In a game defined by a bizarre double-red card, FC Dallas again found a way to stay out of the loss column. With Dallas and Portland playing the final 50 minutes 10-on-10, a late Mauro Díaz goal snared the home side’s third win of the year, keeping Óscar Pareja’s team on top of the Western Conference.
But the 2-1 result was overshadowed by an unexplained sequence in that began in the 39th minute, one that ended with Michael Harrington and Je-Vaughn Watson seeing straight red cards. With their altercation taking place away from the play, cameras were unable to find a clear cause of the dismissals, leaving broadcasters guessing as to why the teams would go into halftime down a man.
Before the teams reached their locker rooms, though, FC Dallas had taken a late first half lead, scoring four minutes into stoppage time after a header send across goal by Kellyn Acosta left Blas Pérez with an empty net. In the second half, Portland seemed to adjust to the new, more open game quicker yet still needed a huge deflection on a Maxi Urruti pass for Matt Hedges to gift them an own goal.
Then, after Kalif Alhassan had threatened to take the game for the Timbers, the second ball in off a 84th minute restart restored the home side’s lead, taking advantage of what’s becoming Portland’s customary once-per-game breakdown. With a seem opening up in defense after a clearance was played back into the box, Díaz was left with a clear shot on Andrew Weber, one that sent Caleb Porter’s team to its second straight loss.
Given the strange nature of the game, it’s impossible to take too much from the result. Yes, Portland still looks like a shell of their 2013 selves, but they looked so while playing 10-on-10. When the sides were at full strength, we were starting to see a little bit of last year’s team come out. Whether they could have shown that in the second half, too, we’ll never know.
For Dallas, though, it may be worth noting that this team has played four very different games yet has gotten positive results from each of them. Opening night against Montréal was a five-goal affair. The next week in Kansas City they barely had the ball. Returning home to face Chivas USA, they had to wait the Goats out, while tonight they played 10-on-10 for most of the night. No matter the circumstance, Pareja’s team has found a way to perform, its results producing 10 points through four games.
The nature of those wins makes it difficult to tell how, exactly, Dallas is doing it. We know Mauro Díaz has been great, Fabian Castillo’s still a handful, and Je-Vaughn Watson seems to have a new life under Pareja. But it’s not like that trio is generating so many more chances than their opponents. And it’s not like the defense, yet to keep a clean sheet, as been stellar.
Like the rest of the league, we’ll need more than four weeks to figure out this Dallas squad. In the mean time, the team is off to its second straight unexpected hot start.