Weary Dallas suck it up, grind out win in "The Oven"
FRISCO, Texas — Annually, during the summer stretch of games, heat is always a topic of discussion when playing FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park.
But FCD’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Sunday was won in a heat that had never before been felt at the stadium commonly referred to as “The Oven.” Game-time temperatures reached a new stadium record of 102 degrees and Pizza Hut Park literally played to its nickname.
“It was definitely one of the hotter games in my career,” said center back George John. “I love it. I know that the other team dreads it even more so. I personally relish it. Our record shows that we do well and have been successful.”
And John speaks the truth. In the teams past nine home games, FC Dallas have recorded a shutout in eight of them to rack up a league-best 12 clean sheets on the year.
“You say home-field advantage, but we are feeling this heat just as much,” added John’s center-back partner, Ugo Ihemelu. “You just have to be mentally tough and keep grinding out and you can’t let your body dictate how you play.”
FC Dallas train earlier in the morning during the summer so as to avoid the Texas temperature, but Sunday’s game — where, fortunately for the players, was played mostly in the shade for the second half — was unlike any other.
“Today, I really had to tell myself to keep going,” said Ihemelu. “Usually it’s just instinct and you see a guy running and you track him, but this game was one of those games where you have to tell your body to run with him.”
FC Dallas received a slice of fortune two days before the birthday of their founding owner Lamar Hunt as midfielder Marvin Chávez had his 26th minute shot deflect off defender Heath Pearce and past Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.
“The heat was overwhelming,” said Chávez, who scored in his second consecutive game. “But the important thing is the attitude of the group and it was good to have success this afternoon on the field.”
In addition to the heat, FC Dallas were playing less than 24 hours after landing in Dallas following their flight-delayed stay in El Salvador after their first leg win in the CONCACAF Champions League play-in match against Alianza FC.
“Some of the guys were even teasing about Chivas being the home team because they were here longer than us,” said head coach Schellas Hyndman. “But again, I keep talking about the character of the team and they showed it again today.”
Hyndman added that the team didn’t attempt to reschedule Sunday’s game because, “We didn’t think we would get very far with that so we didn’t even try.”
Travel issues, the high temperatures and exhaustion aside, FC Dallas ground out their fifth 1-0 victory of the season to move within three points of the Western Conference leading LA Galaxy before their showdown next Saturday in Southern California.
“We were weary,” admitted John. “Walking in the locker room, I’d be lying if I told you I felt a 100 percent physically. But we sucked it up as a team and got there out and did what we were supposed to do.”
Robert Casner covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @FCDallasBeatGuy