FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas center back Stephen Keel is underselling himself.
“I just go in there and throw my body around,” he says to describe his movement on the first set piece that led to a goal in a 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday, “and Matty snuck one in.”
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That’s center back partner Matt Hedges, who scored the first goal and assisted Blas Perez’s winner, but Keel did a bit more than simply tossing his weight around in the box. He darted to the near post on the opener, drawing the attention of a pair of Toronto defenders, and got his head to Michel’s set piece in the build up to the second. That allowed Hedges to play the ball to Perez, open in part because Keel continued his run into the box.
Michel, the left-footed Brazilian, has been a big reason FC Dallas has scored eight goals off set pieces this campaign. His corners, specifically, troubled Toronto FC goalkeeper and countryman Julio Cesar as the home side set a club record for number of corners earned with 16.
“Michel puts in a phenomenal ball. It’s one of the best I’ve ever faced, probably,” said Toronto defender Steven Caldwell. “It’s real pace and quality, and it’s on the button every single time. And even when he hits the back post with such pace, it takes the keeper out of the game and it’s very difficult for the men on the back to deal with.”
Even with FC Dallas’ prowess from dead-ball situations, conceding more than a dozen corner kicks wasn’t what Ryan Nelsen drew up in the dressing room for his Toronto FC squad.
The hosts couldn’t unlock the center of the field with Michael Bradley putting up resistance in front of Caldwell and Bradley Orr, but kept attacking down the wins and winning corner kicks.
“You obviously don’t want — whoever you’re playing — to concede corner kicks,” he said. "It’s an opportunity to get the ball in the box. But as the game kind of went, we found ourselves defending in furor.”
The madness finally broke in the 88th minute and it was too late for the visitors, though Toronto did have a penalty shout on Gilberto that went unanswered.
Oscar Pareja will be pleased with the 5-1-1 start and the 17 goal cumulative total but will also hope his side can find more luck in open play. Opponents will only believe simplistic descriptions of set piece success like Keel's for so long.