FC Dallas took on Real Salt Lake on Tuesday night at FC Dallas Stadium in the first official reserve league match of 2012. FCD fielded what truly was a reserve side full of youth, except for George John, with eight of the ten outfield players either homegrown or less than 2 years out of college. I arrived a few minutes late and missed the RSL goal to put them up 1-0 early in the match.
From there, RSL held possession for a good bit of the first half as FC Dallas struggled to find their rhythm. Real Salt Lake boasted star defender Nat Borchers, in his first appearance of 2012, for the first 45 minutes and his class showed snuffing out pretty much every FC Dallas attack. The first half went by without too much incident with the only significant FCD chance coming on a Bobby Warshaw header.
Dallas came out in the second half with new Colombian forward Luis Perea and took things to RSL from the first whistle. FCD came close a few times and finally leveled the match through homegrown signing Bryan Leyva. The 20 year old latched onto a Jonathan Top on the far post, taking the ball down well, faking a shot, cutting onto his left foot and sliding a left footed shot past Kyle Reynish. It really was a spectacular goal and a flash of greatness from the Mexican.
His best moment would come soon after as spurred on with confidence from the first goal, Leyva nearly had a second. An electrifying sequence of moves down the left wing saw Leyva juke one defender nearly out of his shoes, dribbling around a second defender, cutting onto his left foot and curling a ball that crashed off the crossbar. Words don't quite do justice to the moment, but I'm sure anyone else who was there will remember that one for awhile.
After hitting the post through a Matt Hedges header and an Andrew Wiedeman blast as well as a curling shot from Perea that went inches wide, FC Dallas finally found a winner in the 84th minute. FC Dallas Academy star Mikey Ambrose, committed to Maryland, subbed into the game for Alex Lee at right back in the 83rd minute and had his presence felt immediately. A wonderful floated cross found Luis Perea at the near post and the Colombians sliding, one-timed shot from close range slipped past Reynish to give FCD a 2-1 lead.
Dallas added a third on a fantastic individual effort from Jon Top who received a pass on the right flank, used his speed to get past a defender and blasted a shot low far post into the corner of the net to cap off a fantastic second half showing from the kids.
Read on to see observations on Perea, Leyva, and post-game reaction from Marco Ferruzzi & George John
-Leyva electrifying w/ caveats The second half performance from Bryan Leyva was something to really behold. When he was on the ball in the second half, pretty much every time good things happened. As Ferruzzi says, both individually and in a distribution role, Leyva was fantastic. The biggest problem is the kid, when he's not on the ball, waits for someone to give it to him and doesn't work terribly hard in a defensive role. After seeing today's performance against MLS defenders, however, I think Schellas has to start thinking about putting this guy on the bench for a situation where Dallas needs a spark. Maybe there's not the proven MLS depth that other teams have, but I think if Schellas gives these guys like Leyva and Wiedeman a chance, he will be surprised.
-Jon Top has taken a step forward Another topic Ferruzzi will discuss, you can just see a difference in Jon Top this year. I've talked about it before in a pre-season match report, Top has taken a step forward and showed an amazing amount of confidence in his late goal. I know people are getting impatient waiting for these kids, but believe me when I tell you one or two of these guys will break through.
-Luis Perea in action It took him about 15 minutes to get going, but Perea did about as well as you could expect from someone stepping off a plane. His runs were smart and well timed, he had two different semi-breakaways that, while he didn't finish, did well to time his run correctly and give his teammate an easy option. The goal was very well taken and a finish you'd expect from a top level professional scorer. It's super early to judge, but FCD may have had a real gem fall into their lap. He won't start, but this guy plays on Saturday if Dallas needs a goal, no doubt about it.
General comments on the game, a nice comeback in the second half
I think in the first half we were playing a little bit too far back with our line and we allowed Salt Lake to play a little bit too much and get in a comfortable zone. In the second half we took the game to them and pressed them in their own half. You saw that they had some difficulty trying to build out of the back and were turning over a lot more balls giving us chances.
