Last season, FC Dallas crossed two major things off its to-do list…
In September, FCD won the 2016 US Open Cup championship, a tournament named for the club’s founding owner, Lamar Hunt, for the second time as a franchise, defeating New England at Toyota Stadium. Dallas’ only previous Open Cup title had come in 1997 when the club was in its second year in Major League Soccer and was known as the Dallas Burn. Winning the Open Cup netted FCD an automatic berth in the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL), the third such berth in franchise history.
However, Dallas wasn’t done there. In late October, FCD also finished the regular season with MLS’ best record, earning the MLS Supporter’s Shield for the first time. Dallas had come close to winning the Shield in 2015, but was edged out by New York on a tiebreaker.
FCD head coach Oscar Pareja, who has been on the job since January 2014, has always said that the club’s goal is to win trophies. Well, it did twice in 2016 and now FCD is looking for more.
On Wednesday, March 15th, at 7pm, Dallas could take a huge step toward another with a strong performance in a CCL semifinal match with CF Pachuca of Liga MX. This club features defender Omar Gonzalez, a regular with the US National Team and also a Dallas native.
Playing Los Tuzos (the Gophers), considered the Yankees of Mexican soccer for both their recent success and their tremendous following, is always a tough endeavor. However, Dallas has proven repeatedly under Pareja that it has a sometimes-uncanny ability to rise above any challenge whether that adversity has come from injuries to key players, playing a hectic schedule, or facing a tough opponent.
That effusive optimism and glass half-full mentality the club has clearly starts with the always-positive Pareja.
Just being in the semifinals, it’s huge,” Pareja said. “It’s a huge step for the franchise and for the community. Being able to bring Pachuca here not for a friendly game, but for something that matters this much is great.”
Pachuca promises to bring plenty of fans to Toyota Stadium on Wednesday night. This match should have an energetic atmosphere and will be an entertaining matchup between an FCD squad picked as a favorite to win MLS Cup in 2017 and Los Tuzos, the current heavyweights of Mexican soccer.
Pareja and FCD welcome the presence of the Pachuca supporters, but “Papi” knows the Dallas backers will be out in full force to help spur them to victory.
I expect a lot of people. Obviously, the more we can get in the stands the better,” Pareja said. “This group of players is represented well by the fans.”
But even after hosting such a big match in the middle of the week, there will be little time for FCD to rest or recover because on Saturday, March 18th, New England returns to Frisco for the 2017 MLS Home Opening match.
FCD has already played twice in league competition, winning its season opener at Los Angeles two weeks ago, and playing Sporting Kansas City to a 0-0 draw last Saturday, giving Dallas three of a possible four points to start the season. That’s a rock-solid way to start the season, especially for a club that has struggled to win away from Frisco.
But Dallas captain Matt Hedges speaks for the entire team when he says there’s something special about hosting two matches this week, including the MLS home opener, and walking out onto the field and seeing plenty FCD supporters cheering them on to victory.
It’s an awesome, awesome feeling. A huge motivator having all those people out there to support you,” Hedges said. “The level of play; the beer garden; the fans really get into it. It’s fun to watch, and even during the game, you can hear their chants. A lot of them are pretty funny. It’s enjoyable to have our awesome atmosphere in this park.”