Real Salt Lake defender Chris Schuler looked down on FC Dallas forward Blas Perez in mock disgust as Perez flew five yards backwards from where he was pushed. It was already a hot, muggy Friday night in late August in Texas, so the last thing Schuler probably wanted--after chasing down speedy FC Dallas players for 44 minutes of the first half--was to see somebody coming at him.
Schuler had already had enough of Perez yapping in his grill and getting in his bubble. So Schuler did what any frustrated defender would do--he retaliated. Was it the right move? That is debatable. In Perez case, the rangy, 6-foot-1 Panamanian striker was doing what he always does--antagonizing.
Perez is very good at being that thorn in a defender's side--ask the 15 other teams Perez has played for since 1998. He's no buffoon when it comes to scoring goals though-- six goals this year alone--and so that's why coaches like FC Dallas boss Oscar Pareja give Perez a pass when Perez acts like, well, Perez.
"Blas - that's his heart and that's the way he plays. Sometimes that's not what’s seen because the defenders don't like to have someone that's working as hard as he works. They normally just have people making diagonals and runs but Blas is working and fighting for the ball and using his body," FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja said post-game. "Sometimes defenders don't like that and everyone starts talking about the things that are not beneficial to the game.”
Perez--who was already issued one yellow card earlier for embellishment--acted as though he'd been shot from a cannon following Schuler's shove--resulting in a red card from the referee. A yellow was shown to Schuler, the player who had clearly shoved Perez.
Yet it was Perez red card--not the yellow on Schuler--that changed the scope of the game. Down a man for the rest of the match, FC Dallas still won 2-1 over Real Salt Lake on Fri. Aug. 22 in one of the strangest games with some of the strangest goals you'll ever witness.
The teams went into the locker room knotted 0-0, but a corner kick by FC Dallas in the 49th minute resulted in FC Dallas defender JaVaughn Watson redirecting the ball towards goal as he chested down the high service. The ball squibbed past two Real Salt Lake defenders caught with their legs open on the goal line and it bounced into the net for a 1-0 lead.
FC Dallas would score one more--but first, let's break down the one goal RSL mustered up in the dying moments of the game.
A Real Salt Lake corner kick drifted well over anyone's head towards the opposite corner. RSL midfielder Sebsatian Velasquez sprinted to the ball, pulling it back against his body. For some odd reason no FC Dallas defender was within 10 yards of the Colombian, and so he took a touch with his left boot and swung the ball back into the six-yard-box.
Swirling as it passed everyone, the ball dipped as it neared the corner of the six. RSL forward Olmes Garcia, perhaps having a Pele moment, opened his body towards goal and took flight, flipped backwards in the air as he attempted a bicycle kick. RSL had had chances all night long, but shots went wide, shots hit the post and shots just plain went berserk, floating ten yards over goal.
This bike was a weak attempt to say the least, yet Garcia made contact with the ball somehow, deflecting it off of someone's back as it bounced past several FC Dallas defenders into the net.
The reason RSL suffered on Friday night though, was poor defense. FC Dallas' second goal exposed RSL's back line to the point where the claret and cobalt should have felt lucky they weren't scored on more. They had all the possession, they had twice as many shots on goal and they should have won the game. A familiar foe reared its ugly head in the second half: counterattacks.
With 10 men out of the halftime whistle, FC Dallas opted to play with one target forward, Fabian Castillo. A pacy star for Colombia's youth national teams who is in a contract year--the final year of a three-year deal--he gave RSL defenders fits from the moment he assumed Perez' spot in the second 45.
In the 71st minute off of a quick throw-in, the move by Pareja appeared to have worked. Castillo found himself alone with acres of open space to roam, outpacing aging RSL defender Nat Borchers as he dribbled furiously towards RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
On that occasion, Rimando won, looking up as Castillo leapt over a sliding RSL defender and launched the ball into the Toyota Stadium stands from about 10 yards out. On the next play, however, Rimando got caught, oddly. Collecting the ball in space from a long ball and flick-on, Castillo found himself in a 2-on-4, accelerating away from goal as RSL defenders backpedaled in the 74th minute.
Castillo took four heavy touches diagonally to his right until, from an impossible angle near the corner of the 18-yard-box, he shot the ball diagonally back the other way towards the far post. The ball knuckled on this world-class strike, burning worms in the grass as it went, past Rimando's outstretched arms for a goal.
Perez, Castillo and FC Dallas as a whole exposed RSL's back line big time on Saturday, sending balls time and again over the top of RSL and into open spaces where FC Dallas' attackers could roam. It was the case with Perez until he was sent off--and it was the case when Castillo scored the dagger.
Neither defense played perfect in this game--but FC Dallas, well, it did just enough to win the game. RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman, a world-class player who was nutmegged, side-stepped and otherwise embarrassed like the rest of his teammates on Friday, summed up the game perfectly.
“Dallas is a team that going a man down might have helped them. They just have so much speed up top, and they really play the counter. We felt like, even though we went up a man, we still had to be wary of their danger, and it's just unfortunate we gave them a set-piece goal," Beckerman said post-game. "I think that gave them a lot of confidence, and really got them to defend as a unit and put [Fabian] Castillo up top and let them just counter and counter. That's what happened and it worked to a 'T' for them. Something we'll hopefully learn from.”