Home Field Advantage Pays Off for FC Dallas

posted in: FC Dallas, Soccer | 2
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On Saturday Night, FC Dallas took on what seems to be a bigger rival than anyone thought, Sporting Kansas City. Within 5 minutes of the start of the game, FC Dallas Left Back Michel got into a verbal confrontation with Sporting’s Kai Kamara. Just moments later, FC Dallas Forward Kenny Cooper, who is normally not verbal or aggressive towards opposing players, had been fouled by Sporting’s Aurelien Collin. Kenny immediately got up, grabbed hold of Collin and was turning him around as he spoke to him about his foul. At this point, the whole crowd had a feeling that this game was going to be a battle until the final whistle.

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This game had meaning for both teams, and both squads were looking for a full 3 points (for non-soccer fans that means a win).Sporting KC has had an ‘up-and-down’ season, trying to find a rhythm of consistency in their play. FC Dallas just came off a painful loss to Portland last weekend and were looking to redeem themselves at home. There was one thing that both sides had to worry about: What the mood of MLS Referee Mark Geiger be like that night? For those of you who are not familiar this with referee, he is very well known for changing the flow and outcome of games. Some would even say he loves the spotlight on himself.

FC Dallas are now unbeaten in 10 games across all competitions, but some people thought it was going to end Saturday night. The game was a back and forth battle between the two midfields, although FC Dallas had more opportunities to score. It was Sporting KC who hit the score sheet first when Kai Kamara converted on a penalty kick caused by FCD Midfielder Andrew Jacobson. Kamara’s goal (40th minute) was the first PK scored against FC Dallas; it was only the second PK surrendered by FC Dallas all season. (L.A. Galaxy’s Landon Donovan shot the first PK this season; FCD Goalkeeper Raul “Superman” Fernandez made a spectacular save.)

FC Dallas went into halftime down 1-0, but they walked into the locker room swiftly as if they were ready to get back on the pitch to make a comeback. As halftime came to an end, I noticed a palpable tension between the two teams. Sporting KC’s body language coming out at halftime seemed more like they were relaxed, like they thought they had the game in the bag. FC Dallas made just one change to the lineup: with Defender Matt Hedges out with a foot injury, rookie Walker Zimmerman filled his spot. FC Dallas had a feeling of urgency and that this game meant a lot more to them. Losing at home is probably one of the worst feelings any player could get: it’s a feeling of disappointment, embarrassment, and frustration at letting your fans down.

Well, it didn’t take long (57th minute) until Sporting KC won a corner kick: an in-swinger ricocheted off FC Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson and into the net. Sporting KC all of a sudden found themselves in the driver’s seat, and they weren’t letting up on the gas. Don’t forget though, Referee Mark Geiger loves to make a difference, and he left his “mark” on the game. He whistled for a foul on Sporting for fouling FCD’s Andrew Jacobson during a header. As Sporting KC’s CJ Sapong was jogging back to get set up to defend a free kick he did something that he will regret the rest of the season. Sapong sped up to catch up to the ball that was being passed to the spot of the free kick and he then kicked the ball at FCD’s Jacobson while he was still on the ground. Referee Mark Geiger immediately showed a red card at the 68th minute. Sporting KC’s Head Coach Peter Vermes, along with the whole Sporting bench, were furious!

FC Dallas was down 2-0 at the time of the red card, and but the infraction gave them a bit of an advantage over Sporting KC. We then saw something very uncharacteristic of FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman; he subbed out Left Back Michel at the 74th minute for a very offensively minded Ramon Nunez. It took everyone by surprise because he was taking a chance, a risky one by only having 2 defenders back. He pushed Defender Zach Loyd higher to play as an attacking player as well, which left only Walker Zimmerman and George John to handle the likes of Teal Bunbury and Kai Kamara.

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FC Dallas’ Ramon Nunez has just come off a long injury, and many people have questioned whether or not he could get his old form back. Well ladies and gentlemen, Nunez didn’t disappoint, he assisted on an goal scored by Andrew Jacobson (88th minute) from a header to beat Sporting’s Goalkeeper Jimmy Neilson (2012 starting goalie for the ALL Star game). Throughout the rest of the game Nunez showed great ball control and composure on and off the ball.

Then, something happened that only happens once in a blue moon: a rookie from Furman University, FC Dallas’ first round, 7th pick, Walker Zimmerman scored the tying goal in the 90th minute with a beautiful header. Zimmerman watched his header hit the back of the net and immediately sprinted towards the FC Dallas bench roaring with energy and excitement! When Zimmerman when asked what went through his mind scoring his first MLS goal, he replied:

“I didn’t even know what to feel, I just know the fans were awesome tonight and the team just kind of fed off that energy.”

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The game ended 2-2 and with Sporting’s Kai Kamara leaving the field immediately, which gave the FC Dallas crowd the feeling that Sporting wasn’t happy with the result.

As usual when FC Dallas plays at home, the crowd was an important factor in their performance. Defender George John explained after the game:

“The fans and supporters sections were awesome tonight, we really appreciate them when we play at home.”

The crowd was tremendous Saturday night, the supporters sections kicked it up a notch, but that wasn’t unusual for a game like this. What was a bit more surprising was that the rest of the stadium was going crazy as well when that part of the stands is normally quiet. It’s about to get real interesting in Dallas with the fan base growing so rapidly; soccer in Dallas is about to turn into Futbol in Dallas.

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FC Dallas’ next home match is against the Portland Timbers in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game on Wednesday, June 26th @ 8pm at FC Dallas Stadium. Tickets for that game are available here. FC Dallas’ next regular season home match is Thursday, July 4th @ 8pm at FC Dallas Stadium that will display one of the best fireworks show in DFW.

All Photos courtesy of Arturo Cantu Jr. of Expressive Art.

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