Alan Velasco scored his fifth season goal for FC Dallas, but the team could not hold the lead for the entire match. Dallas conceded a goal late in the game to draw against Real Salt Lake 1-1 in what many saw as a must-win match as the Major League Soccer 2022 season draws to a close.
“Well, difficult game,” head coach Nico Estevez said in post-game interviews. “We knew it was gonna be difficult. From now on, every game is going to be a final for every team. And you could see it today; both teams wanted to win.”
He saw “quality, a lot of energy, and moments; we had our moments,” Estevez said. “And when you have your moments, you have to score, and we had the moments, the chances, and we didn’t score. And this is why we couldn’t win the game.”
Velasco’s goal came early in the game, a trend that often results in FC Dallas victories.
This time, Velasco was in position as the ball came out of a scrum involving Sebastian Lletget, Paul Arriola, and Jesus Ferreira amidst a sea of white jerseys. Velasco one-touched the kick, relying on precision and accuracy rather than power to find the net only seven minutes into the match.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Velasco said. “We wanted to bounce back and get three points at home in front of our fans. We will work harder during the week, so in the next match, we are able to come away with all three points and not just one.”
The tie drops FC Dallas to fourth in the Western Conference with only a handful of games remaining in the season. Dallas is all but assured of a playoff spot but is trying to earn a home game for the first round. FC Dallas is 8-3-4 at Toyota Stadium this season but is only 3-4-6 on the road.
Goalkeeper Maarten had an excellent season as he made several vital saves, including a shot from well outside the penalty box that would have dropped in but for his reaction to tip the ball into the crossbar. When Real Salt Lake scored in the 69th minute, the goal came after FC Dallas defenders could not clear another excellent save from Paes.
Paes was one of several players who spoke after the game about the opportunities FC Dallas had to collect a win against Real Salt Lake and how much more difficult the tie makes the upcoming match against number third-ranked Minnesota this weekend.
“They had some chances; we had some big chances,” Paes said. “Like Coach said, we had the game, and we gave it away. It was 1-1 and could’ve been 2-0.”
Paes said FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, and Minnesota United were “a little bit above both the rest of the playoff opponents,” so they wanted to host a playoff game. To do so, FC Dallas will have “to get the full result.” The goalkeeper confidently said, “I’m sure we will be there.”
To qualify for the MLS playoff tournament, teams must be in the top seven based on accumulated points. Teams earn three points for a win, one point for a tie, and nothing for losing.
FC Dallas now sits only one point behind third-place Minnesota, who won on Saturday. The team will be on the road this week in what could be a preview of a playoff match this year.