This morning must be close to what heaven feels like. 70 degrees, brilliantly sunny and a fast-paced high quality game between two teams full of players fighting for roster spots.
Lineups: FC Dallas lined up in the same 4-4-2 formation that they've been trotting out there without David Ferreira on the pitch, but this one had one twist with Carlos Rodriguez starting on the right in place of Brek Shea. Kevin Hartman in goal with Benitez, Pertuz, Ihemelu, Loyd across the back. Hernandez & Jacobson in central midfield with Rodriguez & Wiedeman on the wings serving to Castillo & Perez up top.
The United States lined up in a 4-4-3 formation with Bill Hamid in goal, Kofi Sarkodie on the right, Jorge Villafana on the left & Ike Opara/Zarek Valentin in the center. In midfield, Amobi Okugo and Jared Jeffery sat in the middle of the pitch with Freddy Adu in front of them. Brek Shea, Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo formed a 3 man forward attack.
Game recap: With a stiff wind at their back, the United States controlled the majority of possession in the first half with Okugo & Jeffery holding down the play. The first chance of the game fell to Agudelo who was brilliantly played through by Okugo but Hartman was quick off his line to stone the young forward.
Keep reading for much more including observations on both teams and the return of David Ferreira
It wouldn't take long for the Americans to pull level as a Freddy Adu corner found Ike Opara in traffic and the San Jose Earthquakes defender scored on a header very similar to Jacobson's. The 36th minute saw the best moment of the game for FC Dallas fans as 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira made his return to the pitch almost 10 months to the day of his season-ending injury at Vancouver.
The most exciting moment of the match came soon after as Kevin Hartman was called for a ridiculous penalty after Brek Shea backed into him on a long ball played over the top. Adu stepped up to take the kick and Hartman saved fantastically to his right before popping up to save the rebound prompting loud cheers from the couple hundred fans in attendance. The high-speed first half ended 1-1.
The second half was a bit more disjointed affair as substitutions and yellow cards broke up the play. The United States took the lead early in the second half with FCD winger Brek Shea scoring against his club team as Adu found him unmarked on the left side and the College Station native made no mistake firing past Hartman in goal.
US defender Kofi Sarkodie was harshly given a second yellow card in the 58th minute and Brek Shea was hilariously sent off for a second yellow card in the 75th minute. FC Dallas, despite hitting the post late in the second half, could not find the equalizer and the USA U23 Olympic Squad notched all 3 points in a 2-1 victory.
First half impressions The US really did a great job of holding possession against the MLS side throughout most of the first half. Jared Jeffrey and Amobi Okugo did an excellent job retaining and distributing the ball out to the wings. Jorge Villafana was impressive in both defense and attack on the left side in the first half.
Second Half Tough to take too much from a team that was down to 10 men for a half hour and 9 men for 15 minutes, but you've got to give them a lot of credit for holding off the FC Dallas attack for the last 15 minutes.
Best Player The best player for the US in the first half by a good margin was Brek Shea. The FC Dallas winger looked a cut above the rest of the American attackers and battled against Zach Loyd all game. He grabbed his goal in the second half and was simply more polished and active than Agudelo or Bunbury.
Disappointing It's early in camp, but I wasn't impressed with Agudelo or Bunbury at all. Teal was the better of the two, but man his first touch is just not up to par and must improve. Agudelo was pretty much invisible through the whole half and was substituted at halftime. I'm not sure if the kid has bought into his own hype and doesn't think he needs to have the same work rate as Shea, but the effort just doesn't quite seem to be there right now. Jair Benitez had no problem with him.
FC Dallas Observations
They're getting there Not quite MLS ready yet, but I think the team is certainly ready to head to Orlando and face other MLS competition in a tournament setting. The back four was as good as they've looked so far and many starters played more than one half for the first time in the pre-season. It's not there yet, but it's close.
Ferreira's day Boy was it great to see El Torito back out on the pitch. You could see a notable change in the team for the 20 minutes or so he was in there. You can't quite explain what it is, but the little Colombian is just the heart and soul of this team and makes them tick. Besides Hartman's penalty save, the moment of the day for FCD fans was early in the second half when Ferreira did his patented post up and turn on the defender, receiving the ball, jukeing and spraying a 30 yard pinpoint pass to Castillo who had his shot saved well. The vision and touch hasn't gone anywhere, the confidence just needs to return. It's as simple as getting clattered from someone in Orlando and popping back up.
Left side Carlos Rodriguez and Jair Benitez were pretty good as a left side combination, I thought. There's not a whole lot of offense there, but the guys already have a pretty good understanding of each other and I think the combination will be ok for games where Shea is not available.
The strikeforce Blas was a little off the pace today and just never really got going. Nothing to worry about, I think it was just a little bit of an off day from him though he did hit a free kick from about 23 yards off the post late in the game. I didn't know he could hit free kicks. Fabian Castillo was good in his free roaming role next to Perez. He's just got that talent to beat a defender 1v1 off the dribble that you don't see very much in MLS. I'll say this, if DF10 comes back strong, I don't see how MLS defenses are going to be able to effectively stop Brek on the left, David in the middle and Castillo out right with Blas commanding a double team up top.
Other notes Scott Sealy was not here today, but it was simply because he was given the OK by Schellas to go home for a couple days before Orlando. He is traveling to Orlando with the team which means the odds of him making the squad are looking very very good at this point. Mexican forward and former Colorado Rapids great Daniel Osorno is in camp...he was alright but I'm not sure we see him much more.
Lots of quotes to come...
DAL – Andrew Jacobson (Fabian Castillo) 15
USA – Ike Opara (Freddy Adu) 19
DAL – Andrew Jacobson (caution) 64
DAL – Blas Perez (caution) 78
FC Dallas – Kevin Hartman (Chris Seitz 69), Jair Benitez (Jonathan Top 75), Ugo Ihemelu (Matt Hedges 72), Hernan Pertuz (Christian Ibeagha 72), Zach Loyd (Castillo 81), Carlos Rodriguez, Daniel Hernandez (Bobby Warshaw 64), Andrew Jacobson (Alex Lee 64), Andrew Wiedeman (David Ferreira 36, Daniel Osorno 58), Blas Perez, Fabian Castillo (Dogba 58).