In a physical, rain-soaked match at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador, El Salvador, FC Dallas defeated Alianza FC 1-0 in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League play-in match.
After gathering a majority of the second half scoring opportunities, FC Dallas’ Mr. Do-It-All, Jackson Gonçalves, made it official in the 70th minute, taking a flick from compatriot Ricardo Villar and driving by defender Edwin Martínez before slotting it by a helpless Jimmy Cuellar for the game's only goal.
Alianza had a late opportunity to draw the match in the 81st minute when José Alvarado received a ball over the FC Dallas midfield and had a one-on-one with goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, but center back Ugo Ihemelu sped back 30 yards and redirected the attempt wide of the net.
FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman made only two changes from the lineup he started against the New York Red Bulls last Saturday, with Jackson taking Eric Avila’s place and Bruno Guarda stepping in for Eric Alexander.
Alianza’s starting XI included former D.C. United experiment Cristian Castillo and the midfielder proved productive on the evening, firing four shots.
In the match's opening moments, Alianza took to the offensive as FCD’s Hartman was forced to make a sprawling save to his left on a corner kick header inside the game's first five minutes.
Hartman would be a busy fellow in the game's first 45 minutes as Alianza forward Rudis Corrales, Castillo and Alianza fired six shots on the FC Dallas goal, including a one-on-goal opportunity for Corrales that Hartman turned aside with his body.
However, halfway through the first half, with the rain coming down heavily at Estadio Cuscatlán, Hartman nearly gave the home side the lead.
His clearance from inside his box landed short of the midfield line and at the feet of Corrales, but the Salvadoran international sent his long distance prayer just inches wide of the net.
The first half also proved to be a chippy one, as each team received two yellow cards from Canadian referee David Gantar with the rain increasing in intensity and the los Albos fans creating a raucous atmosphere.
FC Dallas came out of the second half restart taking the initiative after getting outmatched in the final third in the first 45 minutes.
The visiting side received two corner kicks in the restart's first 10 minutes after earning only two in the entire first half, setting the stage for the game's lone goal 20 minutes from the final whistle.
As time wore on and the rain subdued, Alianza players — who have yet to open their season — began to tire while in-form FC Dallas used the legs of Marvin Chávez, Brek Shea, and Daniel Hernandez to control the tempo of the game.
Jackson’s late winner was the result of four touches on the ball by FC Dallas in the Alianza half of the field. Villar flicked the ball over two different defenders before Jackson finished the run emphatically.
FC Dallas will host the second leg of the series next Wednesday, Aug. 3, at Pizza Hut Park in hopes of qualifying for Group C, which will include Pumas UNAM (Mexico), Tauro FC (Panama) and either Toronto FC or Real Estelí (Nicaragua).