So what did all those wins and draws in the FC Dallas 19-game unbeaten streak earn them? A third seed in the West, where they have to meet a Real Salt Lake team that is virtually untouchable at home, and probably the odds-on favorite to hoist their second straight MLS Cup.
Of course, Dallas has spent most of the 2010 season defying the odds. Can they do it one more time and take the champs down in their own building (or at least do enough over two legs)? Unfortunately, probably not.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Real Salt Lake: 15-4-11, 56 pts. – 2nd in Western Conference
FC Dallas: 12-4-14, 50 pts. – 3rd in Western Conference
REGULAR SEASON MATCHUPS
Dallas 2-0 Salt Lake, July 17
Salt Lake 2-0 Dallas, October 16
KEY PLAYER (OBVIOUS)
David Ferreira – He doesn’t always dominate games the way you’s want an MVP candidate to, but seemingly every time Dallas does something offensively, Ferreira is somewhere in the movement, finishing the regular season with eight goals and nine assists. If Dallas is to pull the upset, you’d figure Ferreira was in the middle of a couple of nice goals.
Alvaro Saborio – He’s not talked about as much as some of the other strikers in the league, but he scored 12 goals and has a great pedigree in Costa Rica. For my money, he’s probably the best pure striker in MLS: big, strong, and can finish his chances. He doesn’t need many of them to contribute.
KEY PLAYER (NOT SO OBVIOUS)
Kevin Hartman – OK, full disclosure, I’m not the biggest Hartman fan, at least this season. He’s done fine and has very good stats, but he’s not among the top five keepers in MLS, and now that he’s missed a month after the now infamous Thierry Henry incident, who knows how sharp he is? He’s still better than ultra-shaky Dario Sala, so Dallas and their fans may find out the hard way.
Nat Borchers – People are putting Jamison Olave in their MLS Best XI, but not Borchers (yea, I’m looking at you, Grant Wahl) probably haven’t watched RSL night in and night out this season. Borchers has been the most consistent (after getting subbed off in the season opener in March, Borchers has played every minute in the last 29 regular season games) defender in the league, leading the way for a squad that conceded a league-low (by a decent margin) 20 goals this season. Borchers isn’t flashy, but he may be the reason if RSL repeats.
KEY PLAYER (SUBTLE)
Marvin Chavez – I guess Schellis Hyndman is going to play Chavez over Brek Shea, at least in the opener, which is somewhat shocking to me. The Honduran has been decent, but he only has two goals and two assists, and it would seem Shea gives you a much better upside offensively. Which you can remind me of when Chavez scores Saturday.
Robbie Findley – Yes, a guy who started in the World Cup for the United States has made our subtle list. I guess that shows progress for MLS, no?
Findley has been off his game, but he’s going to get a few chances in his minutes on the field. If he can take a couple, Dallas will probably have no chance to win this tie.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Number of miles between Frisco (home of Pizza Hut Park) and Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers). So it’s cutting it close, but you can make the MLS playoffs and the World Series Saturday. I do fear the attendance may be dreadful, though, and not in Arlington.
We’ve known this series was coming for a while, but – although it will feature two of the top teams in the league this season – I’m not expecting the most attractive 180 minutes.
Jason Kreis will probably play it close to the vest (or very nice suit) in the away leg, and I don’t think Dallas has enough to break them down.
That might set up Dallas trying to do the same thing in the second leg, so chances might be few and far between. I think RSL, especially if they go back to Utah even, will have enough to get the job done.
Salt Lake 1-0 on aggregate – Eventually, Saborio breaks down stubborn Dallas resistance. Let’s hope it’s not a goalkeeping error.