By JOEL HOOVER
On a wild afternoon of storylines at PPL Park, it was Blas Perez who wrote the biggest one of all late in injury time.
The Panamanian striker delivered a stoppage-time goal just minutes after having a goal-bound shot cleared off the line to help 10-man FC Dallas earn a 2-2 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at PPL Park.
Amobi Okugo and Walker Zimmerman traded first half goals before Aaron Wheeler looked to have won it for the Union in the 87th minute with his first MLS goal.
Dallas looked to have the equalizer in stoppage time when Perez sent a shot toward the net, but Sheanon Williams stepped in front and cleared the shot off the line. Replays suggested that the ball had just crossed the line when Williams cleared it and should have been ruled a goal.
Perez shook off that call and responded two minutes later when he headed home a pass from David Ferreira to send FC Dallas back home with a hard-earned road point.
“It’s extremely disappointing that we gave away two points in that fashion,” Union manager John Hackworth said afterward. “I think the game should have been over…(the goal) was well over the allotted time on the clock. But you have to play until the final whistle and we didn’t do that.”
The goal came off a free kick from Michel into the box. Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath failed to gather it in amidst the traffic, allowing for Ferreira flick the ball over his head to Perez for the winning header.
“(We’ve) been playing very well lately,” MacMath said afterward, adding that he thought he was “absolutely” fouled when the free kick came into the box. “We should have had three points going into the (upcoming) road trip.
FC Dallas entered the match without starting defenders Zach Loyd and George John, both out with injuries, and with Ferreira on the bench to start the match due to an injury, but that didn’t stop the visitors from a fast start. They couldn’t create dangerous chances though, and it was Okugo who opened the scoring, powering the Union in front after 20 minutes with a header off a trademark long throw-in by Sheanon Williams. It was the centerback’s third goal of the season.
Dallas only needed four minutes to find an equalizer. Michel delivered another teasing free kick from within the Union half that found Zimmerman free for an easy header into the corner to level the match.
“They were trying to make it a wrestling match the whole game,” Okugo said afterward of Dallas’ physical play on set pieces. “They didn’t score from the run of play…they scored from two set pieces. We should have protected the backline and the goal better.”
A tight second half took a major swing when Dallas’ Je-Vaughn Watson picked up a second yellow card for diving and was dismissed. The booking came in the 68th minute, leaving Dallas to defend the 1-1 scoreline down a man for the final 20 minutes.
Despite fighting off numerous attacks down the right, Dallas had no answer for the size of the substitute Wheeler in the middle. Williams’ delivery from the right side in the 87th minute found the head of the rookie, who powered a header home past Raul Fernandez and looked to have put the Union ahead for good.
“It would be an ideal situation to come in, score your first goal, and have it be a game-winner,” Wheeler said of his goal afterward. “But things happen.”
Indeed, it was Perez who would ‘happen’ for Dallas, as he pounced for the equalizer ten minutes after Wheeler’s late goal.
“You lose points along the way, and we certainly lost two today,” Hackworth said. “But it’s not the end of the world. FC Dallas is a really good team, and they made it extremely hard on us today.”
The Union (7-5-5; 26 pts.) take their unbeaten run in league play to four matches and will now travel to Real Salt Lake Wednesday for their next league match. Meanwhile, Dallas (8-3-6; 30 pts.) go into a tie for second with the Portland Timbers in the Western Conference, and will host Chivas USA on Thursday.
Here are the match highlights: