WASHINGTON -- FC Dallas continued their assault in MLS with a methodical 3-1 win over D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, running their unbeaten streak to 10 games as United’s long, slow swoon continued with their 14th loss in a dispiriting 2010 campaign.
Dallas was good value for the three points as playmaker David Ferreira pulled the strings in the center of the park while Brek Shea provided a cutting edge on the left wing and rookie Eric Alexander netted his first-ever professional goal. But Jeff Cunningham’s late clincher was a gift from a DC defense that has now given up a league-leading 35 strikes.
Referee Abby Okulaja waved play on through a few full-blooded challenges in the opening stages, but he had to award United a useful set piece in the 6th minute when Dallas winger Shea clattered into Pablo Hernandez some 20 yards from Kevin Hartman’s net. Marc Burch blasted a low left-footer around the wall and on target, forcing Hartman to sprawl to his left and parry the free kick.
The physical play quickly heated tempers and the tone turned nastier in the 22nd minute. FCD frontrunner Milton Rodriguez landed a blow to the back of Julius James’ head in an off-the-ball tangle, leaving the Trinidadian crumpled on the turf for several minutes and eventually drawing a yellow card from Okulaja.
Bill Hamid had gotten Olsen’s nod ahead of Troy Perkins to guard DC's net and the teenager was tested twice on a Dallas corner kick, first punching away from danger and then cleanly holding Alexander’s shot off the rebound.
With Branko Boskovic and Hernandez dictating the attack and Najar working hard down the right wing, United looked sharp in patches and the home side should have gone ahead shortly after the half-hour mark. A few quick passes down the right flank allowed striker Danny Allsopp to dribble in on Hartman alone but the veteran ‘keeper stood tall, deflecting the Australian’s shot wide of his right-hand post.
Moments later, Allsopp’s wastefulness was duly punished when Shea caught the DC back four in a flat, static line in the 36th minute. Alexander’s through ball was perfectly weighted for his well-timed run, forcing Hamid to come off his line as Shea broke clear. Hamid was left adrift when Shea spotted Ferreira racing away from Carey Talley at the far post, and the Colombian playmaker a simply tapped-in the pass for a 1-0 lead.
The Black-and-Red tried to regroup at halftime, but were shoved into a deeper hole within minutes of the restart as Dallas doubled the score on a sequence tinged with controversy.
Shea clearly undercut Talley in challenging for a hopeful punt just outside the United box, but Okulaja allowed play to carry on and Dallas continued to attack despite the fact that Talley remained on the turf injured. Ferreira used several skilful touches to carve out space down the left side of the DC box and the United defense were caught too deep when the ball was cut back to the top of the 18 for Alexander, who drilled a sharp finish just inside the left post.
DC coach Ben Olsen changed to a three-man defense and brought on attackers Chris Pontius and, later, Adam Cristman to chase the game and the team’s efforts finally brought reward in the 80th minute. Allsopp held possession in Dallas’ left-hand corner and passed back to Santino Quaranta, whose deep, inswinging delivery for Andy Najar put Jair Benitez in an awkward situation at the far post. The FCD left back stretched out a leg haphazardly and the ball caromed off him, past Hartman and into the net for an own goal to cut the deficit to 2-1.
That keyed a late DC rally and Dallas hung on for dear life, killing time whenever possible. But the Hoops' victory was assured in the early stages of injury time when Dejan Jakovic underhit his back pass to Hamid, handing second half sub Cunningham a clear route to goal.
The Jamaican calmly slalomed past Hamid’s desperate lunge and deposited his 128th career goal into the empty net, icing his team’s 3-1 win and drawing him one step closer to United’s Jaime Moreno on the all-time MLS scoring record.
DAL -- David Ferreira 6 (Brek Shea 4, Eric Alexander 1) 36
DAL -- Eric Alexander 1 (Milton Rodriguez 1, David Ferreira 7) 49
DC -- own goal (Jair Benitez) 80
DAL -- Jeff Cunningham 7 (unassisted) 92+
DAL -- Milton Rodriguez (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 23
DC -- Marc Burch (caution; Reckless Tackle) 69
FC Dallas -- Kevin Hartman, Heath Pearce, George John, Zach Loyd, Jair Benitez, Atiba Harris, Daniel Hernandez, Eric Alexander (Bruno Guarda 74), Brek Shea (Jackson Goncalves 82), David Ferreira, Milton Rodriguez (Jeff Cunningham 65)
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Avila, Edson Edward, Ruben Luna, Dario Sala
D.C. United -- Bill Hamid, Devon McTavish (Chris Pontius 56), Julius James, Carey Talley (Dejan Jakovic 53), Marc Burch, Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic (Adam Cristman 77), Stephen King, Santino Quaranta, Danny Allsopp, Pablo Hernandez
Substitutes Not Used: Jaime Moreno, Kurt Morsink, Jed Zayner, Troy Perkins
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: Jeff Muschik; James Conlee
4th Official: Geoff Gamble
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 81 degrees