After an inauspicious start, FC Dallas came back to defeat C.F. Pachuca Tuzos 2-1 last night in Frisco to secure a 1 goal aggregate lead in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) semifinal series, ahead of the return fixture in Mexico on April 4.
The game certainly had a nightmare beginning and immediately brought thoughts of oh no…not again as it relates to MLS-LigaMX CCL matches. In the 3rd minute, Hernan Grana, FCD’s right back, was burned by Pachuca midfielder Erick Aguirre, who then played a cross into striker Franco Jara. FCD midfielder Carlos Gruezo missed an attempt at a clearing header and Jara coolly settled and finished from 8 yards out to take a very early lead.
In an article written by Scott Sidwell after the game on mlssoccer.com, FCD head coach Oscar Pareja admitted that the team was a little unsettled at the beginning of the match. “We got too uptight in the game and it took seven minutes to really adjust to the game and start feeling it. After that the reaction was great.” said Pareja.
That is was. FCD continued their recent habit of coming back in international matches. Grana played a nice ball into the box before the end of the first half that was parried by the Pachuca goal keeper straight to Maxi Urruti, who scored to tie the match.
After falling behind early in the game, FCD had stretches where they took control of the match. FCD defender Walker Zimmerman attributed the to Pachuca slowing their game down. “I think they got a little complacent with their lead”. Even after Urruti evened the score, FCD came out attacking in the second half. The effort was rewarded when Kellyn Acosta converted a picture-perfect direct kick from well outside the penalty box to put Dallas ahead in the 58th minute.
Both teams had opportunities in the remainder of the match. Dallas goalie Chris Seitz was called on to make an excellent difficult save as Pachuca regained momentum after falling behind. Dallas will be ruing the extra-time counterattack they didn’t convert, off a Pachuca corner, when Tuzos defender Raul Lopez’s textbook-perfect goal-saving tackle stripped Aaron Guillen in the penalty area.
The second leg of the semifinal series will be at Pachuca on April 4 at 9:00 p.m. CDT. Despite the challenge FCD will face down there in a few weeks, full credit to them now as last night was the first time a U.S. based MLS team has beaten a Mexican side in the semifinal stage of the CCL.
Photos courtesy of my son, Chris, who attended the game last night.