Written by Phil Cerroni
By M. Timothy Maher
A crowd of over 18,000 came out to FC Dallas stadium on a chilly Saturday night in Frisco to see the club's season opener (and a rematch of the 2010 MLS Cup Final) against the Colorado Rapids. Both teams came into the match hoping to start the new season off with strong showings and get back to their typical roles as playoff contenders after lackluster 2012 seasons. From the opening kickoff, there was a feeling of urgency in the two clubs' play as they fought to keep control of the ball on a very slick field. The fast and furious pace of play was a pleasant change from the normal war of attrition that is a soccer game. However, when the pace is that high, the margin for error becomes much lower. So it went in the 11th minute when Colorado goal keeper Steward Ceus misjudged the distance on a long ball played played by Dallas' David Ferreira to teammate Jackson. The keeper came running out and jumped up to grab the ball only to realize he had left the goal box and using his hands would result in an automatic red card thus leaving the Rapids a man down for the remainder of the game. He let the ball go, giving Jackson an clear path to an open net. Jackson did not squander the opportunity to give Dallas their first point of the season as well as the only score of the game. Denver had several chances to respond, including a two on one with Dallas goal keeper Raul Fernandez inside the box, but could not manage to capitalize on any. Dallas also had their fair share of looks. Arguably the prettiest shot of the game came in the 18th minute when Jackson teed up from about 30 yards out and sent a rocket skipping at ground level that bent just wide of the mark.
As the match progressed, Dallas dug in on defense, slowing the pace a bit while maintaining the same, aggressive physicality. On one play, Denver sent a looping cross into the center of the pitch. Fernandez rushed off his line to punch the ball safely away but in the process blind sided teammate Jair Benitez who had to be carried off on a stretcher. An FC Dallas representative later confirmed that Benitez had bruised his ribs on the play. The second half proved just as physical as the first with Denver holding possession for most of the period. Despite the chippy nature of the game, the only booking came in the 80th minute when Dallas midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson made a strong tackle from behind earning him a yellow card.
After the game Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman seemed less than impressed with his squad's performance saying, “We've had better training sessions than what we showed [tonight]” and then later reiterated the point, “we show[ed] better in practice.” Hyndman was especially disappointed with the team's inability to control the center of the pitch in the first half but thought they did a better job in the second once they switched to a 4-5-1 formation. When asked about the injury to Benitez, the coach was optimistic, “we think [Benitez] will be alright for the next game.” All in all Hyndman was happy to get the win and with his players' composure throughout the game saying, “I don't know if this team last year could've survived that pressure.”
Dallas will travel to Los Angeles next to play Chivas USA on March 10. Chivas USA dropped their opener to the Columbus Crew 3-0. Dallas' next home game will be March 27 when they take on their in state rival, the Houston Dynamo (1-0).