Due to the cancellation of a tournament River Plate was supposed to play at the Cotton Bowl this weekend, the reserve team of the Argentine giants faced FC Dallas at a frigid FCD Stadium on Saturday morning. The tightly-contested match saw FC Dallas field a starting team in the first half and reserve team in the second half with River Plate taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, but FCD leveling the match on a penalty kick midway through the second half to end the game at 1-1.
The first half, featuring almost an exact starting XI for FC Dallas, was played at a fairly slow pace. With wind chills in the 20's, it seemed like the FCD starters spent the first 15 minutes or so simply trying to get their legs below them and get warm. Neither team made too many forays into the offensive area, though things began to heat up a bit as the half went on.
River Plate opened the scoring in the 23rd minute as a break down the right freed a River player who stormed down the right side. Defender Matt Hedges was not able to close down enough space and the cross in was finished well low and to the far post beating Kevin Hartman in goal.
Dallas began to open up the attack with the majority of chances going through Brek Shea and Fabian Castillo as they alternated positions on the right and left. FCD was unable to break down a fantastic River back four, however, and the game went into the half at 1-0 to the Argentines.
Keep reading for the second half recap and observations
In the second half, FC Dallas fielded 10 new players with only Matt Hedges remaining at center back. The Dallas trialists and reserves put up a much bigger fight than the starters, as you would expect, with the Hoops using the stiff north wind at their back in the second half.
The game sprang to life in the second half with tackles flying in on both sides and generally much higher paced play being seen. Dallas evened the scoring midway through the second half as Andrew Wiedeman used a nifty inside-out move to find acres of space on the right. His driven cross hit the raised arm of a River Plate defender and the referee pointed to the spot. Bruno Guarda scored easily, sending the keeper the wrong way to level the game.
That goal proved to be the catalyst for what would be a compelling final 20 minutes that saw some handbags that left a River Plate player bloodied and pouting on the sidelines. The Argentines would hit the post just a few minutes from time on a spectacular dipping free kick from about 30 yards out and the game ended 1-1.
FC Dallas (second half) – Richard Sanchez, Moises Hernandez (Kleymar Bejarano 80), Matt Hedges, Christian Ibeagha, Alex Lee, Carlos Rodriguez, Bobby Warshaw, Bruno Guarda, Andrew Wiedeman, Jonathan Top, Jeison Quinonez.
River Plate Reserves – Servio (Rey 45), Vega (Espindula 45), Ruiz (Pantaleone 45), Kranevitter (Macarof 45), Silgvero, Alvarez, Quignon, Cazares (Iberra 45), Solari, Villa (Pugh 45), Montero (Gomez 45).
Great competition So many times in these pre-season friendlies you're going against a college team that barely tests the back four, but today was a fantastic opportunity for the coaches to get a look at defenders under pressure while the attacking players struggled, especially in the first half. Games like this go a much longer way to building team chemistry than beating the pants off a poor college team does.
Pertuz is a player Loved what I saw out of Hernan Pertuz this morning. Very composed on the ball, good positioning and good in the air. He's not a super physical defender who's going to muscle guys off the ball as much as he is composed and smooth player with the ball taking smarter defensive lines.
Up and down for Hedges It was a bit of trial by fire for Hedges today with a combination of wind and a really good starting forward for River Plate giving him a lot of trouble in the first half. He wasn't bad, but the wind really confused him on a few headballs. Whoever the River forward he went against, whose game reminded me a ton of Fabian Espindola, was very very good as well and was able to get the cross in on the goal. Hedges was much better in the second half with the wind at his back and really settled down.
Castillo, Blas & Shea Faban Castillo was probably the most dangerous offensive player in the first half with Brek Shea trying all his flicks and tricks but never really getting anything to go off. To be fair, you could easily tell that they never really got out of second gear in this one. These two are really going to be devastating in attack mode for Dallas this year, but I do worry that they'll leave the outside backs a bit exposed at times. Blas is still clearly not fully fit and needs more time to gel with the teammates. I'm beginning to worry it could be a month into the season before his impact is felt.
Leyva starting centrally I thought it was very very interesting to see Brian Leyva getting a start playing in the central attacking midfield role as he's been played out wide literally every time I've ever seen him for the first team. He was OK this morning, not a lot of mistakes and not a lot great either. Sometimes I think he needs to just play the simple ball rather than looking for the killer through ball or the 45 yard switch. It's a good sign that Schellas was willing to start him there today, however.
Alex Lee Today was my first look at the supplemental draft pick from Maryland. He's a very interesting player out at right back. Really worked hard in his half, always wanted the ball and defended strongly. I came away with a good impression from him.
Back in action tomorrow Dallas is back in action tomorrow morning against Memphis at 11am. I won't be going to that one, 6 hours in freezing temperatures was enough for me this weekend.