FC Dallas produced a stunning late comeback last night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California with two goals in the final five minutes of extra time creating an unlikely turnaround in a 2-1 win over an LA Galaxy team that was missing several starters and was well below full strength. Mike Magee gave the Galaxy the lead just past the 100th minute from the penalty spot but two Mauro Diaz corners were headed in by captain Matt Hedges and Victor Ulloa in the dying embers of the match to seal a Dallas win and send the Hoops back to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final for the first time since 2007.
Dallas will now get to host the showpiece final of the competition itself for the second time in franchise history and, just as the first time, will get to do so next month against New England Revolution, the team that beat FCD in the final nine years ago and ruined the club's opportunity to mark its decade-long anniversary since winning their first and only trophy to date by winning their second. Dallas will look to get revenge for that defeat and end its long wait for silverware, especially now after beating LA Galaxy and gaining revenge for the defeat to them in the 2005 final.
There's several things to commend from the team's display, but first and foremost and above all, it has to be the never-say-die attitude that the group showcased in this match, especially after falling behind in extra time. Dallas haven't produced many comeback wins this year in the league while LA have only lost once from a winning position and also taking into consideration that Dallas' USOC and away records against the Galaxy haven't been too great, it seemed like it was game over for FCD after Magee scored. But the team fought back and climbed from the dawns of defeat to win the game through two headed corner goals, which was an unlikely way for the team to turn things around given their problems there in the past. Oscar Pareja said before the start of the season that he wants to take every competition seriously and instill a winning mentality in the team and at the club and the manner of this comeback proves that those promises are certainly on the right track to being fulfilled.
Another impressive aspect to take out of the performance was the amount of chances the team managed to create throughout the match. Dallas created twenty-six goal scoring opportunities to LA's eleven and three times as many chances after the first half, which was a great tally to manage in a tough road cup game. Although there will be arguments understandably that Dallas did this against a weakened LA team, it is one of the most shot productive games that the team has had in a while and with this coming following the recent loss of Fabian Castillo where doubts started to grow over this team's offensive exploits, this display on that front showed that they can create just as many chances if not more even without him.
Defensively the team looked solid despite a slightly rough start and only conceded a handful of shots on goal to the Galaxy over the course of 120 minutes. Chris Seitz was once again in form in goal despite giving away a penalty that he perhaps could have avoided while the central defensive pairing of Hedges and Walker Zimmerman was solid as usual and did well to limit the effectiveness of Alan Gordon and Magee on the game throughout the contest. Not much changed in that regard even when Gyasi Zardes and Giovani dos Santos entered the field aside from one mishap which led to their goal as FCD continued to display its strides in improvement at the back since the early months of the season.
Aside from Seitz and the two center halves, there have to be some words for Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Diaz on their performances as well. Acosta played in central midfield and at right-back during this game but was just as involved and effective in both roles as he was regularly present in most of the team's offensive actions while Diaz managed to bag two assists from dead ball situations despite struggling to evade LA's physical pressure on him in midfield which just continues to showcase how valuable he is to this team and what a quality player he has become for the club and the league. We also got to see the debut of Brazilian forward Getterson who showed an impressive combination of dribbling and aerial skills and did a decent job coming off the bench late on. If he can put in performances like this cameo over an extended period of time on the pitch, he could end up being a good addition to this team despite being written off by some before he even kicked a ball on the pitch.
And last but not least, Victor Ulloa. The homegrown man has now scored two vital goals in three weeks off the bench which have had major impacts on Dallas' chase for Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup glory. What a hero.
Although the team managed to create twenty-six shot attempts during the game, there were some glaring problems in attack as well. Once LA managed to choke out Diaz and deny him the spaces to wander into to make his mark on the match, Dallas struggled to produce anything of note for long stretches of the game. Michael Barrios tried his best but it often wasn't enough while none of Ryan Hollingshead, Maximiliano Urruti, and Tesho Akindele really impacted the game in the way that was required of them. The fears that large sectors of the fan base have had following Castillo's departure whether or not Dallas will struggle offensively without him when Diaz has an off day seemed to be confirmed for large portions of the match, but luckily the Argentine stepped up to the plate and delivered two big corners to turn the game around in the end. Still though, some of the problems that Dallas have going forward functionally and structurally post-Castillo were highlighted here and it does leave something for Pareja to chew on going forward on how to fix those issues.
The team's foul count of twenty-three was the only other real concern from the match which contributed to more than half of the fouls and physical play during the game, earning Dallas five yellow cards in the process. Although it's somewhat hard to fault the team for being so aggressive in a decisive cup match, they did cross the line at times and were fortunate to see match winner Ulloa not get sent off early in the second half for a reckless challenge. Dallas did lose Atiba Harris for the final though for a suspension due to accumulated bookings and the more fouls the team make in the future, the more worrisome it'll become that a similar situation could be repeated for the MLS Cup playoffs later in the fall.
Dallas will now turn its focus back on MLS action with a third home game in four matches with Sporting Kansas City coming to town on Saturday for the second time in the year. As we go into the final ten games of the regular season, points become harder to come by in the race for the Supporters' Shield.