The wait is finally over. Last night, at a sold-out Toyota Stadium, FC Dallas beat New England Revolution 4-2 to claim its second ever Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and first trophy of any sort since 1997. The last one came in the early days of Dallas Burn with a penalty shootout win over DC United in Indianapolis. This one, though, has come on home territory and after such a long wait, it has a special feel to it. It’s also the first trophy the club has won since the re-brand and under the ownership of the younger Hunts and for their first trophy to be in the competition that’s named after their late father must have a special feeling for them also.
It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing last night though. Juan Agudelo’s well taken early goal stunned the crowd and threatened to spoil the night for those linked with FCD, but a Maximiliano Urruti brace either side of a Matt Hedges header and Mauro Diaz penalty turned things around in style for Dallas who managed to hold on despite another Agudelo goal late on. After the final whistle, the celebrations could finally begin and they were exuberant, as well they should be even on a Tuesday night, as the club finally ended its long trophy drought with victory in a rematch of the unsuccessful 2007 final in this very same competition.
Where to start? First and foremost, the team’s response after going down early was inspirational and typifies the strong mentality that they have developed under Oscar Pareja, especially in adverse situations. Winning this USOC wasn’t without its difficult moments as Dallas has had to come from behind in nearly every game to get here and they had to do so last night as well, but they did so in some fashion. They choked out New England’s attack well and put endless pressure on their defense which eventually resulted in four goals and the Revs were never going to come back after that.
The performances was also full of several impressive individual displays. Diaz was the best player on the pitch by some distance with nearly everything he touched turning into gold as he bagged a goal and registered three assists on the night. Urruti showed what he is capable of in big games with two goals which should do him a world of wonder with his confidence while Ryan Hollingshead, Mauro Rosales, Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, and Maynor Figueroa all had fine games as well. With so many players playing well and with plenty of fire, it was always going to be difficult to lose this one.
We also saw a new pairing for the first time with Hollingshead and Rosales on the right who wreaked plenty of havoc with their movement and link up play along with Diaz, allowing Dallas to overload on New England’s weakened left flank and focus their plays there more than on the other side where Barrios and Figueroa were. Whether this will be a pairing that Pareja could go with going into the last few games of the year remains to be seen, but he now knows that he has another variation he could choose from and that only adds to his options.
We also saw the two different sides of this team in both halves. The first half was more of the team that could play a possession brand and push their opponent back into their defensive third with wave after wave of attacks, while the second was more about sitting deep, combining defending and counterpressing to win balls high up the pitch and initiate quick bursts of pace and precision on counters to expose New England’s gaps at the back. Both worked successfully and highlight exactly how flexible Dallas are to play in different ways but still do just as well regardless.
Despite all the good points to take out from last night, there were still some bad ones too. Defensively the team did have problems even if they didn’t have a whole lot of work to do on that front all night. New England posed problems whenever they got in an attacking position and aside from scoring two, they had a couple of other good looks which were ultimately wasted. At times the distances between defenders and midfielders were a little too big, even at 4-1, which wasn’t particularly good control or game management on Dallas’ part, but they got away with it without any big scares late on fortunately.
There weren’t many other negatives to take out of what was overall a great night for the franchise and for all those linked to it. Nights like this won’t come around too often so hopefully everyone made the most of it in the best way that they could.
But hopefully, everyone is still aware that there’s plenty of games left to play before the season is over. Including this Saturday when FCD are on the road to NYCFC in a crucial game in the race for this year’s Supporters’ Shield.