After eight months of great soccer, FC Dallas’ “dream season” could be undone by one bad injury and one rough playoff game away from home against the Seattle Sounders.
FC Dallas has been one of the most consistent teams in Major League Soccer in 2016. For the last few months of the season, the team stood at the top of the standings. They finished up with a five-game undefeated run to claim the Supporters Shield, awarded to the team who stood atop the regular-season standings at the end, against the LA Galaxy in the final game of the regular season.
Having also defeated New England Revolution in the US Open Cup final in September, Dallas fans dreamed of a domestic treble and raising their first-ever MLS Cup. The team has previously only made one trip to the MLS Cup Final, in 2010 against the Colorado Rapids.
“It’s fine to dream about it, but for them, it’s just one game at a time,” explained FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja after the end of the successful regular season. “It’s a lot, but now we have the next objective, and it’s the playoffs, and obviously that will make us feel that the treble is possible.”
“I think we deserved it. We were on top most of the season. We’re a good team,” added striker Tesho Akindele.
The path to postseason success became more complicated when influential midfielder Mauro Diaz, who was the lynchpin of Dallas offense (13 assists and five goals), went down with an Achilles injury in stoppage time in the second to last game of the regular season. Filling the midfield gap left by Diaz, the team is counting on midfielders Ryan Hollingshead and Michael Barrios to open up the attack.
Initial results were lacking. In the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals, FC Dallas ended up losing 3-0 against the Sounders in a loud and intimidating atmosphere in Seattle. The team surrendered three second half goals.
FC Dallas will have to count on a stout defense that delivered 12 shutouts during the regular season (second only to the Colorado Rapids 13 in MLS) and for their offense to strike quickly against the Sounders at home on Sunday to start digging themselves out of the hole.
Dallas strikers Tesho Akindele and Maxi Urruti will have to put the ball in the net. Indeed, a lot of pressure will be on the Argentinan Urruti, who led the team’s attack with nine goals, to have a productive game. He does have the post-season experience after playing last season for the previous MLS champions, the Portland Timbers.
But even without Diaz’s injury, it has proven increasingly difficult for the Supporters Shield winner to raise the MLS Cup. Since 2003 only two teams, the 2008 Columbus Crew and 2011 Los Angeles Galaxy, have been able to achieve the result. On Sunday despite facing 8/13 odds, FC Dallas will hope to continue their march to be the third team.