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FC Dallas Solves Rio Tinto and Knocks Off Champs

SANDY, UT - SEPTEMBER 16: Ned Grabavoy  of Real Salt Lake and David Ferreira  of FC Dallas fights for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game September 16, 2010 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Soccer fans in the U.S. have long debated whether playoffs should be part of the beautiful game.  Yesterday’s Real Salt Lake/FC Dallas match showed exactly why the MLS playoffs can be special, as the lower-seeded Dallas knocked off the defending MLS champions with a 1-1 draw, 3-2 win on aggregate.  Real Salt Lake came into the match knowing they needed a win outright and played like it the entire game, but failed to convert numerous chances in the second half.

As could be expected, the match began with Real Salt Lake on the attack and Dallas looking to score off the counter.  And it looked like they would do that in the 4th minute as Jeff Cunningham crossed it to an open Brek Shea who finished, but was called just a step offsides.  Colorado had problems maintaining possession the entire first half and every time it seemed as if they would string together a couple of passes and get into an offensive rhythm, Dallas would force a turnover.  When Real Salt Lake did have chances, they were primarily started by Fabian Espindola who was able to beat Jackson repeatedly.  His teammates, however, failed to do the same with the rest of the Dallas defense.

In the 17th minute, Dallas again attacked on the counter.  This time, MVP candidate David Ferreira sent in a cross from the right that Shea chested down to McCarty who pushed the ball past Rimando for the 1-0 lead.  This increased the intensity of the Real attack but Dallas consistently disrupted Real scoring chances and pressured the home team’s defense  with counterattacks.  RSL had their best chance in the 40th minute when Grabavoy had a good shot from distance that Hartman knocked right to Espindola.  Hartman had fallen on the punch and Espindola, who had an almost open net but was accelerating toward the ball, kicked the ball over the net.  Will Johnson had another long shot that just missed the next at the end of the half, bu Martin Chavez also missed a chance to put Dallas up even more in the 45th minute.  He was released on a pass by Cunningham but he just pushed his shot wide.

The second half saw much of the same, except Real Salt Lake was able to string together possession and get some quality chances on goal.  The problem for the home team was Kevin Hartman decided to make his case for why he should have been Goalkeeper of the Year.  For example, in the 49th minute, Espindola gets a pass over the top and with just Hartman between him and an equalizer, Hartman makes a great save with his foot to knock the ball out of play.  In the 73rd minute RSL again had a great opportunity as a ball in deflects away from Hartman who was off his line, except as the ball bounced toward the net no one in claret could finish the chance, and Dallas cleared.

The home club finally got on the board on the 80th minute when Borcher passed a free kick to sub Robbie Findley who kicked it past Hartman.  Findley was very close to being offside but there was no call, and RSL finally found something that would stick.  Findley would be the center of the home team’s attack as he was constantly targeted with passes into the box in the waining minutes, but he failed to convert.  A Beckerman pass over the top failed to find Findley’s head in the 88th minute that looked to be an automatic goal.  But the best save of the night may have been at the 90th minute.  RSL continued its pressure and got a shot which was redirected at the last second by Espindola, yet Hartman made the save off his legs.

The man of the match was certainly Kevin Hartman, who at times was the only player keeping FC Dallas in the match.  As so many other visiting teams have experienced, the Dallas players were absolutely gassed toward the end of the match due in part to the altitude.  Hartman covered any mistakes (except for the one Findley goal) and played just out of his mind.  The visitors were also lucky their keeper was not hurt more seriously on a 77th minute collision that saw him receive treatment.

For the defending champions, the loss of Javier Morales hurt more than I thought it would.  Despite many attempts on goal, they simply could not convert quality chances in the second half.  A perfect example was a cross by Warner in the 89th minute through the box and through the Dallas defense that found no Real players; it was perfect for that second goal.  By the time RSL began to string enough passes together and create opportunities, Hartman and the Dallas defense were making great stops and growing with confidence.

Kudos to a great crowd, as always, at Rio Tinto tonight.  The sold-out stadium was noisy and into the match, even when the team fell behind early.  But for the third year in a row the defending champion fails to repeats, and this year all three lower seeds have advanced to the next round.  That must make Bruce Arena a bit uneasy.

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  1. Roger

    November 7, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    DCU nobody wants to eurotised anything, it you are refering to open leagues, you should say worldtised instead.Get your heads out of the sand please,go to wikipedia and read a little, just a little about international club soccer;then come back and please tell us how we compare to the rest of the world,not just europe.

    Yes , I would love if we WORLDTISED american association football.

  2. DCUDiplomat96

    November 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Ummm Eurotised soccer will destroy MLS, this is american League no need help from europe.

