MLS Closeup: FCD finds positives in narrow Open Cup win

In the long run, getting two regulars through a full game counts just as much as the 2-1 victory by which U.S. Open Cup defending champion FC Dallas started its 2017 campaign on Wednesday.
FCD scraped out the victory against USL foe Tulsa by the margin of a late own goal that broke open a 1-1 tie. Subs Tesho Akindele and Michael Barrios, sent onto the field by head coach Oscar Parejawith their team struggling, sparked a surge of momentum that paid off In the final seconds of stoppage time when a Barrios shot deflected off an opponent and into the net.

“We added more muscles there and speed and options up front,” Pareja said of Akindele and Barrios. “[Mauro Diaz] had different lines of passing, so it helped us a lot.”

Pareja had sent on the veterans in place of Homegrown Players Coy Craft and Paxton Pomykal in the 63rd minute with Tulsa having matched a goal by Craft to cast the outcome into doubt.

The coach stood by midfielders Mauro Diaz and Ryan Hollingshead, who were making their first starts of the year following long recoveries from injuries, and both finished the match.

Diaz, regarded as one of the top playmakers in MLS, suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon last October and Hollingshead, in his fourth year as a pro, has recovered from vertebrae injuries caused when struck by a moving car in January. 

Last season Diaz finished third in MLS in assists with 13 and Hollingshead scored two goals while starting 22 of his 29 appearances

“Mauro was growing as the game went on, and that’s great,” Pareja said. “I was waiting for him probably in the 50th minute to start dropping, and then he started growing. That gave me a lot of satisfaction, because that was the purpose.”

Through a translator, Diaz told, “I’m excited I got to play my first full 90. I knew it was going to be difficult in the first half. It was harder than the second. I couldn’t find my footing or the ball in the first half. I still have a long way to go since the first half was so much harder than the second.”

In the fifth-round draw conducted Thursday FCD was paired up with Colorado, which rallied from two goals down to beat another USL upstart, OKC Energy, 3-2, for a game to be played June 27 or 28. League action resumes Saturday in Vancouver.

After rolling through its first nine league matches unbeaten, FC Dallas has hit a bit of a skid. It has lost three of its last five games, is fourth in the Western Conference with a record of 6-3-5 (23 points), and couldn’t dispatch a USL opponent until the final seconds.

“Sometimes we can’t imagine how difficult these games become,” Pareja said. “We finally got an opportunity to see different ideas and rotating players at the beginning who aren’t frequent in the lineup, and then erase a little bit of disconnection, which is normal. You have to give them time to connect with each other, and I thought the boys did a great job to figure that out.”
Said Hollingshead of the team that won the Supporters' Shield last season with a second consecutive 60-point season, 

“We feel like we’re the best team in the league,” Hollingshead said. “We can beat any team we can play against, and we really need to do that.”

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