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Dallas keeps playoff hopes alive
by Ridge Mahoney, October 1st, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] Dallas kept its playoff hopes alive and dinged those of New England by beating the Revs, 1-0, at the Cotton Bowl Wednesday. Jeff Cunningham took over the league's scoring lead by netting his 16th goal of the season; the depleted Revs struggled offensively and managed only five shots. They still hold the eighth and final playoff place with a 10-9-7 record and 37 points, just four more than surging Dallas (9-12-6, 33 points), which has been teetering on the precipice of elimination for more than a month but refuses to topple into the abyss.

Crisp combination play, a facet of FCD's game that has steadily matured under Coach Schellas Hyndman, set up a spectacular Cunningham goal. Left back Jair Benitez exchanged passes with Atiba Harris on the left flank and struck a near-post cross that Cunningham drove into the net with a fierce header.

FCD nearly broke through in the opening minutes but Matt Reis stabbed out his right glove to deflect a blast by Harris. New England pushed back and conjured up a pair of Jeff Larentowicz from distance; FCD goalie Dario Sala saved the first one and his defenders snuffed the second.

Early in the second half, Larentowicz hit a free kick from even further out, about 40 yards, and it bounced to substitute Amaechi Igwe, but again a Dallas defender got in the way. New England pressed harder after Cunningham's goal but was turned away by resilient defending. Another booming shot from Larentowicz tested Sala in the 62nd minute, and the Dallas keeper parried the shot for a corner kick by diving to the near post.

Cunningham had to escape Igwe's marking to reach Benitez's cross, yet despite also moving away from goal outside the six-yard box he dove to hit a powerful header over Reis into the roof of the net.

Tempers boiled over in stoppage time. The Revs' Wells Thompson and FCD's Andre Rocha scuffled in the goalmouth and were sent off by referee Ramon Hernandez. They will be suspended for the next league matches: New England plays at Colorado Saturday, and FCD takes the weekend off before heading to San Jose to meet the Quakes next Wednesday.

Dallas returned to the Cotton Bowl, its former home, for the first time since 2005 when the game was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader. Colombia beat Mexico, 2-1, in front of an announced crowd of 51,012.

Sept. 30 in Dallas
FC Dallas 1, New England 0.
Cunningham (Benitez, Harris) 71.
FC Dallas -- Sala, Pearce, Ihemelu, John, Benitez, Harris, Hernandez, McCarty, van den Bergh (Chavez 26, Rocha 76), Cunningham, Ferreira.
New England -- Reis, Barnes, Osei, Heaps (Igwe 10), Alston, Thompson, Joseph, Larentowicz, Tierney (Nyassi 69), Dube, Videira (Colaluca 76),
Referee: Ramon Hernandez.
Att.: 51,012.

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