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FC Dallas in playoffs with win

Published 10/7/2007 4:27:39 PM by staff from mlsnet
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FC Dallas secured their place in the MLS Cup Playoffs -- and in doing so, dealt the hopes of the Columbus Crew a near-mortal blow -- scoring two goals in the final four minutes to come from behind for a 3-1 victory Saturday evening at Crew Stadium.  After the Crew had dominated the opening 45 minutes yet had only an Eddie Gaven goal to show for it, Arturo Alvarez brought FC Dallas level in the 48th minute, then Abe Thompson scored goals in the 86th and the 89th minutes to finish off the game.

The win guaranteed FC Dallas a place in the top eight, the fifth team to secure a place in the MLS postseason. But Columbus was left in ninth place for the time being, still behind the Chicago Fire for the final spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and with away games at the top two teams in the Eastern Conference in D.C. United and the New England Revolution to finish out the regular season.  While FC Dallas coach Steve Morrow returned World Cup-winning midfielder Denilson to the Hoops lineup, the bigger change was in goal, where Ray Burse was given the nod over Dario Sala. For Burse it was a bit of a homecoming, as just two years ago he was playing his college ball in Columbus at The Ohio State University, and obtained his degree from the school earlier this year.

Columbus Crew coach Sigi Schmid made two changes, putting in U.S. youth international Robbie Rogers as Jason Garey went to the bench, and returning Stefani Miglioranzi to the midfield instead of Ned Grabavoy.  The Crew opened the game on the attack and with a sense of urgency, and Burse almost single-handedly kept his team in it. In the first 10 minutes of the game Columbus got off five shots and put four of them on frame.

In the 10th minute Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers pulled the trigger from 20 yards but Burse dove to his right and made a fantastic save, deflecting the ball just enough to redirect it off the crossbar before pouncing on the ball.  Then in the 28th minute, Burse again saved what appeared to be a certain goal. Alejandro Moreno beat his man on the right wing and sent in a cross that Andy Herron headed on goal. Burse, who had come out of net to play the ball, reversed his tracks and barely got a hand to the ball to deflect it into the corner.

Herron tracked it down and sent a rolling pass to the middle of the box that found Eddie Gaven, but Gaven's shot sailed high and wide over an open goal.  The tenacity of the Crew attack would pay dividends only minutes later, however. Moreno was attacking again, this time on the left wing, and laid the ball back to Gaven. Some 21 yards from goal, Gaven ripped a shot while Herron was streaking through the middle of the box. Burse seemed unsure if Herron would be able to reach the ball or not, and was unable to react after Gaven's shot took one bounce and skipped through to the corner of the net for a 31st-minute lead.

After the halftime break, it did not take long for FC Dallas to answer the Crew goal. Running down a long ball down the right flank, Dominic Oduro kept the play alive with a nifty display of dribbling to allow teammates to get in position. Oduro finally rolled a pass to the top of the box for Arturo Alvarez, who touched the ball to his left and then sent a left-footed curling shot on goal that barely snuck inside the left post, beating Hesmer and equalizing the match.  The Dallas defense, which allowed eight shots on goal for the Crew in the first 31 minutes, tightened up after the Crew goal. After making Burse handle the ball repeatedly in the early going, Dallas did not allow another shot on goal until the 75th minute.

Oduro should have given FC Dallas the lead in the 69th minute. With his club in possession of the ball, Oduro made a run for goal and was rewarded with a lofted pass over the top of the Crew defense. He raced past defender Ezra Hendrickson and beat Hesmer to the ball as he was charging hard out of his net, pushing it around the Crew 'keeper. But it missed the wide-open goal from a tight angle.  With the Crew desperate for points, they started sending numbers into the attack over the final minutes of the match, and it would backfire, when in the 86th minute Dallas finally took the lead.

Substitute Ricardinho did all the hard work, chasing the ball down just before it crossed the endline to the right of goal. He beat a Crew defender and drove a low pass to Thompson, who somehow was able to sneak it past Hesmer and between the right post and Frankie Hejduk, despite an awkward angle for the chance.  Only three minutes later FC Dallas put the game out of reach. Alvarez again had the ball in a dangerous position just outside the box, and when no defenders came out to challenge him he ripped another low, hard shot with his dangerous left foot.

Hesmer was able to dive to his left to make the save but unable to hold the rebound. The ball bounced directly out in front of goal as Thompson raced in, and while Hesmer struggled to get back to his feet the former Maryland standout needed to do little more than tap the ball into the net for his second goal in short order and fifth of the year.  While FC Dallas can now breathe a little more easily in advance of the start of the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Crew will facing some anxious scoreboard watching -- while also needing to get past the top two teams in the league points-wise, on their home turf, if they are to return to the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Label: FC Dallas, MLS soccer, Columbus Crew, Eddie Gaven, Arturo Alvarez, Abe Thompson
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