FRISCO — There wasn’t much going FC Dallas’ way to start the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
After FCD took a 1-0 lead going into halftime, San Jose came out of the break looking to find an equalizer. The Earthquakes scored twice within the first nine minutes of the second half, one from Chris Wondolowski and the other from Mangus Eriksson.
Suddenly, FCD found itself down 2-1 in a tough road environment against a team which hadn’t lost a match since May 11.
"They put a lot of pressure on us," FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez said. "They got in behind us, they transitioned quickly on us, and they turned the game around. All of a sudden, [we] were facing 2-1 down in a 10-minute spell, and that's disappointing. We have to be honest with ourselves that that's not good enough."
With the match looking bleak, Gonzalez had to change something in the lineup. He turned to his bench and brought on Francis Atuahene for his MLS debut in the 64th minute. Michael Barrios made way for the fourth overall pick of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, who was making his league debut after a season-long loan with OKC Energy FC last year.
Not even a minute into his debut, Atuahene found space on the right side of the 16-yard box, cut inside, and delivered an outside-of-the-boot curler that nestled into the back-left corner of the net. The match was tied, and momentum shifted into FCD’s favor.
Gonzalez said he felt like FCD's attack needed an injection of youth and speed. He put his trust in Atuahene, and it paid off for both parties.
"I feel very energetic and very excited," Atuahene said. "i was more excited that we were back in the game, and we created more opportunities. The goal is to always get the three points, but I was happy that I was able to contribute."
After scoring the equalizer, Atuahene celebrated by pointing to the back of his jersey, which read his last name. He was relieved that he finally got the opportunity to prove himself, and he said he's always been ready for his chance after an injury-plagued start to his career.
"It's been so long since I've gotten to play like this," Atuahene said. "It's been a very long time — I've been through a lot of injuries. So, when I scored, I pointed to the back of my jersey just to let [everyone] remember the name. I was just excited."
The match would end 2-2, and Atuahene's goal proved to be a crucial one at the end of the day. Jesus Ferreira said scoring a goal so early in a career can do wonders for an attacker's confidence moving forward. With the roster losing key players at almost every position, now is the best time for a young player like Atuahene to catch fire and help the attack. Saturday showed that having a player that can score off the bench helps the attack's relentlessness to keep going and finish matches strong.
"It shows that we still have some energy and go out and score," Ferreira said. "It helps us build confidence, it pushes us to "Oh, snap — he scored". So [we wanted to] keep it up, [we wanted to] score another one."