"Hope drowned in shadows
emerges fiercely splendid--
- Aberjhani, The River of Winged Dreams
Saturday night, FC Dallas opened the 2014 season against the Montreal Impact and won. It was a much different team than we had last year. Without the likes of David Ferreira, Kenny Cooper, and Jackson, the red hoops took the field and began anew after a disappointing end to the previous campaign. This team is made up very differently than previous versions; it seems lighter, younger and more raw than many of the Schellas Hyndman teams of yore. This team pulled out a victory where it would have been very easy to capitulate.
The first 15 minutes of the game reminded me of the terrible days of July and August of last year, but instead of giving up the goal and then giving up another and then giving up at least one more goal while not scoring any, it rose to the occasion. Pushing back against the tide, racing to the other end on the wings of Fabian Castillo and the crisp passes of Magisterial Mauro (TM pending) they fiercely dispatched the Impact.
Not only did they overcome the early adversity and put three goals past Troy Perkins, but they also never really looked like losing. From my seat in the beer garden, they seemed to have control of the match even when they didn't. There were definitely things that they need to work on; control of possession, a wobbly back line, and a lack of connection between midfield and attack, but I want to attribute much of them to early season jitters and the need for most of the players to gel together. This team looks like it has emerged from the shadows, new and reborn. We went in as Gandalf the Grey and have come out again in splendid white. I'm sure we will not always look like this, and I'm sure that our savior, Super Mauro (defender of Princess Peach and all that is good and holy) will not always leave us breathless to anoint him as our once and future king, but man does it feel good to do so right now.
The team looks to be in good hands on the field with Oscar Pareja steering the good ship Toros, but I have been even more impressed with the front office. FCD week was a wonderful series of events and the people who planned them should be applauded for helping to build up the excitement of the new season. I was at Cocktails and Cleats along with about 1000 other people (!) and it was a great event. I don't know of too many teams in this league or any other that would have an event that large open to the public and free for everyone.
Historically, Dallas hasn't been a market that sells out soccer games week in and week out, and for a few years, we were competing with Chivas USA for the wooden spoon in attendance. It was rough and the team seemed like they didn't know how to get out of the rut. For the last few years however, we have seen huge leaps in attendance and have broken our own records for attendance at individual matches as well as for the season. The marketing team and ticket sales teams have really worked to build up the attendance base and have tried almost anything to get people into the park. Yes, you can really tell they are working hard (I almost saw sweat dripping from the package my season tickets came in), and sometimes the things that they try really don't stick (remember March to the Match?) but you can tell that they are extremely passionate about this team and this market.
Overall, this season has started out better than anyone could have hoped (weather withstanding) and I am very excited about the future of this team. Hope is a powerful thing that can give the highest highs and the lowest lows. Right now, I'm riding the high and ignoring all pretenses of a low.
Now, a few notes on this column and what I hope to achieve. First of all, I am not an expert at this. We have many of those on this blog and others across the highways of the interweb, and my feelings about the team will always be filtered through the Budweiser soaked goggles of the beer garden. Generally, those goggles are rose tinted as well and this column will always be one person's reflection on the team. If you want match recaps or in depth analysis of opta stats, you may want to click on another headline. What I would like to do in this space is to put a personal voice on all things FCD. I'm in love with this team (don't worry, my wife already knows) and there are many aspects of this experience that I feel are worthy of discussion. So, I hope to provide that with only a slight amount of hyperbole (I may or may not be naming my first child, Mauro. The middle name will be Castillo) and a healthy dose of passion.
Cheers from your man in the Beer Garden.