FC Dallas extended their remarkable run of form to 14 consecutive matches without a loss with a goalless draw against San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, California. FC Dallas earned their 41st point in 23 matches, good for third place in the Western Conference and three points shy of Real Salt Lake.
After an early barrage by San Jose, FC Dallas managed to take control of the first half of action. Only a few mistimed runs and breakdowns in the attacking third kept Dallas off the scoreboard in a half well-dominated by Dallas. Brek Shea’s open header in the 15th minute went wide of goal and Daniel Hernandez well-hit free kick was gathered at ground-level by Jon Busch keeping the score level at 0-0.
San Jose fought back to even the play in the second half and might have even taken the three points when Geovanni’s perfectly weighted pass was touched down by fellow Brazilian Eduardo inside the box. However, Eduardo’s shot was sent harmlessly outside Kevin’ Hartman’s post. Dallas shot the ball eight times in the final frame although none required a save from Busch.
The star in Dallas current streak is their defense. It all starts with Hartman at the back, who despite a few “human” bobbles here and there, always seems to come up with at least one game-changing save. His organization on set-pieces has been nearly flawless. That Dallas has continued this streak through what has become a rotating cast of central defenders makes it all the more impressive. Injuries could have been disastrous to this club, yet even when newest center back Jackson went down with a knee injury; almost-forgotten Kyle Davies emerged with a strong, confident match.
The continuity of defense rests almost solely on the shoulders of Schellas Hyndman. Hyndman’s insistence that every player on the field competes day in and day out for their position has instilled a passion in his side; players know their roles. The results are self-evident. Dallas will be looking to move their streak to 15 matches Thursday against New York Red Bulls. Think of the disaster this side could have had with all the injuries. Instead, Dallas has not given up a goal in four straight matches and only one in their last five.
Injuries may make things more difficult yet. Depending on the status of Jackson, Dallas may be left to start the second year player Davies and rookie Zach Loyd. Any more injuries will certainly send Daniel Hernandez to the back line, leaving Eric Alexander to switch positions again. Honestly, the possibilities make my head hurt, but thankfully that is what Hyndman is paid to do. Realizing that Dallas has kept the pieces in place missing Dax McCarty, Ugo Ihemelu, and George John is impressive. But how much more can this side take?
Hopefully, McCarty, Ihemelu, and John are able to come back and contribute before season’s end. Dallas is now firmly engaged in a fight with Real Salt Lake for the second-place position in the West, ensuring home-field advantage through the first round of the playoffs. But almost more important than the home-field advantage is getting these players back to match-fitness and in the first team. Injuries are part the game, but it’s important to Dallas’ chances that these players are available for selection in the physically and mentally demanding world of MLS playoff soccer.
Just seven matches remain in the 2010 regular season, with much left to decide. The September grind continues. Dallas has had a remarkable- even impressive- season. Injuries are a real and important part of the game. The question is whether Dallas can continue to overcome and maintain their momentum.