  3. Ivan

    November 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I watched the second half of the NYRB/San Jose game and the 2nd half of the RSL/Dallas game. I am happy for FC Dallas and their coach who has pulled off a miracle in the last year or so…I am gutted that Colorado, the team that plays the ugliest football in the league and has about 5 fans, is also through…
    As to the merit of the playoffs, I am (and will always be) against. Why do you have to “Americanize” a game to make it acceptable to the fans? Single table, the winner of the regular season is crowned champion. Every game in the regular season will matter. End of story.
    Don Garber: you have done well for the league, but let us never forget that you are a product of the NFL. That simple fact will stop you from taking the league to do next level (get rid of retarded conferences, lay out the groundwork for promotion/relegation, etc.).

    • Charles

      November 7, 2010 at 12:26 pm

      Every game will matter is the biggest joke ever……and BORING !
      When a team is eliminated from winning the league ( like 1/2 of the EPL currently and all of LaLiga) their games still matter. no.

      Take this years MLS regular season. LA had a hold on the SS by half way. Did the race get tighter ? Sure. Big deal. Very good teams like the Sounders were out of that race midseason. Why do their games against DC, NE, KC etc count ? They don’t.

      Oooooh but we are going to create a bunch of different losers contest too !! How exciting would that be ? Not very. They are the losers….as in no chance of winning.

      Look at the EPL this year for the exact same situation, every knows that Chelsea will win it, not even Christmas yet. IF they don’t there are only two other teams that have a prayer. Not like you are going to win the league with as many losses as Liverpool and Everton have. They would practically have to go undefeated. BORRRRING.
      The only reason EPL is at all interesting is 4 teams qualify for….PLAYOFFS ! ( oh yeah and since 4 teams isn’t enough to keep anyone’s interest, will add a few more with a second group of PLAYOFFS too )

      I saw a bit of the first half of the ESPN EPL game yesterday, ( Gaffer is to blame for that) The guy said about the game, well the favorite is not really in a race to win it, but it is more about finishing in the top 4.
      The underdog, well they are not out of the losers race.

      WOW, how EXCITING (sarcasm) ! As you would expect the game wasn’t very good ( I only watched the first half ) and their were a lot of empty seats there.

      What time to say you don’t like playoffs ?!!?! These games have been INCREDIBLE !

      • Roger

        November 7, 2010 at 12:50 pm

        Charles,you keep making the point of how boring is the EPL for you.

        The EPL is just level 1 out of the 24 levels of the English soccer pyramid. There are 6422 clubs that are part of it. At the “growth rate” of MLS , we are not going to enjoy anything remotely close to that in our life time !

        Move your point of atention a little, to Japan,China,India and you may realize how we are actually falling behind ,far and away from the international football world.Let the EPL obsession rest a little, we are light years away from anything like it.

      • Ivan

        November 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm

        Did you not see Arsenal-Newcastle or Liverpool-Chelsea this morning? Electric atmosphere, quality performances, teams going all out…and, no, Chelsea will not run away w/ the title in December…
        I would LOVE to see MLS succeed, but not with Donnie Garber at the top, a single entity “franchise” structure, and prepackaging of the product in the vein of NFL and MLB.
        MLS must not become another pro zombie league in this country, where big screens tell you when to cheer (“Get Loud”), what to cheer (“Let’s Go Bucs”) and how to cheer…where teams do not get punished if they suck (relegation, people, it’s not rocket science), where they have east and west conferences which do not make sense in light of the playoff structure, and where the concept of “international break” was first introduced during the last World Cup…
        Don’t get me wrong, the league will be very different in about 20 years (and, I hope, for the better) but right now, thinking of Colorado Rapids in the MLS Cup makes me want to throw up…yes, they are that awful. Why don’t they make that Connor Casey tank the face of the league…what a joke!

        • Robert

          November 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

          I have to agree with you both. A closed system will keep destroying club soccer stateside. Sounders fans may be pumped up right now but after several years of league mediocrity along with collapses on international level fans are going to start questioning league rules. I would prefer the top clubs jump ship and form their own proper league.

  4. DCUDiplomat96

    November 7, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I wish the league went back to the best of 3 format, that was more exciting and decisive… and American as apple pie! If only a special potioncan rid of the euro snob!!! who cares soccer shoulnt be beatiful thats so darn girly. but yes the playoffs have been some what interesting… but no the game isnt beautiful. come on people this is america.

    • Charles

      November 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

      America, land of Al Davis’ WINNING UGLY !

      The Sounder’s fan and the DC fan agree.
      I would go best of three all the way through even the Finals. Home field advantage to the higher seed obvi.

      Why would they take the Euridiots lead on how to run playoffs ? We already have four leagues here, most of them infinitely more exciting than the Euro soccer leagues to make judgements from.

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