By Richard Clarke at Pizza Hut Park, Dallas
Arsenal kicked off their Dallas Cup campaign in fine style with a 5-1 comeback win against Dallas Texans on Sunday night.
Only the winners of each Under-19s ‘Super Group’ will qualify for Friday’s Semi-Final so a solid start was essential at Pizza Hut Park.
Steve Bould’s side struggled early on and trailed in the 12th minute after Eduardo Aranda scrambled home. However, once they found their rhythm, Arsenal were irresistible. Conor Henderson levelled the game four minutes from half-time via a deflected free-kick then, on the whistle, Roarie Deacon sidefooted a simple second.
The dangerous Caleb Richardson was sent off two minutes after the restart and that allowed Arsenal to cruise home. Luke Freeman prodded home a third on the hour and substitute Josh Rees added two well-taken goals at the end.
Bould’s boys seemed to work off their jet lag within 90 minutes this evening. The scoreline flattered them slightly but they got the job done effectively.
The Dallas Cup may have been a new experience for Arsenal but the youngsters were treading in the footsteps of many familiar names.
Past alumni included the likes of David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Raul, Robinho, Michael Owen, Landon Donovan, Michael Carrick, Peter Crouch, Carlos Vela, Kleberson, Edmilson, Ledley King, Giuseppe Rossi and Harry Kewell. Meanwhile previous winners of the Under-19s Super Group included West Ham, Real Madrid, Sao Paulo, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Dynamo Moscow.
The major clubs names in the 32nd Dallas Cup were Arsenal, Barcelona, Eintracht Frankfurt and Corinthians of Brazil. The Under-18 national side of Japan had travelled too.
Arsenal were in a group with Club Bolivar (Bolivia), Chorrillo (Panama) and, this evening’s opponents, Dallas Texans. The US outfit are one of the top youth sides in their country and perhaps their most famous product is a leading Premier League player - Fulham striker Clint Dempsey.
At 11,900, Pizza Hut Park, home of MLS side FC Dallas, was only half-full for the last game of the first day. But what it lacked in numbers it made up for in enthusiasm. This is very much a youth tournament, with age group categories from Under-13 to Under-19, and those who had already played seemed happy to watch all the others.
There had been a shock in the previous game when Barcelona had gone down 3-1 to the Under-17s/Under-18s side from FC Dallas.
And the city’s other representatives, the Texans, seemed determined to do something similar in the first quarter of this game.
In the eighth minute, Richardson raced on to a long punt forward and went clear. He tried to ghost past keeper Damian Martinez. The pair collided, the American striker went down and the ball trickled out. It could have been penalty, sending off and 1-0 to Dallas. Referee Mike Hester, from New Zealand, gave Arsenal the benefit of the doubt.
However Dallas would not have to wait long for a goal. Three minutes later Saed Hajrovic conceded a foul midway inside his own half. Jake Douglas drove the free-kick to the far post when Aaron Simmons nodded down and Aranda turned the ball home after Martinez had made the initial save.
Freeman’s drive was then deflected wide at the near post. But, in truth, Dallas were on top and Arsenal had struggled to settle.
Aranda looped a shot onto the top of the net then Richardson showed impressive speed on the right before rifling a rising drive just past the angle of post and bar.
As the half wore on, Bould’s side found their feet. In the 36th minute, Boateng fed Hajrovic on the left. His pacy low ball just evaded the sliding Freeman at the far post. The equaliser followed quickly afterwards.
Four minutes from half-time, Dallas gave away a free-kick five yards outside the area and Henderson curled his effort into the far corner. However the ball did get a touch off a defender en route.
Clint Ritter drove wide for Dallas but Arsenal were now turning the screw. Henderson floated a pass on to the head of Freeman, who tried to flick a header in to the far corner. The ball just drifted wide.
However on the stroke of half-time, the London side did take the lead. The Dallas defence was split wide open and so Oguzhan Ozyakup found Deacon in acres of space. The midfielder stroked home with ease.
It got worse for Dallas two minutes after the restart. Richardson clipped Hajrovic as he tried to burst into the area and received his second booking.
The Swiss defender then burst to the edge of the six-yard box and was acrobatically brought down by keeper Nick Petolick. However referee Mike Hester, from New Zealand, must have assumed that Hajrovic had lost the ball.
However Arsenal now had control and, in the 61st minute, they took a stranglehold on the game. Ozyakup’s left-wing corner was met by the head of Elton Monteiro and Freeman scrambled home the ball at the near post.
Rees forced Petolick into a flying save and, on 71 minutes, Henderson weaved past a couple of lame tackles to set up Ozyakup. His shot was deflected wide. From the corner, Deacon drifted a header past the far post.
Dallas were now entirely on the back foot and, in the 81st minute, Arsenal got a fourth. Henderson was the provider this time as Rees billowed the net with a powerful header.
Jeffrey Torda nearly grabbed a consolation goal for Dallas when he sent a swivelling shot past the far post.
But Arsenal would have the last word. In the final minute, Zak Ansah burst to the right-hand byline and cut the ball back for Rees fire home his second and his side’s fifth.
Dallas Texans have significant experience in this competition with victories in many age-groups including the Super Group in 2006. But this evening they were swept away by a competent performance from Bould’s side.
There should be more to come from Arsenal. So, on the basis of this result, they can fancy their chances in the Dallas Cup.
* The Arsenal side wore black armbands in memory of director Danny Fiszman, who died last week. A period of silence was also observed at the start of the game.
Arsenal: Martinez, Hajrovic, Brislen-Hall, Frimpong, Boateng, Deacon, Ozyakup, Monakana, Henderson, Freeman Subs: Ebecilio, McDermott, Edge, Angha, Monteiro, Rees, Smith, Bihmoutine, Webb, Wynter, Ansah
Dallas Texans: Speed, Van Compernolle, Garnett, Gonzales, Francois, Douglas, Morrison, Sloan, Guerry, Hains, Simmons Subs: Aranda, Ritter, Torda, Bryce, Minter, Perez, Richardson, Smith, Petolick, LeSueur, SackettCopyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source