CUNNINGHAM GOAL SINKS UNITED 2nd straight clean sheet for Dallas
By Phil Stephens
Atiba Harris, left, helps Jeff Cunningham, center and Eric Avila celebrate the winning goal for FC Dallas.
Photo by Michael Stephens
FRISCO, TX—Another team left Pizza Hut Park in frustration Saturday, but it wasn’t FC Dallas. D.C. United brought an excellent game scheme and played with discipline, but Dallas knocked off its second straight victory, 1-0. The familiar hero of Jeff Cunningham emerged, striking for the winning (and only) goal, from his faithful sidekick David Ferreira, who fed him the perfect through ball that split the United defense in the 68th minute.
The same pair was a deadly duo in 2009 and if the combination can get untracked again for this campaign, it only means woe for FCD opponents.
United could feel a bit cheated this perfect night in North Texas, with three balls off the woodwork, including a long ball by Kurt Morsink in the 80th minute that clanged off the cross bar after it passed by Dallas goalie Kevin Hartman. But the big opportunities came in the first half for DCU, when Dallas had no shots on goal, to four for United.
D.C. United Head Coach Curt Onalfo expressed his frustration very politely after the game,
"We had three balls off the post," Onalfo said. "Certainly in the first half we should lock in a goal, but we didn't. I thought we had a really disciplined game plan. I thought we executed it well for good portions of the game, but we were very unlucky in the finishing end. That's my assessment of the game.
"We played well for big stretches of the game. They made it difficult. I thought they struggled for good portions to try and break our defensive block. As both teams fatigued a bit, things opened up a little and they finished the chance and we didn’t."
The difference was goalie Kevin Hartman for Dallas, who had four saves before intermission, denying goals from United’s Christian Castillo in the 31st and 40th minutes and again, just before intermission.
It got plenty wild in that closing flurry of shots in the first frame as Castillo fired a rocket that Hartman blocked, sending a rebound to Adam Cristman, then back to Castillo and finally stopping a shot by Clyde Simms from the top of the box on the right edge. Defender George John also got in a block in that group of shots.
“I thought it was a game of two different halves,” FC Dallas Head Coach Schellas Hyndman said. “I thought the first half we were…really disappointing. Didn’t seem like a lot of energy. It seemed like we didn’t have any attack. The longer it wore on, they (DC United) was playing with confidence. Both of us came off our first win. I thought they were exploiting Zach Loyd a little bit and causing a lot of problems.
“I talked to them in the second half about supporting Loyd a little bit more, putting a little bit more pressure on the ball and finding the energy. . . . I thought we showed a lot of character. In the second half, we did much better holding the ball, putting them under more pressure.”
This was the fourth game for Dallas since April 28, when it lost to United 4-2 at RFK in a U.S. Open play-in game. That is four games in 10 days for those not mathematically inclined, or five games in 16 days if you want to include Dallas’ 2-2 tie with the Seattle Sounders.
In the second half Saturday, FCD had seven shots on goal to none for DCU and 13 overall shots in the second half to six for United. On the game, Dallas outshot United 18-13 and 7-4 in shots on goal.
Cunningham struggled to pull the trigger on several good looks he had, but finally clicked midway through the second half. Ferreira had the ball at the top of the box, back about five more yards. He juked to the left, pulling some of the defense with him, then jerked back right, sending a through ball that went through two DCU defenders like a gate that just opened. Cunningham followed right behind it and the 19-year-old goalie for DCU, Bill Hamid, didn’t have a chance.
Even though Cunningham leads Dallas with four goal, only the one tonight has come from the field of play. The veteran forward sees the table turning for FCD after two straight wins,
"I hope we continue from here on out to get results," Cunningham said." "I think we have a good team, I’ve been saying that from day one. Now the goals are coming, and we are organized. It’s going to be a good team, we are going to be a difficult team to beat
"I felt like we weren’t pressing as much as we should, and a lot of that was fatigue. But the good teams are going to find a way to win. Kevin had some good saves, kept us in the game. I had some opportunities I could’ve done better with, but at the end of the day we walk away with 3 points."
Dallas gets as full week of rest before heading to Philadelphia for a 3 p.m. game on May 15.