Maximiliano Urruti


Is FC Dallas legitimately at risk of missing the MLS playoffs?

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Let’s cut to the chase… Yes, FC Dallas might actually miss out on the MLS Cup playoffs.

[ MORE: Union’s Blake explains how Premier League move was derailed ]

Normally, I’d lay out some of the reasons why Dallas should be given the benefit of the doubt and give credit to manager Oscar Pareja for the tremendous job that he has done in the past, however, this year is different.

Entering 2017, Pareja’s squad was a clear favorite not only to win the Western Conference, but also contend for MLS Cup. Now, there’s a very real risk that Dallas won’t have the opportunity to even make a playoff appearance, which would be the first time since 2013.

[ MORE: Assessing USMNT star Christian Pulisic on his 19th birthday ]

The Texas side has gone winless over its last nine matches, taking just four points out of a possible 27 during that span. It’s time to worry in Dallas.

The biggest surprise about Dallas’ skid — which has lasted nearly two months — isn’t the club’s back line but instead its attack. The eighth-place side out West has scored just seven times during its nine-match winless run and 39 times overall this season, which ranks 13th best in MLS.

That should come as a massive surprise to those that watch Dallas on a regular basis considering the talent that the squad boasts up front.

The club reportedly had the opportunity to sell off attackers Maxi Urruti and Michael Barrios this summer as Argentine side San Lorenzo had significant interest in both players, which makes the team’s struggles even more strange.

Urruti currently leads the squad in goals this season (12), while Barrios holds the team’s lead for assists, recording 13 with six matches remaining.

Dallas now has about a month left to make its case — and prove it on the field — to reach the playoffs.

Although the team’s schedule the rest of the way is favorable, only facing one team currently in the playoff mix, Dallas still has to play four of its final six games on the road. The team will have to take advantage of the fact that they have several games in hand to close out the regular season, although playing two games a week is always a challenge.

MLS roundup: FC Dallas still unbeaten; Dynamo destroy Orlando

Photo credit: Houston Dynamo / Twitter: @HoustonDynamo
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With nine MLS Saturday afternoons/evenings officially in the books, only 25 more to go…

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Real Salt Lake 0-3 FC Dallas

Eight games into the 2017 season, Dallas are the last remaining unbeaten team (five wins, three draws) in MLS and continue to look like runaway favorites in any “best team in the league” discussion.

On Saturday, Oscar Pareja’s side went for a comfortable stroll in the park and notched a completely unspectacular 3-0 victory over RSL. Things couldn’t have started any better for the visitors, as they were awarded a (highly questionable) penalty in the 3rd minute, which Maximiliano Urruti converted, and that was basically ballgame. Matt Hedges made it 2-0 not long after the hour mark, just for formality’s sake, and Urruti completed his brace a minute into second-half stoppage time.

The firing of Jeff Cassar, and subsequent hiring of Mike Petke, has done very little to fix a number of glaring problems which have plagued RSL since their 2016 season started coming unglued last April. A complete teardown and rebuild seem a foregone conclusion this summer/next winter. If Petke’s the right man for the job — and there’s nothing to suggest otherwise — the RSL hierarchy (and fans) are going to have to be mighty patient, as there’s only a handful of salvageable pieces currently on the roster.

Philadelphia Union 3-0 New York Red Bulls

After 15 regular-season games without a win, going all the way back Aug. 27, 2016, Union fans can call themselves winners once again, thanks to C.J. Sapong’s first career hat trick and a second straight clean sheet by Andre Blake.

Blake made a pair of stellar saves either side of halftime to keep New York off the board, setting the stage for an 11-minute explosion of goals (from minutes 74 to 85) from Sapong, who moved level with Erick “Cubo” Torres in the race for the 2017 Golden Boot (7 goals). Sapong has never reached the double-digit goals benchmark (he has hit 9 twice in his first six seasons as a pro).

Houston Dynamo 4-0 Orlando City SC

Here’s something I said on Twitter following Houston’s third (of four) goal against Orlando on Saturday: “Dynamo are terrifying in the first three or four seconds after winning the ball. Don’t find yourself one-on-one against them in open space.” Orlando head coach Jason Kreis, nor any of his players on the field, listened. It was, of course, already too late to make much difference, but it happened again fewer than 10 minutes later.

LA Galaxy 2-2 Chicago Fire

Fact: LA’s midfield is a gigantic problem.

Theory: Jermaine Jones is a big part of that problem

Recent evidence: During the 42 minutes he was on the field against Chicago on Saturday (he went off injured), LA were soundly beaten, 2-0 (Jelle Van Damme’s 30-minute shift is an additional variable which cannot be isolated at this time), and seemed headed for a thorough beating. In the 48 minutes that followed, LA found their footing, looked the better of the two sides, and rescued a point from an otherwise disastrous evening.

Clearly, soccer is far more complicated than simple plus-minus totals, but the eye test also supports the above evidence. Those opening 30 minutes saw Chicago go 1-0 ahead in the 13th minute (David Accam, from the penalty spot) and 2-0 up just three minutes later (Nemanja Nikolic, courtesy of Accam). LA weren’t just bad; they were atrocious.

Still unable to create much of anything through open play, LA made the most of set pieces and willed themselves back to life.

Columbus Crew SC 2-0 New England Revolution

Ola Kamara is quickly becoming is already a star in MLS, as the Norwegian striker continues to shred defenses and add to his impressive haul of goals barely a full 34 games into his MLS career. Through 35 regular-season games played, the 27-year-old has 22 goals to his name after bagging the winning goal against New England on Saturday.

Kamara also notched an assist (his third since arriving in MLS last year) on Columbus’s second goal, scored by Federico Higuain. With the victory, Columbus are up to third in the Eastern Conference, just three points back of red-hot Toronto FC.

