Heading into 2011, the promise of Champions League soccer had all the FC Dallas diehards pumped for the summer. While some teams have taken the Champions League less than seriously in the past, sending out backup squads for the games, Schellas went full-bore into the competition sending out the starters for all the midweek games despite a packed schedule and suddenly thin lineup.
It was a strategy that paid huge dividends for FCD, pitching shutouts in the first four games of the competition while advancing through the qualifying round and scoring historic wins in Mexico and Toronto, topping the group with 6 points from two road games. Dallas was cruising in Champions League with three home games remaining and just 4 points needed to secure passage to the knockout round. While some of us worried that overuse of the starters in August could come back to bite the team towards the end of the season, at least there would be the knockout round of the Champions League as a reward. Then things started going south.
A 1-1 draw at home to Tauro FC was brushed off as an anomaly while a 2-0 loss to the Pumas starters was simply getting beaten by a better team. The Dallas reserves disappointingly laid an egg in Panama losing 5-3 to Tauro, but there was always the home game left against Toronto FC to cure all ills.
In their last 10 games against Toronto FC, Dallas was a whopping 7-0-3, having beaten TFC all three times they'd played them in 2011. While this was a new look TFC side under Dutch manager Aron Winter, I think most of the Dallas faithful went into this game feeling very confident Dallas could get the draw they needed to ensure passage through the group stage.
Things didn't exactly go to plan as a tired Dallas team was comprehensively broken down by the fresher and more motivated Canadian side. A Danny Koevermans goal sent TFC into halftime with a 1-0 lead and Ecuadorian Joao Plata ripped the defense to shreds in the second half scoring twice to give Toronto a 3-0 victory.
So why do I list this as the #1 moment that shaped 2011? It's simply because if you end up sacrificing the MLS season like Dallas did to succeed in the Concacaf Champions League, you can't get 1 point from your last four group games and go out after winning your first two contests. Missed opportunity is one of the themes of 2011 and for FCD, no game exemplified that more than the final Champions League game.
FC Dallas was not able to bounce back from that loss, losing their final two games to end a once promising 2011 on a sour note.
As we've discussed in the
What did you think of the countdown? Do I have some moments listed too high or did I miss a big moment of the season?