Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By BRYAN ROBISON
In match held in a playoff atmosphere with playoff implications, FC Dallas continued their improbable playoff run thanks to a Julian De Guzman goal in the final seconds to stun Vancouver and the visiting Whitecaps 1-0. The win gave FC Dallas an important three points, as they close within one point of Vancouver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
De Guzman scored the wonder goal off a corner kick clearance after the Whitecaps looked to clear the ball in the 96th minute, after six minutes of stoppage time were added to the end of the match. After a short clearance, De Guzman got the ball three yards out of the box, knocked it down with his chest, and blasted it past a diving Brad Knighton to win the match and save FC Dallas' season.
The goal was De Guzman's first as a member of FC Dallas, and first in just over a year, having last scored as a member of Toronto FC last September.
FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said he spoke of the "four D's before the match", those being determination, dedication, discipline, and desire. But it was a fifth D, De Guzman, who gave Dallas the win.
"Julian has been great ever since joining the club," Hyndman said of the Canadian international, who was acquired in July via trade from Toronto FC. "And I am happy to say that Toronto is still paying his salary. For us, it was a great deal. But I don't want this to just be a goal that Julian is recognized for, because I think Julian has been great for us ever since he got here."
In a chippy and physical first half, Dallas held much of the possession, and had multiple attempts to break the game open. After a foul from a free kick was called in the box in the 15th minute, referee Allen Chapman signaled the penalty for Dallas, with David Ferreria stepping up to take the shot. Vancouver keeper Brad Knighton guessed right, diving right, and saved the attempt from Ferreira to keep the game level.
Ferreira again came close to opening the scoring later in the first half, as Brek Shea broke free on the left side, knocking it in to an unmarked Ferreira. The Colombian got his foot on the ball, knocking it past a diving Knighton. But unfortunately for Dallas, the ball hit the post, allowing Vancouver to recover to preserve the scoreless match to enter the locker rooms even going into the half.
Vancouver completed their objective of holding off Dallas in the first half, who came out aggressive. From the second half whistle, the Whitecaps made their second half objective obvious- leave Dallas with a point, as they hold a game in hand on the home squad.
They came close to leaving Dallas with their mission accomplished. But unfortunately for them, even after holding Dallas out of the net for 99% of the match, it's the last minute and De Guzman's goal that the Whitecaps will remember most out of this match.
"I was in a higher position than usual, and had just enough time to pick it up with my chest," De Guzman said of the goal. "Once I saw the shot hit the back of the net, I guess dreams came true. It was a great relief, especially with how it went down and all the opportunities we had in the first half. But our guys showed a lot of determination, going after the 90th minute. We still have that playoff hunt in our agenda."
That playoff hunt is something new for De Guzman, who admitted that this current status on a club fighting for a playoff spot is even more sweet for him thanks to his departure from his last club, Toronto FC.
"I don't think anyone would have expected this two months ago," said De Guzman. "After everything panned out, it was a blessing in disguise. I will never forget the words of [Toronto FC manager] Paul Mariner, who said he wanted to make sure to send me to a last-place team, and that he was going to "let me burn in the heat". But I'm getting the last laugh, and that is the karma of things, because look who is in last place and look who is battling for the playoffs."
That playoff march for FC Dallas has them just one point behind Vancouver going into the final six weeks of the season. Vancouver does hold a match in hand, but they continued their slide tonight, having lost their last five matches, and picking up just seven points over their last ten matches.
For Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie, he remains confident that Vancouver will still make the playoffs, despite their recent form.
"We still hold our destiny in our own hands," Rennie said after the match. "We are trying to become the first Canadian club to make the MLS playoffs, and what this loss is going to do is make us stronger. We are returning home for the first time in a while, so I am going to have to re-introduce myself to my kids. But we look forward to returning to BC Place."
Vancouver will play host to the Colorado Rapids in their return home to BC Place, as they will open their first of four consecutive home matches next Sunday. FC Dallas will have the week off, then will travel to San Jose to take on the first place Earthquakes.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of De Guzman's goal? Will Dallas overtake Vancouver for the final playoff spot?
Share your thoughts below.