FC Dallas controlled the run of play for most of the evening in their first-ever trip to Red Bull Arena on Saturday night, but thanks to a controversial call in the 89th minute that led to a penalty kick by New York’s Juan Pablo Ángel, FCD remain winless after a disappointing 2-1 loss to the Red Bulls.
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New York received the PK after Sinisa Ubiparipovic was taken down on the top edge of the area by FCD captain Daniel Hernandez. Replays showed Ubiparipovic was right on the line, but referee Alex Prus awarded a penalty and Ángel converted after being denied by FCD goalkeeper Darío Sala on an earlier attempt.
While Prus’ call was a questionable one, there was a guilty party for FCD. Left back Jair Benítez didn’t do his team any favors with a throw-in from the right side of the field. His poor distribution led to Ubiparipovic gaining possession, which in turn led to the PK and FCD leaving town with no points.
Benítez struggled much of the night in this one. On New York’s first goal, he played Macoumba Kandji a bit too loose and Kandji was able to lay the ball off to teammate Joel Lindpere. The New York midfielder then struck a perfect cross that Ángel headed into the back of the net for the equalizer.
Heath Pearce, meanwhile, played well on the left flank and assisted on FCD’s only goal, a header by Dax McCarty just 10 minutes in. Pearce was also solid on corner kicks and figured in on several other scoring chances.
Eric Avila came on for Pearce in the 69th minute, but it was unclear why Pearce came off at all. Considering how well Pearce had performed in the game, one might think bringing Atiba Harris off for Avila would have been the more likely move, but perhaps Pearce was tiring and had to come off.
Once again, Avila provided instant energy after entering the game. He was denied by New York goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul on one chance and fed Jeff Cunningham on another opportunity that was stopped by the Red Bulls keeper.
Besides the goal, McCarty also turned in a rock-solid performance in the middle of the field. McCarty’s goal was even more impressive considering that in the game’s early stages he was noticeably knocked off the ball several times by opposing players.
Rookie right back Zach Loyd also turned in a solid performance in just his second career start. Sure, he did take Kandji down on the left side of the FCD area in the 64th minute, leading to Angel’s first PK of the evening, but the youngster handled himself well and showed he wasn’t at all intimidated in just his second MLS match.
Other than Benítez and Pearce switching spots, the other lineup change for FCD was Sala going back in goal after Kevin Hartman started last week against Columbus. The veteran Argentine did a great job on Angel’s first PK attempt, denying him far post. Asking Sala to stop the Colombian striker twice in one game from the spot, however, is a bit much to expect from any keeper.
Another big positive for FCD was how well they controlled possession in the first half. Schellas Hyndman’s club also avoided the letdown to start the second half that plagued them in last Saturday’s draw with Columbus. However, after Ángel’s equalizer, the Red Bulls wrested control of the game away from FCD for the first time.
But one thing remains true: FCD is just not finishing opportunities inside the box. Granted, Coundoul was great, but Cunningham and David Ferreira specifically need to do a better job converting their chances at close range. Plain and simple, finishing is a problem for FCD right now and until it drastically improves, winning will still be a tall order.