Red Bulls midfielder Derrick Etienne (7) and FC Dallas defender John Nelson (26) fight for a ball in the first half. (Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
FRISCO, Texas — If you did a double take when the Red Bulls’ Starting XI was unveiled Saturday and you thought it might have been the Red Bull II lineup, you are forgiven.
Using a lineup that featured reserve players that very few soccer observers would have guessed would have been on the field at the kickoff, the Red Bulls shocked FC Dallas behind a 3-1 victory, the club’s first away win this season.
The Red Bulls (4-5-2, 14 points) improved to 1-2-2 on the road after a 3-3 start at home. FC Dallas (5-4-2, 17), on the other hand, suffered its first home defeat.
The result avoided a second consecutive loss, coming off the heels of the 2-1 home loss to the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena.
Cristian Casseres, Jr., Sean Nealis, who scored his first goal in his first MLS start, and Brian White found the net for the Red Bulls.
Goalkeeper Ryan Meara, playing in place of captain Luis Robles, made several vital saves, especially in the second half, to hold off Dallas.
Meara, not suprisingly, was quite impressed with the Cosmos’ depth.
“I think it’s a testament to the club, just look at how Red Bulls II has helped the first team over the years now,” said Meara, a member of that USL Championship side. “Today is no different, guys like myself have played a couple of Red Bulls II games in the past months or so. It just helps you for when your number is called up to the first team, you step right in and you know exactly how we want to play. It’s a huge asset for us.”
FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez gave credit to the Red Bulls.
“We got caught on the dribble a few times and we have to play quicker and combine a little more out,” he said. “Once we break the first and second line, we need to hurt them on the last line. We slowed it down sometimes when we could have pushed it to next gear and got in behind them in goal. red bulls are a fighting team. They were efficient in the way they played and transitioned. I know they were missing some key guys but credit to them but that’s a fighting philosophy and I respect it.”
Head coach Chris Armas fielded a lineup that looked more like it was suited for Red Bull II than the MLS side. In fact, he deployed a Starting XI that had no resemblance to the squad that lost Wednesday. Incredibly, defender Amro Tarek was the lone player to wind up in both lineups.
The renovated lineup:
Meara, making a rare MLS start (his last one was in June 2018), defenders Michale Amir Murillo, Nealis, Tarek and Duncan, midfielders Vincent Bezecourt, Casseres, Jr., Derrick Etienne, Jr., Kaku, Andreas Ivan and forward Brian White.
Starting on the bench were three-quarters of the defense: Connor Lade, Kemar Lawrence and Tim Parker, plus midfielder Sean Davis. Davis, however, was called into action in the 18th minute after Bezecourt suffered an injury.
Left back home were forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (groin injury), defender Aaron Long (hamstring injury), midfielder Daniel Royer and goalkeeper Luis Robles, the team captain.
Despite that handicap, the Red Bulls managed to put a number on the Toyota Stadium scoreboard first, thanks to an FC Dallas mistake. The hosts failed to clear the ball out of harm’s way twice. The ball came to Cassares about 20 yards out and he sent a right-footed shot that did not have much velocity into the net past goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez in the 12th minute.
“After constantly talking with Chris [Armas] about positioning myself in that spot because I would score,” Cassares said. “Today came the chance and I scored; he was right about that. I was able to capitalize that opportunity. On his performances so far this year… I am thankful for the confidence my teammates and the coaching staff are giving me to put me out there and contribute to the team. I am just working hard every week and I’m trying to do everything that I can to help out the team as I continue to do so this whole year.”
Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, however, FC Dallas knotted things up at 1-1 as Jesus Ferreira headed home a feed after a nice set-up by Jacori Hayes.
Nealis, a former standout at Hofstra University scored in the 58th minute as he headed in a Murillo shot that was taken from the top of the box for a 2-1 edge.
White, who had a relatively silent match for the opening 84 minutes, made some noise only a minute later, tallying from close range for an insurance goal and a 3-1 advantage.