It took only 68 seconds for Portland to foul Mauro Diaz for the first time on perfect Saturday night in Frisco.
The ref set a tone in the 3rd minute of the match showing he would not tolerate anything from the players.
Both teams were sloppy in the first 15 minutes as they tried to get up to match speed. In the 10th minute Fabian Castillo is unlucky when Jack Jewsbury ducks his head down and takes a boot to the face, therefore a yellow card for Fabian.
The best moment for either side came in the 12th minute when Diego Valeri struck a shot from 25 yards that looked to beat Chris Seitz but went wide.
17th minute and Blas Perez picks up a yellow card for dissent. Perez was not hiding his emotions on the night and let Weber (the Portland keeper) and the referee hear his thoughts on several occasions.
FC Dallas fans hid in their seats in the 22nd minute when Gaston Fernandez and Valeri combined twice to get a shot on goal, only for Seitz to save and then spill straight to Maximiliano Urruti's feet, but luckily Max Urruti had been flagged offside. This was the first of two plays in this match where Seitz spilled the ball where he should have held onto it.
It took until the 25th minute for FC Dallas to spread the field and really come to life. Portland had been compact on defense, but Pareja's men were finally able to spread them and really get forward.
The most dangerous attack of the match thus far (and soon to be a theme) had Jair Benitez bombing down the left side of the pitch and crossing to Je-Vaughn Watson at the back post, who rose head and shoulders above the Portland defenders to send the ball off the crossbar. Couldn't have been any closer!
28th minute Benitez again from the left side crosses in on the ground to Perez who couldn't get the ball over Weber for a first half lead.
Blas Perez was able to play a perfect flick on to Castillo who was in on goal, but opted to play it back in the path of Perez and Watson, but the ball went behind both of them harmlessly.
I think we all heard about the mystery red cards to Michael Harrington and Watson in the 39th minute, so I will let them go, adding only that I believe they will be rescinded when the clubs own videos are sent to MLS. I doubt anything really happened.
The match had really settled down after the double red, but FCD found the opener in the 45'+3 when Benitez found Kellyn Acosta at the back post, who headed across the goal for Perez who had a clinical finish to put FCD up 1, nil.
Neither team dominated the opening frame, but the men in red took advantage of a defensive lapse to put themselves up just before half. Diaz has been looking for the killer pass all match and was unlucky not to get an assist on a couple occasions. Portland just can't get it together in the final third and found it tough to create any real threatening chances.
Not much to report on here, as there is an intense midfield battle going on between these two teams, as a young Victor Ulloa settles in with Michel to fight off a threatening Will Johnson and Diego Chara. Ulloa keeps it simple while Michel looks for the longer, more deadly passes into the attacking third. I believe it is the correct decision to have Ulloa play mostly horizontal much like Hedges plays out of the back.
Good decision from Pareja to sub off Perez for David Texeira in the 65th minute to get fresh legs up top. Perez had to work a double shift to cover for the pressure lost from Watson being sent off; on top of that, he was carrying a yellow card.
The timing of the sub may have been wrong, as an Urutti pass to Kalif Alhassan hit off of Matt Hedges and unfortunately for FCD flew over Seitz's helpless hands and into the back of the net. It's all square in Frisco, 1-1. Unfortunate as there really hasn't been any momentum for either side since the first half.
There was a new spark of life in the Portland side after the goal, as they really seemed more energetic with the ball, but they still failed to put much together in the attacking third. The best moment was in the 71st when Valeri hit a low shot straight into the path of Seitz.
In the 76th minute Diaz holds the ball up and then floats the ball towards the back of the 18 yard box for Michel who strikes what would have been a beauty if he could have found the target; amazing vision from Diaz.
Right after that play Alhassan hits a bending ball that lands just on top of the net and probably would have been in the goal if on target.
In the 83rd minute Mauro Diaz draws a foul near midfield that basically sums up the season thus far. Michel serves the ball in and a couple touches later the ball lands at Diaz's feet who takes one touch to the right, and then blasts it to the left past Andrew Weber for the match winner!
In the 87th minute Zach Loyd makes his long-awaited return from injury replacing solid performer Victor Ulloa. This is just to give fresh legs on the defensive side as Portland looks to press late.
Just before the match ends an angry Castillo walks off the pitch without lifting his head and is replaced by homegrown player Moises Hernandez.
I wouldn't consider this the strongest performance of the season, but it is tough to play against Portland even if they are in a slump. They have one of the top three midfields in the league in my opinion, and Will Johnson and Diego Chara aren't a duo that you look past even if performing poorly. This is a great 3 points for FCD and they will immediately look towards the Houston matchup next weekend.
Notes on the Match:
I had a problem with the Root Sport commentators... They constantly showed bias towards Portland (ok that's fine as I know they are Portland supporters) but it was when they praised Diego Chara for committing nasty fouls, and praised him for leading the league, with two times the second place, in fouls committed. That is just ridiculous for me.
Pareja is doing an excellent job in defining player's specific roles, as every player who has touched the field knows what their job is and how to execute it to the best of their ability.
Anyone else think that Johnson is having a competition with Jackson for the worst shots in the league?
The Benitez and Castillo combination is gelling even more now, as Benitez bombs down the left side, Castillo is able to move centrally much like Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo do. It forces the opposite team's outside back to sit in the hole and gives your own team an extra striker; great gameplan from Pareja and fantastic execution from Benitez.
Decent game from Ulloa after the nerves wore off; he had his bad touches early on and then showed why he earned a new contract. I look forward to seeing him earn some more minutes as the season wears on.
Not a great game from Matt Hedges (nothing to do with the own goal, as Hedges made the right play there,) but Stephen Keel excelled in this match. The duo has been strong and it's an exciting time for North Texas soccer fans.
Questions this Match Created:
Will George John be able to force himself into the lineup when healthy, or could he be used as trade-bait in the summer?
With Zach Loyd healthy, how do you see the outside back situation turning out?
If Watson's red card sticks, who replaces him in Houston>
Your thoughts on Ulloa's performance?
Bonus: Any ideas this week for a new title for this weekly post?