Eric Avila’s strike deep into stoppage time salvaged a 2-2 home draw for FC Dallas against the visiting Columbus Crew in a back-and-forth match that saw two penalties and a late red card.
Jeff Cunningham, Adam Moffat, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto were also on target on a warm evening in North Texas.
This encounter between two storied MLS franchises started as a cautious affair, with both sides probing, but neither creating a threatening chance early on. An awkward bounce prevented Jeff Cunningham from getting proper contact on a flick on from Atiba Harris, while a Guillermo Barros Schelotto cross flashed across goal where no Crew player was able to get on the end of it.
The game started to pick up around the 15 minute mark, with Harris striking just past the far post from distance before setting up David Ferreira with a clever backheel, only for the onrushing Colombian to shoot over. Cunningham was the next Dallas player to threaten forcing Hesmer to save to his right from a bouncing header. The Crew replied some pressure of their own, but rookie Zach Loyd and new acquisition Kevin Hartman were aware at the back to prevent anything getting through.
FC Dallas’ pressure finally paid off in the 28th minute as Danny O’Rourke caught Ferreira with a tackle in the box, leaving Jasen Anno no choice but to award the penalty. Jeff Cunningham stepped up to send Will Hesmer the wrong way for his first tally of the year.
The shock of falling behind helped kick the Crew players into gear, and in the 30th minute Dax McCarty was left on the ground, having taken a shot to the face in a bizarre sequence in the FC Dallas box in which the Crew could not put the ball in the back of the net. The match was turning into the tough battle in the midfield as both sides looked to break out, though Dallas had a slight edge, their offense flowing through David Ferreira, but were unable to produce another chance before Anno blew for halftime.
With the Crew needing a goal to get themselves back in the match, Robert Warzycha opted to put Emmanuel Ekpo into the game in place of Robbie Rogers, who had a fairly quiet first half. The Crew opened the half with some pressure, which paid off in the 52nd minute. Steven Lenhart ran through on the right side before cutting the ball back for an onrushing Adam Moffat, and the Scottish midfielder made no mistake, firing past Hartman and into the far corner to equalize for the visitors.
After Columbus’ equalizer, the match took a more physical nature, with Brian Carroll’s name the first in the book after bringing down Ferreira. Cunningham had some tepid penalty appeals waved away after falling under pressure from Andy Iro and Chad Marshall, while Heath Pearce joined Carroll in Jasen Anno’s book in the 61st minute with a late challenge on Lenhart.
The two sides exchanged attacks as the second half moved on, with Lenhart heading over in the 65th minute before Pearce missed a similar chance at the other end two minutes later. Jason Garey replaced Lenhart in the 70th minute with Robert Warzycha looking for more pace in the attack and Lenhart picking up a slight knock. However, Warzycha was forced to use his third substitution after Eddie Gaven received a bloody lip from a collision with Atiba Harris and had to be replaced by Emilio Renteria in the 73rd minute. For Dallas, Schellas Hyndman made his first sub of the night, replacing Jair Benitez with the more attack-minded Eric Avila.
Columbus started to apply more pressure as the match entered its final stages. A long Schelotto free kick found the head of Andy Iro, who flicked the ball towards goal, but was denied by an excellent reflex save from Kevin Hartman, who tipped it over the bar. On the resulting corner, Anno awarded the Crew a penalty after Chad Marshall was hauled down by George John. Although Hartman guessed correctly and saved Schelotto’s initial penalty to the right, he could do nothing but watch as Schelotto headed in the rebound, putting Columbus 2-1 up with eight minutes to play.
With the clock ticking down, Dallas started to turn up the pressure in search of an equalizer. Cunningham and Harris both spurned good chances to get their side back in the match before Andy Iro brought Harris down just outside the 18-yard box with less than a minute to go. Dax McCarty fired the resulting free kick into the wall, but Dallas kept up the pressure, and Hesmer had to be alert to tip Atiba Harris’ volley over the bar and the Crew had to defend two more dangerous free kicks.
The pressure finally paid off deep into stoppage time for FC Dallas, when the Crew were only able to clear as far as substitute Eric Avila, who fired home a venomous strike from outside the box, just beyond Will Hesmer to equalize for the home side in the final action of the game. Even though the replay showed otherwise, the Crew were adamant that Avila had handled the ball, and Danny O’Rourke was sent off for abusive language.
The result gives Columbus four points from two matches as they face another two week bye before hosting Real Salt Lake, while Dallas has two points, and will look for their first win next week at New York.
Agree with the ref's calls in the game? Tell us about it in the comments!
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page.