When FC Dallas hosts the final of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup next Tuesday, September 13, against the New England Revolution at Toyota Stadium, it will be a big deal for several reasons.
For one, FCD, who is in its third season under current head coach Oscar Pareja, is looking to win the Open Cup for the second time in franchise history. Pareja is a fan favorite who has retained, if not grown, his cult status among the Dallas supporters since being hired to turn things around in January 2014.
In 1997, the Dallas Burn, FCD’s former name prior to a 2005 rebrand, won the Open Cup in its second year as a franchise. Then, there’s the whole aspect of FCD founding owner Lamar Hunt’s name appearing on the tournament and winning this event to honor “Uncle Lamar” as well as son Dan Hunt, FCD’s President, is of the utmost importance for the club.
It’s simple,” Pareja said. “It’s a great opportunity. We have gotten the chance. This opportunity is well deserved to participate in the Open Cup Final. We have it at home and we’ll try to do whatever is possible to get it. That’s what we can control.”
FCD, who is 10-0-4 in league play this season at home, has played in the Open Cup Final twice before and lost on both occasions. In 2005, Dallas faced the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Home Depot Center in suburban LA and lost 1-0.
Pareja, who was in his final season as a player in 2005 before transitioning into coaching the following season, played in that game, but it’s not a match he admits he remembers very well.
It was a year that was emotional because it was my last year,” Pareja recalled. “That I remember. That [my plan to retire] was already the idea [by the time we played that game].”
FCD has already faced the Revolution once this season, defeating them 4-2 at Gillette Stadium back on May 21. But with championship hardware on the line in Frisco next week, Dallas captain Matt Hedges knows this will be a much different game this time around.
It’s a huge opportunity for us, first shot at a trophy and I feel like this club needs to start producing trophies. We’ve had a couple good years, now it’s time for us to start winning things. This is our first chance of the season, we need to do it,” Hedges said.
Those chances Hedges speaks of have come recently in the Open Cup as FCD lost in the semifinals of the 2014 tournament to fellow Major League Soccer member the Philadelphia Union on penalty kicks, a stinging defeat which lingers with those who experienced it firsthand.
We’ve had some disappointments [in this tournament],” Hedges said. “Two years ago, we went out in the semifinals on penalties. That was a huge blow because we were one kick away from the finals at that time. Yeah, it’s kind of like a revenge thing for us. We’ve gotten far before, but we really want to get the whole way and do it.”
This game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 but due to that broadcast, the game won’t start until 9 PM. But even with such a late start, ticket sales have been brisk, and as of a week before the game, less than 1,000 tickets were remaining. No one is happier about seeing Toyota Stadium full for such a big match than FCD’s coach and captain.
That’s great,” Pareja said of the game being a near-sellout. “It’s fantastic to see the stadium full for our events and especially for this one, it means a lot.”
Hedges adds, “That’s great. Our fans are huge, they give us a lot of energy out there. To have that [a packed house] in a Cup Final will be massive.”
However, this won’t be Dallas’ lone chance at hardware this season. FCD also leads the race for the MLS Supporter’s Shield, given to the team finishing with the best regular-season record. Dallas has never won the Shield but finished second in 2006.
Dallas is also participating in the CONCACAF Champions League, an international tournament featuring teams from North and Central America. FCD is also considered a favorite to win MLS Cup, the league’s championship game which will be played on December 10, hopefully in Frisco.