Defending champions eliminated by stellar goalkeeping from Kevin Hartman.SANDY, Utah - FC Dallas advanced to the Western Conference final thanks to a draw with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday. The 1-1 tie ended Salt Lake's season and will pit Dallas against the winner of Seattle and Los Angeles.
Dallas scored the only goal of the first half; however, two stories dominated the first half: Dallas' speed, and ugly play from both sides.
Dallas' speed enabled the side to take advantage of Salt Lake on multiple occasions. The pace allowed Dallas to play very defensively and counterattack. This style threw Salt Lake, whose back line was repeatedly caught shorthanded as Dallas' nippy strikers were able to capitalize on Jamison Olave or Nat Borchers. The speed also allowed Dallas to intercept numerous passes from a sloppy Salt Lake side and generate chances.
The play was ugly as well. Four first half bookings were issued. Most were for physical play, though Olave and Borchers each received yellow cards for committing tactical fouls. In addition, Dallas' first warning for stalling came around the 12th minute. This became a ritual that was repeated at nearly every dead ball for the rest of the match.
Dallas nearly scored early when Marvin Chavez crossed the ball from inside the box to Brek Shea, who put the ball into the back of the net. Rio Tinto's hostile crowd went silent for a moment before seeing the offside flag up.
On another early chance, David Ferreira picked off a pass from Jamison Olave and nearly got around the MLS Defender of the Year; however, the MVP candidate lost control of the ball and it was safely cleared by Salt Lake.
Dax McCarty opened up the scoring in the 17th minute when he took a downward header from Brek Shea and put the ball around a helpless Nick Rimando. The goal put Dallas up two goals on aggregate.
Late in the first half, Salt Lake had a few opportunities to score.
In the 40th minute, Ned Grabavoy took a long shot that was pounded out by Hartman. Fabian Espindola got his head on the rebound which sailed barely over the crossbar.
In stoppage time, Will Johnson took a long shot that nearly missed to the side.
Dallas locked down on defense in the second half and gave up on attacking. Real Salt Lake had numerous opportunities to score but were only able to convert one. The match turned into an offense drill for Salt Lake with a few breaks of Dallas offense. Hartman recorded four big saves which gave Dallas the aggregate victory.
Fabian Espindola nearly pulled a goal back when he took a pass behind Dallas' line and dribbled into the box. Hartman's trailing foot deflected Espindola's shot just enough for the ball to miss the net. Hartman admitted after the match that this was a major turning point for Dallas.
In the 53rd minute, Robbie Russell's cross to Alvaro Saborio appeared to be handled by Dallas' Ihemelu. Salt Lake appealed; however, play continued and the official waved it off.
Espindola had another near miss in the 58th minute when he took Kyle Beckerman's service and couldn't control it. Hartman made an easy save on Espindola's deflection.
In the 73rd minute, Nat Borchers headed a ball up near the crossbar. Neither side was able to make contact with it until it hit the ground and Dallas cleared it.
Minutes later, Robbie Findley broke into the box and headed an open cross from Williams over the crossbar.
Barely seconds after, Collen Warner took a pass from Beckerman right at Hartman, who made a diving save on the open shot.
In the 80th minute, Robbie Findley headed a cross from Borchers into a wide open net, equalizing the match and giving Salt Lake hope for the duration of the match. Andy Williams played the chip over the top which crafted the chance.
The breakthrough marked the beginning of the end for Salt Lake as Dallas was able to control much of the rest of the match.
In the 87th minute, Findley got Salt Lake's last good shot when headed a cross from Beckerman. It flew just wide of the goal.
Dallas held on through four minutes of stoppage time to preserve the draw, earning the side a berth in the conference championship.
For more insider information from Tyler G. Page on Real Salt Lake visit www.realsoccernation.com.
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