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No team in MLS history has ever won the domestic treble of the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, and MLS Cup.
As October enters its final week, FC Dallas are one step closer to realizing that dream.
For the first time in the club’s 21-year history, they secured the Supporters’ Shield, which is designated for the best record in MLS. Dallas secured a 0-0 tie with L.A. Galaxy this weekend, and because the Colorado Rapids also tied with the Houston Dynamo, Dallas walked away from their game in L.A. at the top of the table.
Now they will set their eyes on the top prize in MLS.
While Dallas may not know their opponent yet in the MLS playoffs, they do know they will be playing in the friendly confines of Toyota Stadium for as long as they can stay in the playoffs. Considering Dallas was 12-1-4 in Frisco this season, I’d say they’re pretty confident in their chances to secure victories in their home stadium. While they may not have the highest attendance marks in MLS, Dallas has developed a passionate group of fans that give them a definite advantage every time they step on the field in north Texas. They will certainly need those fans to turn up in droves during these playoffs.
Dallas may have been the best team in MLS this season, but on the penultimate day of the season, the team was decimated by an injury to its best player. Mauro Diaz, the Argentine midfielder, and de facto number 10 for FC Dallas, went down with an Achilles’ injury late in the game against Seattle and will most certainly be out for the playoffs after undergoing surgery. While the team will use Mauro as an emotional rallying point, they will undoubtedly miss him on the field, as he provided most of their creative spark and was their top creator on set pieces.
Interestingly enough, Dallas has been in a similar situation this very season. Fabian Castillo, the winger considered by many to be the top talent in the FC Dallas system, effectively demanded a transfer out of Dallas this July, and ended up on Trabonzpor in Turkey, leaving FC Dallas without time to find a replacement designated player.
Nonetheless, the Dallas team picked up the slack, found a committee of replacements for Castillo’s production on the wing, and went on to win both the Open Cup and the Shield. Now they have their eyes set on MLS’ top prize.
While Mauro is perhaps more irreplaceable than Castillo, the beauty of this Dallas team is it does not rely on major stars and a top-heavy roster the way MLS teams have in the past. Dallas is a heavily balanced team, where no player is really the star, and depth is more important than having star players. It’s the reason they have been able to replace Castillo, and it’s the reason they haven’t been counted out of the playoffs yet, despite losing their best player for its entirety.
In fact, even if Dallas doesn’t pull off the treble, they have established a model for sustained MLS success. This team is primarily built through the academy, as well as elite scouting in the undervalued markets of Central and South America. Both technical director Fernando Clavijo and manager Oscar Pareja have been instrumental in developing this organizational strategy, and now they, the team, and the fans can reap the benefits.
Without Mauro, this journey certainly will not be easy, but Dallas has appeared to be a team on a mission all season, and it’s doubtful that any injury will stop one of the most dominant teams in MLS history.