The other night I woke up in a startle. It was something that had never happened before. I had my first dream about FC Dallas. I actually never remember my dreams, but this was so vivid, so clear that it felt so real. Waking up and realizing the events hadn’t happened yet was a huge let down.
Here’s the situation. It was playoff time, the Western Conference Finals. FC Dallas were one game away from advancing to the MLS Cup Finals for the second time in franchise history. The opponent? The inventors of soccer, tifos, supporter’s groups and bacon wrapped shrimp, the Seattle Sounders.
Irritably, the dream started with the second leg of the match up with FC Dallas playing hosts in the first game. So the game was away, and somehow, the series aggregate was level at 0-0. Despite the tall order of having to win in Seattle, there was a huge of optimism surrounding the club, the fans and writing staff. There was genuine belief that FCD could do it.
Remarkably, the Big D crew had all made the trip. Some of us were posted in the stands to capture live footage of the game, the atmosphere. A few of us were planted on the sideline to see if we can provide live updates via Twitter about what Oscar Pareja was thinking. And the rest of us hunkered up in the press box to do press boxy things.
Dallas started the match as if the entirety of the game was just 15 minutes; pedal to the metal and going at break neck speeds. None of us had seen FCD play with that much speed, intensity and urgency than ever before. It felt like the way a team would play in the last 5 minutes when they’re chasing a goal and Pareja flipped the script and tried to stun Seattle by setting the tone of the game from the outset: Dallas is here to play.
Despite starting with a flurry and managing to put 10 shots on target in the opening 15 minutes, Dallas was unable to break the deadlock. Stefan Frei was as his usual ridiculous playoff heroics, and was doing his best Dikembe Mutumbo performance and swatting away every FCD attempt. This was getting frustrating.
Egregiously, Seattle struck first, against the run of play. Everyone’s favorite MLS ref, Baldomero “Holy” Toledo, called a penalty against Dallas on a Roman Torres flop off a corner. Nicolas Lodeiro had the audacity to panenka his attempt and put Seattle up 1-0.
Groans in the press box ensued after the penalty as we also got word from our guys in the stands that they were being pelted by Starbucks Espresso Roast coffee beans. (I dunno.... I guess that’s how they celebrate goals in Seattle in my dreamland?) We told the guys to bag as much as they could, and we’d give it a homeless shelter on our way out. But still, it was pretty annoying to deal with that after a falling behind on a dumb penalty call.
Rather than folding and pouting about the result, Mauro Diaz called the entire team over to the bench. Thankfully we had Jose and Ben down there as our sideline reporters and they could understand the Spanish and translated it for us. The rough translation was, “Stay focused. Stay calm. We owned them and we can keep it up. We just need one goal. Feed me the ball. I will find you. Busca la forma.”
Energy and enthusiasm filled the players and the Dallas faithful. We got the word out via social media to the fans back home and there was a collective cry coming loud and clear from the Lone Star State, “Don’t Mess with Texas!” The team found Diaz with precision, frequency and urgency. Mauro did Super Mauro things and started carving the Seattle defense like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Even though Dallas kept the pressure in the Seattle half, they were still unable to find a way to generate any chances as the Sounders collapsed with all 11 men behind the ball. Disaster struck as an wayward clearance from Seattle took an awkward bounce just outside the penalty area. Matt Hedges and Jesse Gonzalez were both caught in no man’s land, and neither made a play for the ball and Jordan Morris volleyed the loose ball into the open net.
Soccer can be such a cruel game. But as crazy as that was, nothing prepared us for what was going to happen next. Morris had gotten behind the defense and around Gonzalez. In a last ditch effort, Atiba Harris lunged to break up the play but caught Morris in the heals. Red card. Penalty. Down 3-0. Half-time.
Utter dismay filled the Big D staff on Slack, along with some choice four letter words. We couldn’t believe what was happening before our eyes, but Oscar Pareja walked into the locker room with a smirk on his face. Despite the odds, it seemed like Papi had something up his sleeve.
Cristian Colman, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira emerged from the locker room and subbed in at halftime. Dallas was shifting to a three man defense and going 3-4-2 the rest of the way. At this point, what was the difference between losing 3-0 or 8-0?
Kicking off the second half was absolute chaos. After three touches, Pomykal spotted Frei off his line and launched an attempt from the halfway line. Within 8 seconds Dallas had scored while most of the fans were still making their way back to their seats. Minutes later Diaz played a delicious through ball from inside the FCD half to a streaking Maximiliano Urruti, who found Colman for an easy wide open tap in.
Seattle was absolutely stunned as their precious three goal lead was now down to one. One more goal, and Dallas would break the tie-breaker on away goals. Dallas supporters in Seattle were roaring, the ECS were stunned into silence.
But the fast start and being a man down started to take its toll. Dallas players were running on adrenaline and fumes at this point. Minute after minute, pass after pass, it seemed that Dallas was waning and unable to find the grip back into the game.
All seemed lost when Seattle found the back of the net again in the 84th minute and the stadium erupted with coffee beans. But, alas, the linesman’s flag was up! Offside! There was hope yet!
Laptops were being typed furiously as the press struggled to capture the insanity that was unfolding before all of us. But nothing would prepare us for the dying seconds as the game ticked on towards stoppage time.
Lifting a hopeful ball into the penalty box, Reggie Cannon put the hopes of the club up in the air in the dying seconds. It was a good ball, but Seattle had 8 men in the box and it would take a fortuitous bounce or two for a Dallas player to latch on to the end of it. A whiff. A bounce. A GOAL! COLMAN had done it! The striker lashed at a bouncing ball with his left foot and buried it! 3-3 in the 94th minute!
Seconds later, the final whistle. I awoke from my dream. Unsure whether to laugh or cry. Is this foreshadowing for 2018? I guess only time will tell.