Sidekicks Separate from Mustangs with 3-goal Third Period
By Paul Bottoni
ALLEN, Texas _ The Dallas Sidekicks and Chicago Mustangs met Saturday night in a battle for first place in the Central Division — and Dallas finished the night on top. The Sidekicks defeated Chicago 6-2, and moved into first place of the division with a one-game lead over the Mustangs.
The Sidekicks and Mustangs entered the game tied in the standings for first after Chicago defeated the Texas Strikers 12-2 in Beaumont on Friday. Chicago (9-3) handed Dallas (9-1) its first loss of the season in an 8-7 in overtime on Jan. 6.
“This was big, because the next four [games] are two against San Diego, Rio Grande and Las Vegas. Those guys are tough,” Sidekicks head coach Tatu said. “We have to make sure we continue winning games. First of all, we want to get in the playoffs, then we want to get home-field advantage. That’s the key, so this game was huge.”
Dallas got on the scoreboard early with an unassisted goal by Nick Stavrou a mere 40 seconds into the game. The rest of the first half was more of a low-scoring, defense-oriented game with both teams playing hard for possession. Both goaltenders made key saves and players had to fight for each piece of ground.
A pushing foul committed midway in the second quarter by Chicago midfielder Omar Tapia, who was also given a yellow card for protesting the call, gave Dallas an opportunity to extend its lead, but the Sidekicks couldn’t capitalize on the chance, and went in at halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The scoring pace picked up in the early in the second half. Chicago knotted the score at 1 when forward Bryan Velazquez notched a goal at the 13:03 mark of the third quarter, but Dallas quickly responded with a goal by forward Patrick Shamu at the 12:35 mark.
From there, Dallas didn’t look back, scoring four more goals while allowing only one.
After playing Chicago once, Shamu said the physical nature of the game was expected this time around.
“Tonight we just wanted to take care of the ball and keep possession,” said Shamu, who finished the night with a pair of goals. “This win gives us a boost of confidence.”
Things began to get chippy near the end of the third quarter, including a scuffle near the benches that led to a blue card for Chicago’s Bryan Velazquez for dangerous play and a yellow card for Sidekicks midfielder and leading scorer, Franck Mbemba for misconduct.
Tatu said that while his team played well throughout the game, there were times when the Sidekicks lost composure.
Dallas has seen the effects that can result from lack of discipline.
The Sidekicks played without forward Shaun David, who was sitting out the second game of a two-game suspension he was given after receiving his second red card of the season in the team’s Jan. 5 game against the Rockford Rampage. Prior to Saturday’s match, David was ranked fourth on the team in points with 15 (six goals, nine assists) in seven games.
The road ahead for Dallas won’t be easy. In its next four matches — three of which are on the road — Dallas will twice face the Pacific Division leader, and undefeated, San Diego Sockers, Southwestern Division leader Las Vegas Legends and the Rio Grande Valley Flash.
The Sidekicks’ next home game is Jan. 27 against the Sockers.