By: Rees Linn
FC Dallas managed a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls in a dramatic match at Pizza Hut Park on Thursday night. Dallas took the lead twice, and played the final hour with ten men in what was a heated contest between two of MLS’ best teams.
In a surprise move, New York head coach Hans Backe decided to start the match in a 4-5-1 formation with star striker, Juan Pablo Angel, on the bench. Angel’s absence opened the door for the newly acquired Mehdi Ballouchy to make his first MLS appearance for the New York club. Ballouchy played centrally infront of Rafael Marquez and Tony Tchani, but behind Thierry Henry, who started as the lone striker. It was a bold tactical move by Backe, as the new formation cancelled out Dallas’ usual man advantage in the center of the pitch, but at times failed to test Dallas’ rookie center backs, Zach Loyd and Jackson.
It was New York that found the rhythm of the match first. Henry’s speed opened up gaps in the center of Dallas’ backline, and Jair Benitez struggled to keep up with the runs of Dane Richards on New York’s right flank. In the 8th minute, Richards dribbled past Benitez and cut around Zach Loyd in the box before striking the ball low off the near post of Dallas’ goal.
Despite their shaky start, Dallas slowly found their feet in the match. Brek Shea looked very capable of outpacing Chris Albright on the left wing, and nearly got onto the end of a couple good through passes. The first decisive move of the match came when the ball found Heath Pearce on the right side of the Dallas attack. He cut inside, and with his left boot, he played a stellar cross into the New York penalty area. Eric Alexander did well to head the cross back across the face of the goal, and Milton Rodriguez, who had missed Dallas’ last two matches due to a shoulder injury, nodded the ball home for a 23th minute goal.
Any celebrations were short lived as Dallas captain, Daniel Hernandez, limped off the field with an injury in the 25th minute. He was replaced by Dax McCarty, who has missed most of the season due to a quad injury.
Things didn’t improve for the home side in the moments that followed, as Brek Shea was sent off for a two footed challenge on Chris Albright in the 29th minute. Shea came in from behind, and the referee showed little hesitation before issuing Shea his marching orders.
New York capitalized on their man advantage, and found their equalizer through Mehdi Ballouchy in the first half’s third minute of stoppage time. Joe Lindpere made a fantastic run past Heath Pearce on the left, and he managed to slide the ball into the six yard box for Ballouchy, who slid between Zach Loyd and Jair Benitez for the tap in.
After the goal, Kevin Hartman was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Thierry Henry in which the keeper went down with an MCL injury. Early reports indicate that Hartman will not require surgery.
Dallas began the second half by adjusting their formation. They moved Attiba Harris to striker, and pushed Milton Rodriguez to left midfield. The changes did little to curb New York’s dominance in possession, but despite long periods of control, the visitors couldn’t seem to find the gaps necessary to trouble Dallas. Dallas restricted their own attacking ventures to counter attacks, but managed to look very dangerous throughout the rest of the match when they pushed forward.
It was one of these Dallas excursions that produced Dallas’ second goal in the 68th minute. Dallas had pushed forward in an attack that appeared to be all but shut down when the ball trickled to Alexander in the midfield. With confidence and skill, the rookie dribbled between Roy Miller and Mehdi Ballouchy before slotting home Dallas’ second goal of the night.
Despite an immense effort from Dallas, the twenty minutes remaining in the match proved to be too much. As time ran out, New York struck again. Just like the first goal, it was a cross from the left by Joe Lindpere that did the damage. His service was intended for Juan Pablo Angel, who came into the match in the 63rd minute, but the cross found the head of a diving Jair Benitez. The unlucky defender steered the ball past Dario Sala and into his own goal. [picappgallerysingle id=”9798538″]
Post match, neither locker room seemed completely content with a draw, though the consensus was that the score line was probably fair.
Henry said afterwards: “If someone would have told us before the game that if we had a draw here it would have been a great result. If you look at the situation in the game, 11 against 10, we could have done better, but it’s never an easy task to play against a team at home.”
Shellas Hyndman praised the play of Eric Alexander, and expressed his gratefulness to the home crowd, which was one of the largest of the season.
New York leaves Dallas knowing they’re a relatively safe bet to make the playoffs, and that they can afford to continue building team chemistry within their squad. New York’s next match isn’t until September 24th, when they travel to LA to take on the Galaxy.
Dallas, now unbeaten in their last 15 matches, hosts a struggling New England side next Wednesday at Pizza Hut Park.