San Jose Earthquakes 3-0 Portland Timbers

This week in MLS Results That Make Absolutely No Sense, But Hey, That’s MLS

D.C. United 0-1 Montreal Impact

In a league with so many exciting, entertaining, enjoyable teams to watch, Ben Olsen’s D.C. United remains the hardest of hard passes on MLS Live.

Elsewhere in MLS

Seattle Sounders 0-1 Toronto FC — RECAP & HIGHLIGHTS

CCL: FC Dallas hold 2-1 lead over Pachuca after leg 1 of semis

Photo credit: FIFA / Twitter: @FIFAcom
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If a Major League Soccer side is to win the CONCACAF Champions League this season, most would have wagered prior to the start of the knockout round that FC Dallas were the side most likely to break through.

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Based on the evidence of Oscar Pareja’s side’s quarterfinal thrashing of Panamanian side Arabe Unido, and the Hoops’ semifinals 2-1 first-leg victory Pachuca on Wednesday, that bet seems safer, and more likely, now than ever before.

The tie couldn’t have started much worse for FCD, who went a goal down in their home leg a mere 135 seconds after kickoff. Hernan Grana slipped as Erick Aguirre faked one direction and raced away in the other before cutting the ball back to Franco Jara at the top of the six-yard box. From there, it was a simple finish on the half-volley to make it 1-0.

[ MORE: Arena names 24 to senior roster ahead of WCQs next week ]

It didn’t take FCD long to settle into the game, though, as they were the better side for the majority of Wednesday’s game. It took almost the entire first half to break through, but it was a long time coming. Pachuca goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco couldn’t hold onto Grana’s cross from the right wing, and the ball fell to Maximiliano Urruti, who narrowly got his foot onto the ball for a not-so-easy, first-time finish.

[ MORE: Bobby Wood bagged a (huge) late winner for Hamburg on the weekend ]

Kellyn Acosta made it 2-1 to FCD barely six hours after his first call-up to the U.S. national team became public knowledge. Acosta will give Bruce Arena plenty to think about when picking his lineups against Honduras and Panama, especially with stunning free-kick efforts like the one below.

The two sides will meet in two weeks’ time, on Tuesday, April 4, for the second leg. The aggregate winner will advance to the two-leg final, where they’ll face the winner of Tigers versus Vancouver Whitecaps in the other semifinal (Tigres lead 2-0 after Vancouver’s home leg).

MLS Snapshot: FC Dallas 2-1 Seattle Sounders (video)

Photo credit: FC Dallas / Twitter
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The game in 100 words (or less): Carlos Ruiz has left his indelible mark on the 2016 MLS season. After signing for league-leading FC Dallas last month, the Guatemalan MLS legend was always going to play the role of hero for one night, and that night was Sunday. With FCD tied 1-1 with the Seattle Sounders, and just 13 minutes of regular time left to play, Ruiz entered the game. 12 minutes later, he scored the goal that might just be the difference in the Supporters’ Shield race. A draw would have sent FCD level with the Colorado Rapids at the top of the MLS mountain, but the victory, which Ruiz sealed with his 89th-minute winner, send Oscar Pareja’s side two points clear with one game to go. More importantly, FCD now hold a two-win advantage on the Rapids, meaning the only way FCD won’t win the Shield is with a Rapids victory and FCD loss next Sunday.

[ MORE: Playoff Picture — 6 teams can clinch playoff berth this weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

33′ — Gomez scores for Seattle, but it’s waved off for a foul — This one should have counted.

41′ — Lodeiro spanks a free kick past Seitz for 1-0 — The man is magic, and has been the best player in MLS since debuting at the end of July. Also, Chris Seitz would like this one back.

79′ — Urruti pokes home the loose ball for 1-1 — They all count the same, no matter how extravagant or simple they may be. Maxi Urruti was in the right place at the right time, and the score was 1-1.

89′ — Ruiz takes it out of the sky, flicks past Frei for 2-1 — It’s a ball that only Mauro Diaz could pick out and play, and a deftly dispatched finish by the greatest poacher MLS has ever known.

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Men of the match: Carlos Ruiz

Goalscorers: Lodeiro (41′), Urruti (79′), Ruiz (89′)

MLS Snapshot: San Jose Earthquakes 0-1 FC Dallas (video)

(Photo credit: FC Dallas / Facebook)
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The game in 100 words (or less): It’s highly unlikely anyone is capable of running away with the Supporters’ Shield this year — or any other for the foreseeable future — but if such a team presently exists, it’s Oscar Pareja’s FC Dallas. The Hoops were top of the table heading into Friday’s clash with the San Jose Earthquakes, and they’ll head back to Texas with their lead ballooned to four points, thanks to a 1-0 victory courtesy of one of the best goals we’ll see in MLS all season. While the Colorado Rapids have been the biggest MLS surprise in quite a while, asking them to not only keep pace with, but hold off FCD for the regular-season title and home-field advantage through the playoffs. Beyond the Rapids, New York City FC is the next closest side, seven points back. It’s looking more and more like the only team that can stop FCD winning the Supporters’ Shield is FCD.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of the MLS weekend ]

Three moments that mattered

19′ — Bingham save Urruti’s shot onto the post — Mauro Diaz is the through-ball god. Don’t believe me? Just watch. Unfortunately for FCD, David Bingham made the save on Maximiliano Urruti’s shot to keep it scoreless early on.

32′ — Godoy smashes the crossbar with a free kick — The outside-in curl from Godoy on this free kick … oh so close.

51′ — Urruti hops on his bike, makes it 1-0 — What’s better than a perfectly executed bicycle-kick goal? Not many things. Not many at all.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Maximiliano Urruti

Goalscorers: Urruti (51′)