executed the game plan pretty well. They had a couple of good chances and Kevin Hartman came up absolutely huge for us. To beat the defending champions and advance, it’s fantastic.
On the exhausting nature of the match…
I am pretty exhausted. In the second half you really start to feel the altitude and you start to feel the pressure that [Real Salt Lake] puts on you. For the final 20 or 30 minutes it feels like they are playing with 13 or 14 guys.
On his 17th minute goal…
We had the ball on the left side and I saw David [Ferreira] break free a little bit. I saw that their center back was out of position and just made a run forward. I think he was trying to play the ball to me and David over-hit the ball a little bit. Luckily it had a pretty big bounce and Brek [Shea] had the height advantage on the defender and he put the ball perfectly in my path and I was fortunate to get a good touch with my head and finish it past [Nick] Rimando.