It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
And so it went for FC Dallas as they posted a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday afternoon at Empire Field. George John (53’) and super-sub Eric Avila (83’) scored for FC Dallas.
The first half of the match felt all too eerily familiar for FC Dallas as Vancouver struck early to gain the lead from a set-piece in just the 25th minute. For the second week in a row, Ugo Ihemelu was beaten, this time by Alain Rochat, whose header easily beat Kevin Hartman.
Dallas should have equalized just two minutes later. Andrew Jacobson’s missile found the outstretched arm of Rochat, sending David Ferreira to the penalty spot. But Ferreira, looking confident and comfortable, simply shanked the ball wide left without even challenging Whitecaps ‘keeper Jay Nolly.
The second half restart saw the insertion of Milton Rodriguez for Fabian Castillo and almost immediately paid dividends, as the FC Dallas attack gained momentum from a poor first half.
Then tragedy struck.
Ferreira fractured his right ankle on a rough tackle from behind in the 52’ minute, but the 2010 MLS MVP did enough to earn a corner. After Ferreira was stretchered off the pitch, George John equalized for the visitors.
Eric Avila , taking the place of the injured Ferreira, again played the role of FC Dallas hero. His cool finish to the far post saved the day for his club and eased the pain of another lackluster half of football and the loss of the club’s best player.
Dallas season now hinges on the performance of Eric Avila, a player who’s often been brilliant as a sub, and often less than spectacular as a starter. The upside is that Avila’s greatest weakness- his defense- will not be much of a liability as he slips into the departed Ferreira’s spot for who knows how long. There is no doubt that Avila has the ability to change matches. The more worrisome aspect of his game, however, is that he sometimes seems to get lost in the match. For FC Dallas to be successful over a long stretch of matches without Ferreira, Avila must maintain his focus and provide the spark that Ferreira always has.
It is too early to tell if the Vancouver win was a signal that this club is turning the corner. The quality of play in the first half versus the second was stark in his difference. Perhaps the single greatest reason was the insertion of Rodriquez. His ability to hold up the ball and allow the Dallas midfield to join the attack was sorely missed in the first half. While Castillo’s blazing flash and dash played havoc with Vancouver’s young back line at times, the Dallas attack was disjointed and rarely got to join in. One wonders if the Castillo experiment will continue.
Dallas has just joined the 2011 season. The aches and pains and injuries and turmoil that mark a team’s seasonal journey has just begun.
As an addition to this article, I would like to add a couple of personal thoughts. I do not normally write about myself, but last night I had an extraordinary experience. You see, there were tornadoes all around my area. I heard the sirens and found out I had eleven minutes before the tornado arrived to make a decision on my personal safety. I quickly stripped the covers off my bed and dragged my king-size mattress into the bathroom and over the bathtub. I hid there, but I called my mother on my cell-phone, the only person I could think of to talk me through this moment of crisis.
I know it sounds silly, but I thought about soccer in there, too. I thought about how much personal joy and agony goes into the way our team performs, the ups and downs of a long season and playoffs and such. But I will tell you, sitting there in my bathtub, praying no tornado would come put things into perspective.
While I would never wish any of you to ever be in harm’s way, I do hope that you gain the same perspective. Soccer is a wonderful sport and pastime. But it is definitely not life or death.
VAN -- Alain Rochat 1 (Davide Chiumiento 5, Jeb Brovsky 1) 25
DAL -- George John 1 (Jackson Goncalves 1, Marvin Chavez 2) 53
DAL -- Eric Avila 1 (Milton Rodriguez 1, Jair Benitez 1) 83
DAL -- Ugo Ihemelu (caution; Reckless Tackle) 30
DAL -- Andrew Jacobson (caution; Reckless Foul) 66
VAN -- Eric Hassli (caution; Tactical Foul) 80
FC Dallas -- Kevin Hartman, Ugo Ihemelu, Jackson Goncalves, George John, Jair Benitez, Marvin Chavez (Eric Alexander 71), Fabian Castillo (Milton Rodriguez 46), Daniel Hernandez, Andrew Jacobson, Brek Shea, David Ferreira (Eric Avila 55).
Substitutes Not Used: Maykel Galindo, Zach Loyd, Ruben Luna, Chris Seitz.
Vancouver Whitecaps -- Jay Nolly, Jonathan Leathers, Michael Boxall, Alain Rochat, Blake Wagner, Wes Knight (Nizar Khalfan 61), Terry Dunfield, Jeb Brovsky (Kevin Harmse 77), Davide Chiumiento (Omar Salgado 84), Camilo, Eric Hassli.
Substitutes Not Used: Mouloud Akloul, Long Tan, Russell Teibert, Joe Cannon.
Referee: Juan Guzman
Referee's Assistants: -Fabio Tovar; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 1:53
Weather: Sunny and 61 degrees