Zip it: FC Dallas at Columbus Crew

FC Dallas made history Saturday afternoon in Columbus as they set the MLS record for consecutive unbeaten road matches in a 0-0 tie with the Columbus Crew. Dallas also extended their overall unbeaten streak to 12 matches.

Both sides saw scoring chances squandered. Dallas ‘keeper Kevin Hartman’s misplay of a free kick led to a Crew chance that was stopped only by the good work of Atiba Harris in the 10th minute. Just six minutes later, Dallas forward Milton Rodriguez played Brek Shea in behind the Crew defense, only to see Shea put the ball over the top of goal. Dallas rookie Zach Loyd saved a second half chance off the line after Hartman went down in the box and Crew ‘keeper William Hesmer made several nice saves to deny Dallas opportunities.

Dallas’ ten match unbeaten road streak has included seven ties and three wins. Overall, Dallas has seven ties and five wins in their last twelve.

It was an interesting match from the perspective of Dallas. It was the first match in recent memory that David Ferreira was merely mortal. The diminutive central attacker was unable to provide his usual heroics as his passes fell errant all afternoon. It was a reminder of just how special the player has been all season. Ferreira wasn’t bad; he was just ordinary. Perhaps that is credit to a very good Crew side, but worries that Ferreira may be finally beginning to tire in a season that has seen him play every single minute of every match has to be considered. The question of Dallas’ ability to maintain their form with a tiring Ferreira is not pleasant to consider.

Also, yellow card accumulations earned in the match means Dallas will have to soldier on without the services of Harris and captain Daniel Hernandez in the weekend’s home match against Toronto FC. Even though injuries to Dax McCarty and Ugo Ihemelu has left Dallas without the players’ services, Dallas had used the same lineup over the past three matches. Schellas Hyndman will have to come up with a new solution that can produce a result to continue the club’s excellent form.

That may be easier said than done. Ihemelu’s continued absence due to a concussion nearly proved disastrous in the match as his replacement, Zach Loyd, was beaten badly and challenged greatly by Crew winger Emilio Renteria, exposing the youth and inexperience of the young central defender. Loyd certainly never gave up on the day, but if Ihemelu cannot return, Loyd will surely be a marked man and severely challenged as a result.

Although not a win, this match further underscored Dallas newfound “culture of winning” instilled into the team by Hyndman. This club played to win the match from the onset. A less than stellar effort from the Crew, particularly in the first half, saw Dallas gain the upper hand early. A late-half surge from the Crew was answered by the club sending the match into the break scoreless. Dallas did not enjoy the advantage in the second half, but offensive-minded substitutions from Hyndman kept Dallas in an attacking mindset and the Crew honest. Dallas now plays a “90 Minutes of Hell” kind of match; there simply is no letting up, no settling for the tie.

Dallas continues to sit three points shy of second place Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference with a match in-hand with the do-or-die month of September looming. Traditionally, Dallas teams have wilted under the stresses of the Texas heat and playoff chases late in the year. Is this team different? Is Ferriera’s ordinary outing a sign that this team may be beginning to suffer the same fate as so many other FC Dallas sides?

The answer will be found over the next nine matches. With the playoffs in reach and the season heating up, many questions will be answered. What is not so certain is how.