FC Dallas Sits Atop of MLS
It’s a good time to be an FC Dallas supporter.
After embarrassing Portland at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, 4-1, FCD leads the race for the MLS Supporter’s Shield, given to the team who finishes with the best regular-season record, with 38 points. Dallas has won five straight matches and is one game shy of equaling the franchise record of six consecutive victories set in 1999 under the franchise’s original head coach, Dave Dir.
In his second season as coach, former Dallas Burn and FCD fan favorite Oscar Pareja, who played for Dir, fields a team which plays an attractive brand of attacking soccer where Dallas kills the opposition with blazing speed, an approach that has seen FCD score 32 goals so far this season, third-most in MLS.
But this is a side that can also play defense, outscoring its foes 13-2 during its current streak, a run which has Dallas in first place heading into August for the first time since 2006, when FCD finished the regular season atop the Western Conference with 52 points and was runner-up for the Supporter’s Shield.
So, what has been the difference for a team which slogged through a six-game winless streak, including five straight of which were on the road, between mid-May and late June? Simple, a greater attention to detail on defense, a renewed focus which came after a 6-2 loss at Sporting Kansas City on July 1 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, FCD’s third four-goal loss of the season.
“Whenever you lose games like we did, it’s frustrating. We took a long, hard look at what we were doing and were doing wrong and how our organization and communication wasn’t what we wanted it to be,” Dallas captain Matt Hedges said. “We’ve been working a lot every week as a unit defensively and I think it really shows. Besides a penalty and an own goal in the last four or five games, we haven’t really been giving teams many chances.”
That renewed focus has shown up in the numbers as FCD owns a goal differential of plus-7, third-best in MLS.
FCD could still stand to be better on the road, but in Frisco they are practically unbeatable at 8-1-2 this season, tying them for second-most home victories in MLS, with a plus-10 home goal differential.
Flank midfielder Fabian Castillo, who leads the team with eight goals and is tied with Mauro Diaz for the club lead with six assists, is Dallas’ lone representative at the 2015 MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday, a fact which given FCD’s current lofty status in MLS seems like a travesty. But such individual honors are of little concern because this is a team in the truest sense of the word, a unit now closer than ever.
“That adversity, it brought us together. We were all struggling and that’s when you need each other most, is when you’re not doing well and I think the team rallied behind each other and gave each other confidence,” Hedges said.