Second half, some guys just had some excellent opportunities, Leyva was tearing it up. Wiedeman had some great moments as well, Jon Top excellent goal as well.
It seems like Top, this pre-season and regular season is playing much better and has taken a step forward
Yeah, he’s come in extremely fit. His training habits are very very good from last year to this year. He spent a lot of time in the offseason with the Michael Johnson Performance Center. Like I said, he’s one of the boys who is training after practice consistently for an extra 30 minutes, 40 minutes and it shows. He’s sharp right now.
Can you talk about Bryan Leyva’s game, when he’s on the ball, he’s electrifying but maybe his off the ball play still needs work...
He’s a dynamic player with the ball at his feet, absolutely. So creative and he can set up the shot for himself or set up his teammate with a scoring opportunity. You saw those moments in the box, very intricate in his ability to dribble. Fitness is a side that he’s in control of and we’re always monitoring that with him. We feel as his fitness improves we’ll see that other side of the game.
What does it say about the FC Dallas Academy that they can bring a kid like Ambrose off the bench who comes in and serves up the winning assist?
I think it says a lot about the program from top to bottom. Mikey is a guy who has benefitted for the last two years by being called up and training with us. It’s very natural when he steps on the field with us now so putting that ball in is not really a surprise but a sign of his development.
First game back 90 minutes with Dallas how did you feel?
It feels good to be back on the home field, it’s great. I’ve been back a week now practicing with the guys. All the boys were really eager to prove themselves and get up in the first team and they showed it today. Although the first half was a bit slow, we weren’t all on the same page, I think we had a good talk at halftime. Give credit to Coach Ferruzzi with a great talk at halftime and we came out and changed our style and our mentality. We were able to get three goals and win the game.
First time you’ve played with Matt Hedges in a game, what did you see out of him?
Great player, really good, big in the air, nice on the ball, I think he’s going to be really good for FC Dallas in the future.
Coming into 2012, there’s really a big difference from last year where there’s serious competition for places across the backline. Talk about how that helps the team...
I think that makes everybody better. You can never be comfortable with your place in the team and competition always breeds higher level of play. When guys are playing their hardest and their best that’s when you’re going to get good results so I’m excited and happy to be back.
With the way last season ended on a sour note for everyone, it seems like winning that first game was pretty important...
Yeah, obviously last season was really long for us. We had champions league, made a run in the open cup so there was a lot of games and it beat a lot of us up. I think it was obvious to everyone watching that we faded towards the end of the year especially against New York in the playoffs. So coming out and getting a win in the first game is big for us, on national TV in front of a great home crowd. Hopefully we can keep it going and do real well this year.
Going to West Ham, people say MLS and the English Championship are similar levels, what did you see out of the league and what can you bring back to Dallas?
When I was over there briefly for two months, I didn’t really get any first team action unfortunately. Playing in reserve games are nice but it’s not exactly the same but you know I think one thing Dallas and the league has going for it is there’s a great Latin American influence and you can see it on Dallas. We try to play the beautiful game which is very nice and I appreciate that.
Going to England, very successful team at West Ham, they’re top of the league and they win a lot of games. They have that do or die mentality, win at all costs. I never played in a first team game, but I can bring that mentality back here, and try hard over here and hopefully get back in the starting lineup as soon as possible.
DAL – Bryan Leyva (Jonathan Top) 60
DAL – Luis Perea (Mike Ambrose) 84
DAL – Jonathan Top (Perea) 87
FC Dallas Reserves – Chris Seitz, Alex Lee (*Mike Ambrose 83), George John, Matt Hedges, Moises Hernandez, Bobby Warshaw, Victor Ulloa (Bruno Guarda 55),
Subs not used: *Eduardo Cortez, *Mark Ashby, *Kellyn Acosta.
Subs not used: Lalo Fernandez, **Eti Tavares.
*FC Dallas Academy player