FRISCO - It was a week that was going to make or break FC Dallas’ playoff hopes, and after four points in a little under 72 hours, Dallas’ aspirations are alive and well.
A 0-0 draw in Orlando would’ve obviously preferred to be a win, but given a few of the crazy circumstances of the match, a point is one FCD will take all the same into their final three matches.
“I am proud of these guys,” head coach Oscar Pareja said Saturday. “I saw a great game played by our team. Since the first minute we were the protagonist and had the initiative to play ball, to play good soccer and create options.”
Just moments before kickoff, a late change to Pareja’s lineup came down with Tesho Akindele replacing Michael Barrios, who was nursing a mild foot injury (he later would make a six-minute appearance as a sub).
“It’s a little bit tough because you know you’re not in that game mentality right away but I think I did well enough, I think I got myself into the mentality,” Akindele said of the late change. “I had to make a couple runs early and that got me into the game and it was easy after that”
Then, in the second half, Pareja was forced to make two subs he likely wasn't planning for in Orlando.
Hernan Grana was forced from the match with an apparent left leg injury after being stepped on by Richie Lareya. Kellyn Acosta came on in his place right back, but only for a few minutes until Roland Lamah had to come out of the match with a slight knock of his own. Enter Walker Zimmerman at center back, Atiba Harris moved from the middle to the right side of the back line and Acosta went forward to a right winger position as the versatile FCD roster showcased itself once again. Both players subbed off are expected to be fine for next week's match in Colorado.
It looked like Dallas was due a chance from the penalty spot in the 74th minute as Acosta fired a shot that, by all accounts, looked to go off the flailing arm of Lions’ defender Set Hines, but no such call was made as visitors began to sustain a late charge from Orlando City.
Over the course of the final 15 minutes of regulation and some nine minutes of stoppage time, the home side took nine shots and forced three spectacular saves from Homegrown goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, including one with his face, as he earned every bit of his second clean sheet of the week.
“It was intense. It’s always intense during the last minute and I think we handled it pretty well,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not disappointing not being able to get three points but at the same time we got one point that’s going be really helpful for us, as a team we did a great job today.”
“I found him wounded in the locker room. Seriously, he was not faking, he was struggling from the first half with some stuff and he had the courage to keep going," Pareja said. "I have to say that he did not just stop the balls that we needed at the moment made those key plays as well when you need your goalkeeper but at the same time the braveness is for him and the courage to continue when he was in pain.”
With the point, Dallas will head into the final three weeks in a position to control their own destiny - a positive sign for a team that one week ago had just finished their 10th straight match without a win.
"We know that it’s all in our hands and it’s kind of good that way,” Akindele said. “We’ll take it one game at a time, the cliché they always say and that’s how we’re taking it.”
“Three more finals," the head coach said about his next three games. "I see the energy that is needed to face every single game so in that part I’m very optimistic and seems like things have turned in a way again because we are doing that little extra stuff that we needed in these games. I’m proud of the guys.”
At the moment, FCD sits in 5th with three big games to watch tonight.— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) September 30, 2017
-MIN @ HOU (7:30)
-RSL @ LA (9:30)
-POR @ SJ (9:30) pic.twitter.com/IWR9OuspOI