Yes, last night's loss to an amateur Charlotte Eagles (USL Pro) in the third round of the US Open Cup was humiliating for fans of FC Dallas. So much wailing and gnashing of teeth, calling for Hyndman's firing and one guy wondering if FCD could actually fold (love knee-jerk reactions). But really, what did anyone expect to happen last night? Have you seen this team play in the last few months, not to mention the injury list?
The realities are that the US Open Cup just doesn't provide the incentive needed to overcome the fact that the MLS season is too long and MLS rosters too small. USOC matches are total "no win" situations for MLS clubs. They are expected to leave with easy wins, all while finding ways to use the matches to rest starters and time for bench and reserve players. But history shows us that there are rarely easy wins, even in the early rounds, and that the differences between MLS and lower divisions are small enough that MLS sides fielding lessor squads are in a for a battle.
It's a dirty secret, but when you talk to MLS personnel, players and coaches you find that, in general, the USOC is a terrible burden. It's not that anyone doesn't want to participate, per say, its just that the timing combined with the hardships of the MLS season are just too much to overcome when you realize what really is at stake. The Lamar Hunt trophy is only pretty, the prize money is pretty meager and all that is left is the CCL spot. That last thing is a valuable prize, yes, but there are other avenues to that same place, and those same roads also lead to league glory with no additional matches.
Seven MLS sides fell out in the third round last night. From teams struggling like Dallas and LA, to teams that have been in good form (RSL, Columbus). If there was ever a bellwether that clearly states where MLS players put value on the USOC, last night was it.
Watch Jason Kries' post match comments of last night where he talks about his players "not wanting to win enough". While I think Kries means what he says, I believe that he knows that his players feel like there is little to gain and more to lose from the USOC. Other than club pride (and I think that may be more of a mythical thing in MLS than people want to admit), what USOC gives MLS players to want to put out 100 percent effort is pretty insubstantial. I think people involved in MLS at all levels in different departments all know this. Even the fans know it. USOC games, by large, are attendance duds.
Dallas fans have a lot more to worry about than crashing out of the USOC. There are some harsh realities facing this club like the seemingly impossible task of going a streak that will gather them the points needed to make the playoffs. We've all been waiting for Ferreria's return, but everyone needs to remind themselves the man hasn't played the game for almost 14 months and counting. Is it even realistic to think he can return to a form that can lead this team to a winning streak this season? And if David Ferreira returns to MVP form right away, in any way does that do something to overcome Daniel Hernandez's struggles with age, pace and time? Or spur Brek Shea find his health, and more importantly, his touch, before too long?
Last night's loss was like poking your finger in a bullet hole and wiggling it around - terribly painful - the real pain is the already existing bullet hole. We could talk forever about the creation of that wound - roster decisions, injuries, tactics, player form - but its there, and it was bleeding long before last night. Not having to play in more ill-timed USOC matches likely is more of a win for Dallas (and most of the other six MLS clubs) than fans want to admit, but its true.