By MIKE DONOVAN
FC Dallas continued their hot start to the season, beating the Portland Timbers in a bizarre match Saturday night that featured an off-the-ball double red card, an own goal, and a late game-winner for the home side.
Mauro Diaz and Blas Perez found the score sheet for FC Dallas, while a Matt Hedges own goal was Portland’s lone tally in Dallas’ 2-1 victory in front of 16,045 at FC Dallas Stadium.
The game-winner came when Portland struggled to clear a long free kick. Diaz took a dribble into space, beating Pa Modou Kah, and then put his scorching shot into the far post around a diving Andrew Weber. It was the second goal of the season for the 23-year-old Argentine.
Despite the late heroics of Diaz, the major talking point was the first-half sendings off of Portland’s Michael Harrington and Dallas’s Je-Vaughn Watson. After consulting with his linesman, referee Sorin Stoica handed direct red cards to both players for what was later classified as a “fight,” according to the official stat sheet. The ejection was the first in the 186-game MLS career of Harrington.
After the 40th-minute ejections, the game became open to long periods of time with the 10-on-10 play leaving major space on the flanks for both sides.
It was Dallas who took advantage of the openings first, when Jair Benitiz found room to put in a cross. Kellyn Acosta then headed the ball back across the box to an unmarked Blas Perez. The Panamanian left no doubt and put the Texas side ahead just before the halftime whistle.
Portland’s goal came when a Maxi Urruti pass was redirected into the net by FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges. After a nice ball from Diego Valeri, Urruti tried to send in Kalif Alhassan, but Hedges deflected the ball over the onrushing Chris Seitz.
The victory means FC Dallas (3-0-1, 10 points) will stay at the top of the Western Conference table heading into April. Meanwhile, the Timbers (0-2-2, 2 points) are coming off consecutive regular season losses for the first time since August 2013 and have scored just three goals in its first four matches.
Portland returns home to take on rival Seattle Sounders and will be missing both Donovan Ricketts and Michael Harrington due to suspensions. Dallas, meanwhile, will stay in Texas and travel to Houston to take on the Dynamo.
Here are the match highlights: