Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By BRYAN ROBISON
FRISCO, TX – On a night where two stars made their returns to the starting lineup after lengthy injury layoffs, Seattle's Steve Zakuani and FC Dallas' Blas Perez each resumed their roles as key difference makers.
Zakuani and Perez both assisted on the only goals scored, as the Sounders and FC Dallas fought to a stalemate in Dallas on Sunday night, with a 1-1 draw.
Zakuani was the first to mark his return, as he surged past Dallas defender Zach Loyd, knocking a pass to a wide-open Mauro Rosales, who tapped in the game's opening goal. The assist marked Zakuani's first since the week before his injury in April 2011, while the captain Rosales notched his second goal of the year, and first since May 5th.
"Steve showed that he still has that explosion to beat people," Seattle head coach Sigi Schmidt said after the game. "He was in another time in the second half, as well, so hopefully he gains confidence in doing that. Hopefully those opportunities will occur more often in the game for him. It was a tremendous assist that he got, but now it's just a matter of gaining game fitness."
Making his return to the starting lineup for the first time since April 2011, Zakuani made just his third appearance on the year after playing four minutes in July and six minutes in August. The return marked his first start since suffering a broken leg against Colorado sixteen months ago. The Congolese forward returned to the lineup exactly 500 days after the injury, and made an immediate impact.
Also making an impact was Blas Perez for FC Dallas. While the Panamanian forward did return to the pitch last week, tonight marked his first start since May 26th of this year. Dallas suffered while he was gone, as they lacked a true forward throughout his time away from the field.
Perez marked his return by setting up Jackson for the game-tying goal in the 32nd minute. Perez found himself on the right side of the box all alone, and knocked it to a running Jackson, who just had to tap in the equalizer. The goal gave Jackson three on the year, as the Brazilian showed his pace throughout the night, playing all over the field.
"If you look at our strikeforce, he [Perez] is our goalscorer," said FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman. That’s what we brought him in for. He is not 100%, and today took a lot of out of him, but I thought we got his best."
From there, Dallas carried the momentum and created many more opportunities than the Sounders. But it was all for not, as they failed to knock in the winning goal, diminishing their closing playoff hopes. After winning three in a row in August, they've only earned a single point in the last week of action. While Vancouver is continuing to let points slip away, Dallas is doing the same, as they still sit four points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Whitecaps continue to hold one game in hand as they enter the final weeks of the regular season.
For Perez, it was a bittersweet return, as he and the entire team were looking to continue their fight towards catching up to Vancouver.
"This was an important game for us," said Perez. "We knew we had an opportunity on our hands to gain ground on Vancouver, and we didn't get it done tonight. I know that if I am 100%, I convert the chances I had tonight. But tonight gave me confidence because of the time I lost due to my injury and with the passing of my father. I felt good to be out there with my teammates. Little by little I'll get better."
So late in the season, the desire to get better continues for FC Dallas, as they featured David Ferreira and Blas Perez in the starting lineup for the first time all season. With five games left, they know their playoff hopes are fading.
FC Dallas will welcome Mexican club Leon FC to Dallas next weekend, as they host the Liga MX club for an in-season friendly. Afterwards, they will return to MLS action in a crucial Western Conference match, hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, September 15th.
With the point, Seattle maintains their slim lead over the LA Galaxy for third place in the West. They will return home to CenturyLink Field to take on Chivas USA next Saturday evening.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Impressed with the returns of Zakuani and Perez'? See Seattle holding on to the third spot in the Western Conference? Think FC Dallas be able to fight their way into the playoffs?
Share your thoughts below.