FC Dallas ended a 19-year trophy drought yesterday with a 4-2 win against New England Revolution. A high-intense encounter saw 4 first half goals, the first for each side consisting of the great pace, power and skill both sides are renowned for. Ultimately, it was FC Dallas’ day, and the US Open Cup is theirs. But could this just be the first step to further success this season?
“It means a lot,” Dallas coach Pareja said following Tuesday’s victory. “It proves to ourselves that we can win it. People talk about a team that has been in the league for so many years without winning. It gives us confidence to keep fight for the Shield, to keep fighting for qualification for the playoffs. And hopefully then we have the opportunity to fight for MLS Cup, which is another objective we have out there.”
No MLS side has won the US Open Cup, MLS Cup and Supporters Shield in a single season. Many have been close, the closest being DC United in 1997, only losing the US Open Cup to Dallas on Penalties 3-5. But Dallas certainly look capable, building on last season with players like Mauro Diaz improving even more, his Cup performance last night being the epitome of that. Scoring once and assisting the other three goals on the night, Diaz provided a masterclass in passing and possession that few can envision coming, much less dealing with. It’s fair to say that although last season’s star winger Fabian Castillo moving to Trabzonspor on loan last month, a move completed with no time to bring in any replacement, Diaz has stepped up his own game to compensate. The last minute acquisition of free agent Carlos Ruiz, an MLS veteran, including playing for FC Dallas, will bring experience to the squad as it enters the final furlongs of the season.
Dallas currently sit atop the Western Conference, albeit played two fixtures more than the Colarado Rapids, who will overtake should they win those games in hand, but regardless have a real chance at the Supporter’s Shield.
But the path will not be easy, given the upcoming schedule. Their 5 remaining fixtures, along with 2 CONCACAF Champions League fixtures in between, will be played over a congested period of 14 days, starting this Saturday at New York City FC, with designated player Frank Lampard hitting form and match-winning goals, it is indeed a stern first test following the US Open Cup success. Dallas’ away form is not the worst, but they have lost 7 of those 14 on the road, with only 2 draws. Dallas will also be facing LA Galaxy TWICE in that period, the home tie only 3 days after facing Guatemalan side Suchitepequez in the CCL, and again at the StubHub Center for the final game of the regular season, where the Galaxy are still unbeaten. Simply put, it is not an easy run in, with even an MLS Cup qualification spot still not mathematically guaranteed at this stage.
Given FC Dallas’ stellar home advantage record, having only lost once at the Toyota Stadium this season (ironically to the Rapids, despite being the better side) puts them in with a shout at the MLS Cup, where home advantage is prevalent. In fact only the New York Red Bulls and current MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers have as many wins at home, so we could well see all 3 challenging much like last year.
Despite the pressure of almost 20 years without any silverware, FC Dallas aren’t settling for just one cup this season; they want it all. And after 2 consecutive play-off-reaching campaigns, just missing out on the Western Conference championship at the finals stage last year, this win could be what pushes Oscar Pareja’s side to make it third time lucky in 2016.