FRISCO, Texas – Zach Loyd picked just the right moment to score a rare goal and then helped his team’s defense do just enough to get by, as FC Dallas topped the visiting New York Red Bulls 2-1 in front of a sold-out season opener at FC Dallas Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Ricardo Villar added a goal in the 61st minute for FC Dallas (1-0-0), who at least for one day took the sting out of their postseason loss the Red Bulls on the same field last fall.
FC Dallas also got a strong debut from new Panamanian striker Blas Pérez, who assisted on both goals and was pesky much of the afternoon against a Red Bulls back line which made two critical mistakes that directly led to the goals.
Newcomer Kenny Cooper scored the lone goal for the Red Bulls (0-1-0) off an assist from Thierry Henry in the 78th minute, giving him his first goal since joining the club via trade with the Portland Timbers in January.
Loyd scored for just the second time in 55 career regular season games thanks to one of those costly flubs from the New York defensive group, which missed injured center back Wilman Conde and started rookie Ryan Meara in goal. FCD’s Brek Shea whipped in a cross from the left flank that the Red Bulls struggled to clear, and Pérez laid off a drop pass to Loyd for a calm left-footed finish to the back post in the 11th minute.
That lead help firm until early in the second half, when another Red Bulls miscue near midfield opened the door for Pérez to pour through space on the Red Bulls’ end and set up Villar for an easy finish. Defender Roy Miller made an errant pass that Pérez picked and ran with before dropping it off to Villar surging in from the right flank.
It was an easy finish from there, as the Brazilian chipped a shot over the onrushing Meara for the first goal of his MLS career.
Meara, meanwhile, certainly had his moments when he saved the Red Bulls from a worse fate. None were bigger than a point-blank save on Pérez in the 33rd minute after a failed New York clearance fell right onto the veteran striker’s foot in the penalty box.
He also somehow stoned Pérez from close range in the 73rd minute after FCD newcomer Carlos Rodriguez skipped a cross into the box from the left flank.
It was a day to largely forget offensively for the Red Bulls, who leaned on Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo up top to start the game and brought on Cooper for midfielder Dane Richards in the 63rd minute. But they simply weren’t effective enough against FCD’s defense, however, which used the center back pairing of captain Ugo Ihemelu and newcomer Hernan Pertúz with outside backs Loyd and Jair Benitez.
Pertúz, who joined the team during the offseason from Colombia, got the start over incumbent George John, who missed much of the preseason with the team while on loan with English side West Ham.
Cooper broke through the FCD defense for the visitors’ only goal after Henry sailed a perfect through ball over the FCD backline. Cooper beat onrushing FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to the ball and nodded it home, marking the second goal in three career games against the FC Dallas team that gave him his start in 2006.
New York’s other clean scoring chance of the day was a strange one. After midfielder Dax McCarty drew a foul at the edge of the penalty box in the 44th minute, Henry quickly stepped to the ball while referee Jair Marrufo set up the FC Dallas defense and coolly poked a shot through the FCD defense. The ball caromed harmlessly off the far post while the FCD players objected, leaving the Red Bulls scoreless heading into the half.
Perhaps the only negative on the day for FC Dallas was the apparent left leg injury to midfielder Fabian Castillo, who was forced to the leave the game in the 32nd minute for Rodriguez.