FC Dallas recorded a narrow 2-1 victory over Nicaraguan champions Real Esteli in their 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League group stage opener at Toyota Stadium on Thursday night. After Michael Barrios' late first half goal was cancelled out by a well taken Juan Berdun leveler shortly after the break, veteran Maynor Figueroa popped up with a stunning late winner to open his account for the club get FCD off to a positive start in the CCL and on the right track towards the knockout stages already.
It was a dominant display from the team in terms of possession and creating chances from start to finish. Twenty scoring opportunities were created that resulted in a shooting attempt, nine of which were on target and majority of the game was played in the visitors' half. Real Esteli did almost sneak out of Texas with a precious point, but it would have been scarcely deserved as Dallas were clearly the better team on the evening.
A big reason for the high volume of offensive creativity and productivity goes down to the impressive wide play from the team throughout the match, which is almost ironic considering that the club's best wide player Fabian Castillo's loan move to Trabzonspor was only made official not long before this match kicked off. Ryan Hollingshead had another good outing as his replacement on the left wing and got an assist after a dribble that was so reminiscent of the Colombian himself. The other Colombian winger, Barrios, got on the scoresheet there as a result, as did Figueroa for the first time in a Dallas shirt in what was a promising display from the wide players who clearly stepped up with Castillo's departure and showed that they are ready to compete even without him.
Maximiliano Urruti also had a good showing and grew into the game as it wore on before managing to get the game-winning assist for Figueroa's goal. Seven goals and four assists now for the year for the Argentine forward is a pretty good return especially after his long scoreless run and he is looking confident again going into the final stretch of the season which can only be a good thing for the team.
The main negative of this game was the lack of an incisive touch in front of goal which could have seen the game be dead and buried before halftime if some of the countless chances were taken advantage of in the first 45 minutes. Justo Lorente should get some credit for that as well for a solid showing in Esteli's goal, but after beating Vancouver with their only shots on target at the weekend, this wasn't as efficient of a performance from Dallas in front of goal even if they did enough to get the win in the end.
Defensively things didn't look very convincing either with Esteli causing some problems with their few attacks during the game while after improving lately in this regard, the team's foul count of fourteen wasn't a good number to look at afterwards in what was a typical CCL encounter filled with chippy, physical play and the game being contested for as long as it was certainly had a lot to do with that.
Dallas will resume their CONCACAF Champions League campaign against the same opponents in three weeks' time in Nicaragua but the next match is away to LA Galaxy in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal that could see FCD reach a first USOC final in nine years with a win and also host the showpiece itself, should New England also dispose of Chicago the night before in Massachusetts.