BY MIKE DONOVAN
FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers both came into their matchup riding seven-match unbeaten streaks. And after a 90-minute tussle, both teams walked away with their streaks intact.
The clubs battled to a 1-1 draw Wednesday night at FC Dallas Stadium to bring each team’s unbeaten streak to eight games. A Kenny Cooper penalty kick goal tied up the match just seven minutes after Darlington Nagbe put the visitors ahead in the 70th minute.
Cooper’s penalty kick came after Andrew Jean-Baptiste was given a yellow card for fouling Blas Perez in the box. While the ball never came close to Jean-Baptiste and Perez, referee Juan Guzman didn’t hesitate and pointed to the spot. Cooper gave Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts little chance as he put the spot-kick in the side netting.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter was clearly not happy with the call and felt it cost his team the win.
“It’s a real travesty the way that game played out. It’s hard to win a game when you’re playing against 12 men. For me, that’s just unfair, completely unfair. I’m not going to criticize anyone specifically, but that’s just unacceptable – an off-the-ball call where two guys get tangled. I mean, there were 20 other plays in the game that were just like that exact one that could have been called in both boxes,” Porter said. “Again, I think it’s just an absolute travesty.”
While Jean-Baptiste admitted that he might have tugged Perez, he also believed that Guzman shouldn’t have pointed to the spot.
“The referee felt I drug him down. I felt like he was tugging on me, I was tugging on him and it was really going both ways,” the second-year defender said. “I feel I let my team down with a lack of focus and the referee gave them a gift.”
The game was a back-and-fourth affair that one might expect from two top teams. Portland’s midifield pairing of Will Johnson and Diego Chara were all over the field while David Ferreira and Fabian Castillo were able to find pockets of space for FC Dallas. Chara’s track-back tackle on Ferreira after covering 50 yards of field was an example of not only Chara’s good work, but also evidence of spotty play from the Timbers centerback combination of Futty Danso and Jean-Baptiste.
After Mikael Silvestre was lost for the season with a knee injury, Jean-Baptiste was forced back into the starting lineup. He was caught out on multiple plays and seemed to struggle in individual matchups with Ferreira and Perez. Unfortunately for Dallas, Ferreira was subbed out just after the second half restart with an apparent hamstring injury.
Dallas almost took the full three points, but Kenny Cooper’s blast in the 86th minute, was denied by a diving Ricketts. Ricketts delivered another standout performance for the club with the penalty kick being his only blemish.
Not to be outdone by his Jamaican counterpart, Raul Fernandez delivered numerous saves as well including a fingertip save that sent a Frederic Piquionne shot into the post. However, Fernandez was unable to stop Nagbe’s goal, which was set up the Timbers substitute Rodney Wallace.
Wallace, who had come on a sub just seven minutes earlier, worked his way around Je-Vaughn Watson and put a cross into the far post. Nagbe got a foot to it and beat the sprawling Fernandez.
Despite being unable to get the win, Porter was happy with his club’s effort.
“We’re a group that just refuses to lose. They roll their sleeves up every game and they don’t quit. They fight and they work for each other,” Porter said.
The draw combined with the Montreal Impact’s loss to the New York Red Bulls, leaves Dallas and Portland as the only MLS teams that have just one loss. It was, however, the first time in 2013 that FC Dallas was unable to win a home match. Portland remains as the only MLS team that hasn’t yet lost on the road.
Next up for Portland is a Mother’s Day matchup with Chivas USA at Jeld-Wen Field, while Dallas will be back at home Saturday night to take on DC United.
Here are the match highlights: