By THOMAS FLOYD
FC Dallas’ scorching start to 2013 has been paced by fluid midfield play, quality depth and opportunistic finishing. D.C. United’s bumbling run has included plenty of early deficits and set-piece struggles.
So all in all, Saturday’s meeting at FC Dallas Stadium went exactly as expected.
Jackson opened the scoring for Dallas early and Je-Vaughn Watson converted a late corner kick as Dallas (7-1-3) extended its unbeaten run to nine games with a 2-1 win over United (1-8-1).
Although Dwayne De Rosario’s free-kick strike gave D.C. its first road goal of the year, it wasn’t enough to snap what now is a seven-game losing streak.
Both sides mixed up their lineups, with Dallas holding Raul Fernandez, George John, Andrew Jacobson, David Ferreira and Kenny Cooper out of the starting lineup, while United sat Bill Hamid, Daniel Woolard, Brandon McDonald, Lionard Pajoy and Rafael. Still working his way back from a groin injury, Chris Pontius (groin) didn’t dress for United.
To a D.C. team that has been torched early in matches throughout its six-game losing streak, Saturday’s opening minutes offered no relief from that unsettling trend. Moments after United forward Casey Townsend struck the post, Dallas grabbed the opener at the other end.
After Eric Hassli danced around a series of challenges and found an unmarked Jackson in the box, the Brazilian winger hit a rising shot past Joe Willis to give the home side an 11th-minute lead.
But instead of putting their heads down, Ben Olsen’s retooled United lineup responded. The possession became more dangerous. De Rosario dictated from his withdrawn forward role. Townsend stayed active.
And one minute before halftime, United were rewarded when Nick DeLeon teed up a free kick for De Rosario and the D.C. captain fired a low shot into the far corner.
In the second half, however, Dallas began to regain control of the match, winning balls in midfield and upping the pressure in the final third.
When Michel’s 77th-minute corner kick whipped in, bounced inside the goal box and ricocheted off Watson’s chest into the net, the sequence seemed inevitable. Those types of plays tend to benefit first-place clubs and go against those sitting in the cellar.
Here are the match highlights: