By almost any standard, FC Dallas had a top shelf season going into the month of August. They lead the Supporters’ Shield standings. They earned a US Open Cup Final date with New England and have begun their first trek through continental championship play in 5 years. Even the academy teams swept through the USDA championships bringing home the title in their respective age groups. All was seemingly rosy minus the imperfections of following a club that doesn’t get the attention befitting a perpetual winning machine.
As the calendar flipped, the plaintive call of #sadfcdfan returned, alas. The Hall of Fame news certainly stirred the pot, a loss at Real Salt Lake (no great crime), and a snooze-inducing draw in Nicaragua certainly dampened enthusiasm. That said, if we’re being honest, the decline in mood had everything to do with the loss of Fabian Castillo.
FC Dallas’s version of Voldemort was off to Turkey, and minus a proven replacement, the pain, apathy, and cynicism of 19 trophy-less years came rushing back with a vengeance. While this didn’t really resonate with the Metroplex sports culture as a whole, FC Dallas fans were left to ponder another season with nothing to show for the early promise. Kenny Price’s fanshot encapsulates the fan base’s id and angst, and group therapy was in full effect.
The summer of our discontent and the commencement of the inevitable unraveling looked to be in full effect two Saturdays ago as FC Dallas were a bit fortunate not to be trailing more than 1-0 to our nose blind rivals to the south. FC Dallas emerged from the locker and unleashed the futból equivalent of a case of Right Guard on BBVA Compass stadium, culminating in 3 goals in 20 minutes combined with another 20 minutes of humiliating keep away and a comprehensive 3-1 victory from our boys.
FC Dallas built on that success with a 3-1 bullying of reigning MLS champs Portland Timbers, and with 6 games left, they hold a 7 point lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings. The team simply needs to preserve its home form from here to earn its first trophy in two decades, and it might have one in hand before it gets there.
The artist formerly known as the Dallas Burn is an MLS original. Despite legends like Pareja, Kreis, Vanney, and Cassar who only encompass alums currently coaching MLS sides, DFW’s trophy case is remarkably bare. With three trophies in play and the intangibles in favor of the club, the odds that FC Dallas adds fewer than 2 are slim. It’s almost certain that the club will have prime pelts for their long suffering fans, and even with that, it won’t be enough.
DFW is a saturated market. The Rangers draw because baseball. The Stars had a good run 15 years ago, but we’re kidding ourselves if we say the metroplex isn’t all about the Mavericks and the Cowboys. Each has legacy success and legacy figures. The Cowboys were the team of the 70s and the team of the 90s. The Landry-Schramm-Brandt triumvirate laid the groundwork for the most valuable sports franchise in the world. The Mavericks finally clawed their way to a title behind our favorite German and the genius of Carlisle-Nelson-Cuban. Those are the big boys, but FC Dallas has an opportunity to take a seat at the table.
For better or worse, the Hunts are luminaries in professional soccer in the United States. They backed the league when it contracted, and they backed FC Dallas in Frisco when there was no where else to play. Frisco may not be close for every one, but the city was crucial in making your team viable. I’ll confess that I never liked the trip out to Frisco, but what’s built up around the club and the stadium is impressive. I live in Los Angeles now, and you know what they have at StubHub? Nothing! It’s so unglamorous and so un-LA that I pine for the days I could drive to Frisco, park for free, and have my choice of sushi, queso, or English bar. StubHub sucks, gang.
The passive-aggressive pat on the back to the Hunts leads into a real appreciation for those they hired, and this should be included in any report card of HSG’s performance as owners. We’ve been critical of Fernando Clavijo in this forum before. The ‘Fernando Special’ has been a running joke, but if you look at the core of the team:
Figueroa (MLS FA)
Urruti (MLS FA)
Clavijo has been outstanding. He’s been crucial in building a consistent winner with a slim budget. Also, he did a lot of this while he was being treated for CANCER. How much does the base really appreciate that? No really, your GM is a survivor, and he’s one of the more inspiring people involved with the league. You’ve got to love ‘Nando.
Finally, we come to Papi. Oscar Pareja has yet to experience a season where he hasn’t led FC Dallas to the playoffs. This will be his 3rd consecutive season doing so, and it will also be the 4th consecutive season in MLS he did so at what wouldn’t be considered a ‘big club’. Papi consistently puts out a winner with a ‘Moneyball’ lineup built from youth and spare parts, and yet we’re supposed to be depressed about car rides and the lack of craft beer. Please.
Gather ye rosebuds, fans. Pareja is already being tipped as the next national team coach, and that can’t be a surprise based on his consistent success. With trophy/trophies to follow this year, Papi will be in demand. Would you trade him for a craft beer? He’s primed to become the Tom Landry of Dallas soccer.
All this is to say that FC Dallas fans are the fortunate ones. You get to bear witness to one of, if not the greatest, clubs in MLS history, and you don’t even have to fight for a ticket. Please enjoy the exclusivity- you’ve made it through the drought and now is the time to enjoy the spoils of your commitment.
The club’s success has been realized through a mix of frugality and long-term vision via the academy (not cheap). You can enjoy a primo meal and primo libation before casually strutting into the comprehensive destruction of the reining MLS Cup champs, and you get to bitch about the club’s marketing deficiencies after the fact. Enjoy it while it lasts folks. These are the salad days for the real DTID crowd.