By Will Martin
Less than 48 hours removed from two events that drew incredibly well Saturday night in Frisco and in Ft. Worth.
Fans of MLS scoccer in North Texas have reason to be excited about the current state of their team.
You may recall that in 2012 overall team health was of utmost importance and hence was the biggest issue in a campaign that left many disappointed and FC Dallas woefully short on the win column. To wit, no playoff appearance.
What a difference a new season can make!
Saturday night a capacity crowd of 20,465 packed FC Dallas Park for a showdown with the defending MLS Champion L.A. Galaxy.
They with the talents of Landon Donovan, Mike Magee and Carlo Cudicini. The last of the unbeatens in the MLS at 2-0-2.
FC Dallas entered play with a 4-1-1 record. A 2-0 lead last week in Toronto fell to a 2-all tie as Toronto FC came up big to earn a point. Likewise for the team from Frisco.
It was a sunny albeit breezy Saturday afternoon/evening with a strong gust blowing from east to west inside the park. You actually saw some kicks get held up in the air during kick around and warm ups.
George John returned to play after suffering a concussion last week north of the border, ready to help bolster a defensive line that featured players like Matt Hedges and Zac Loyd. Raul Fernandez was your starting goalie. FC Dallas at home a perfect 3-0 with a couple of shutouts.
There was also a national TV audience to witness what would transpire this evening. Remember that four weeks ago FC Dallas regained ‘El Capitan’ after a dramatic 3-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo. The very team the Galaxy defeated to become MLS champions.
If the name Bruce Arena rings a bell it is because he indeed was the man to lead the U.S. in the World Cup of 2002 when interest was at an all time high. This came to mind after the fact. Prior to the match I took two laps around the outer part of the field and a was taken aback by a number of things:
1.The number of microphones that were laid out across the field. All four corners and at the 20 yard line heading toward the goal. Back in my day you had 1 guy who carried what was called a parabolic to pick up the sound. That poor guy walked everywhere the snap went. Technology sure has gotten better over time.
2.Hearing the buzz build within the park when Landon Donovan took the field. That was an interesting moment (to watch the kids from multiple youth soccer teams) stand and observe in awe.
3.Watching the number of shots Chris Seitz and Raul Fernandez took in practice working up a sweat.
4.Sensing the energy that emanated from the FC Dallas Snakepit and Beer Garden. Taking tailgating to a new level.
5.How worked up coach Schellas Hyndman appeared 30 minutes prior to kickoff as I managed a two minute interview with him.
5a.Viewing how lighthearted soccer drills appear an hour before start time and noticing how intense the dialogue gets as stretching and running become more deliberate.
6.Not seeing Bruce Arena smile once. The same intensity I remember from World Cup 2002.
The match itself saw a lot of great mid field defending and change of possession. After a scoreless first half FC Dallas had an opportunity to draw first blood in the 60th minute on a penalty kick after a Galaxy Leonardo flag on Blas Perez.
Kenny Cooper’s attempt to give FC Dallas a lead denied by Carlo Cudicini who accurately followed the direction Cooper tried to aim.
After a few minutes the Galaxy would get a penalty kick of their own when George John was flagged for making John Villareal trip inside the box. Landon Donovan (making his first start of the season) with a chance to be the hero with his goal try.
Denied! Courtesy of Raul Fernandez, diving left and deflecting the Donovan drill which fired up the 20,465 in attendance-the highest of the season.
Late game heroics have been the standard with FC Dallas games. In the final 15 minutes of games we have been privy to 10 goals. Four by FC Dallas and 6 by the opponent. For the seventh straight time the opposition has been shut out in the first half.
Oh, those late game heroics!
In the 87th minute it appeared that FC Dallas had the 1-0 on a header by Eric Hassli which actually hit the crossbar. The ensuing rebound would hit the head of George John and go in for an FC Dallas score in the 88th minute.
Things got dicey for a moment. Up in the press box we wondered by John went down as if he had been shot. Did he hit his head on the goal post and this rick another concussion? Nope. It was an idiot who fired off an aluminum beer can that found the back of George John’s head. He joked about it after the game.
Bruce Arena on the other hand was not a happy camper, period. He has never liked to lose and felt like this was a game L.A. should have won.
Schellas Hyndman was content with the overall effort by his team in improving to 5-1-1. It was the 4th shutout of the season. Really no surprise with the play of ‘Superman’ at goal. The fans went home happy.
The viewing audience just witnessed something special and I reminded Coach Hyndman that as a first place team he was now the hunted and not the hunter. After all, you have now defeated the two MLS finalists from 2012.
Coach Hyndman was more than okay with that. Back to back games with the Vancouver Whitecaps this Saturday the 20th at 7pm and again on the 27th in British Columbia. FC Dallas has now created some breathing room in the Western Conference. A great start to the first six weeks.