The battle for the Western Conference soccer playoff seeding took another dramatic turn on Saturday when FC Dallas traveled to face Minnesota United in what may be a preview of a post-season matchup. Dallas earned a 3-0 win on the road on September 3 and established a record for the three-fastest goals scored in Major League Soccer competition since 2010.
Minnesota and Dallas have played a back-and-forth game throughout the season as each team strives to occupy the third seed. Entering the match, Minnesota had a slim one-point lead in the Western Conference and clung to the third seed spot. With the victory, FC Dallas overtook Minnesota and dropped the Loons all the way to fifth after Nashville defeated Austin to move up to fourth overall.
“In the first half, we controlled the possession, but we didn’t create goal-scoring opportunities,” head coach Nico Estevez said following the match. “We created one with Jesús (Ferreira) that was cleared, but all of our crosses, all of our situations where we were arriving, didn’t help us to create a clear chance.”
“We identified a lot of space in between the lines, and if you receive the ball there, you can play quickly in behind. If there’s no space, just make more runs in behind. In the second half, we were more aggressive with the runs in behind, and we were able to hurt Minnesota,” Estevez said.
Considering that the score was tied 0-0 after the half and both defenses were playing championship-caliber soccer, the sudden scoring flurry was all the more remarkable. Both offenses had opportunities in the first half but were consistently shooting wide-right. That changed at the 55-minute mark.
Minnesota’s Michael Boxall was credited with the first score, an own-goal error that was forced by a sharp crossing pass from Paul Arriola as he looked to connect with Jesus Ferreira. Had Boxall let the pass go by, it would have been a layup shot, but Boxall’s deflection beat goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
Just 92 seconds later, it was FC Dallas on offense again when Adam Velasco took a two-touch shot from the left that crossed to the bottom right to find the back of the net. The score was set up with a pass from Paxton Pomykal to Sebastian Lletget, who shuffled the ball to Velasco. The score was Velasco’s sixth of the season and his third in the last four games.
Then, at the 58-minute mark, Lletget hooked a dropping set-up just outside the goal box, finding Jesus Ferreira, who then headed the ball past St. Clair for the 3-0 lead. It was the second assist for Lletget and the second time he has recorded two assists in a game since joining FC Dallas in August. To make the win even sweeter, it was Lletget’s birthday.
“I guess hopefully I get better with age,” Lletget said. “It feels amazing. It’s everything. It’s the only gift I really wanted, to be honest with you. I was so focused on this game. I knew we needed it; I knew how important it was. And yeah, it’s just a great gift.”
Now in the driver’s seat headed into the final series of matches, FC Dallas will host LAFC on Saturday, September 10 at Toyota Stadium for Hispanic Heritage Night. LAFC leads the Western Conference with 60 points, with only five matches remaining in the regular season.