FC DALLAS 0
STOKE CITY 1 (Walters 25, Jerome penalty saved 81, Wilkinson sent off 82)
JONATHAN WALTERS’ superbly taken first-half goal was enough to secure Stoke City their first victory in the United States as they produced a polished performance to beat Major League Soccer side FC Dallas in Texas.
The Republic of Ireland international sublimely fired home the only goal of the game after Dutch international Erik Pieters picked him out with a delightful through ball.
Substitute Cameron Jerome could have added to the tally from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time, but his effort was well saved by Dallas number one Raul Fernandez.
The game did end on a sour note however as Andy Wilkinson was shown a red card for what the referee deemed as violent conduct.
Mark Hughes made four pre-match changes to his side from the one that slipped to a 2-0 defeat to Houston Dynamo three days earlier, with Wilson Palacios, Glenn Whelan, Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones all being handed starts having been named amongst the substitutes bench at the BBVA Compass Stadium on Wednesday night.
Almost 10,000 spectators were in attendance to witness a truly patriotic start to proceedings as a superb rendition of the United States national anthem was pelted out, before a flurry of fireworks lit up the sky above the stadium.
For all of Stoke’s neat play and dominant possession, it was in fact the MLS side who went closest to breaking the deadlock early on as a teasing Michel centre almost inadvertently found its way into the net.
The Mexican’s in-swinging centre caught Asmir Begovic off guard and almost squirmed in at the near post, though thankfully for the visitors Erik Pieters was on hand to clear the ball off the line.
That incident came just 60 seconds after Steven Nzonzi was harshly cautioned by referee Ted Unkel for a late, but innocuous challenge on midfielder Jair Benitez – one which was identical to an earlier challenge from Je-Vaughn Watson.
The Texans gradually grew stronger as the first half wore on, and Bosnian number one Begovic had to be alert to deny former Manchester United youngster Kenny Cooper following a flowing move, before he gathered comfortably from Fabian Castillo’s rebound.
At the other end Stoke continued to cause the hosts numerous problems with Jones’ power and pace, and neat interchange between the midfield quintet.
The Potters patience and keep ball paid off midway through the half when Pieters linked up well with Jones to free Walters, who sidestepped a defender and calmly executed a superb finish into the bottom corner of the net.
Hughes pre-match call for an improved attacking display was being answered by his players as they constantly played the ball through the pitch, testing the resilience of the Dallas rearguard.
They did well to thwart a determined Jones run and strike shortly before the break, whilst the central defensive partnership of George John and Stephen Keel continued to impress as they held off Walters following another flowing Stoke surge forward.
Despite Dallas being at the midpoint of their regular season there was no obvious signs of greater fitness levels as the Potters matched the application and work ethic of their hosts, and undoubtedly displayed a greater level of creativity and ball retention.
More free-flowing football from the visitors culminated in Walters forcing Raul Fernandez into a routine save, whilst at the other end a rare Dallas attack saw skipper David Ferreira curl just over the bar after cutting inside of Cameron.
The interval brought with it five changes for Stoke as Hughes introduced Thomas Sorensen, Marc Muniesa, Charlie Adam, Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch from the bench, whilst the hosts themselves made four switches.
The Potters continued from where they left off at the start of the second period as Nzonzi dispatched a thumping effort from 25-yards that flew inches wide of goal, before Keel had to be alert to head the ball away from the approaching Crouch after Cameron launched a dangerous ball into the box.
Adam, who has recently been recalled back into the Scotland international squad, wasted no time in introducing himself to the locals with a speculative 40-yard strike that very nearly caught the Dallas ‘keeper off guard.
Dallas were really being put under the cosh by a dominant Stoke performance, and had Crouch managed to head a yard either side of Fernandez shortly before the hour mark then a two-goal cushion would have been opened.
Cameron, who looked to be enjoying a more attacking full-back role, went equally as close moments later, planting a header wide of the post after Adam picked him out with aplomb of a centre.
The MLS side fired a couple of warning shots to remind the visitors that they wouldn’t be having it all their own way, with substitute Jonathan Top curling a strike inches over Sorensen’s crossbar.
Moments later the former Denmark international watched on as Mauro Diaz flashed an effort into the side netting as Dallas through everything they had at their Premier League opposition in search of a leveller.
Their hopes of salvaging what would in truth have been an undeserved should have been extinguished ten minutes from time after the referee awarded the Potters a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Jerome.
The striker stepped up to take the spot-kick only to see the stopper produce a superb save down to his left.
60 seconds later a slightly late Andy Wilkinson challenge incredibly drew a red card from the official, much to the dismay of the defender’s teammates.
There was a late scare for the visitors when Ramon Nunez forced Sorensen into an incredible one handed save in stoppage time with a rasping free-kick from the edge of the penalty area.
FC DALLAS: Fernandez (Seitz 46); Michel (Diaz 31 (Top 59)), Jackson (Loyd 46), Keel, John (Woodberry 63), Acosta, Benitez (Garcia 67), Watson (Ulloa 70), Ferreira (Nunez 46), Castillo (Baladez 65), Cooper (Hassli 46). Subs (Not Used): Hedges, Zobeck.
STOKE CITY: Begovic (Sorensen 46); Cameron (Keane 69), Shawcross, Huth (Shotton 73), Pieters (Wilkinson 71); Walters (Jerome 46), Whelan (Adam 46), Palacios (Wilson 71), Nzonzi (Kightly 71), Etherington (Muniesa 46); Jones (Crouch 46): Sub (Not Used): Cuvelier.
Referee: T Unkel