Seventeen minutes into their clash with Real Salt Lake, you couldn't fault FC Dallas for the thought that they'd be able to get a precious three points on the road.
With their opponents down to 10 men after a red card to Abdoulie Mansally and having already hit the post once through Jackson, Dallas had a golden opportunity to press the advantage and collect a win that would've kept their postseason hopes alive.
When the final whistle sounded on a 1-1 draw, though, they found themselves nearly out of the playoff race, having had to battle from behind just to secure a point against a shorthanded RSL side.
“Well, I think for us it was disappointing being up a man for as long as we were and not scoring," FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman told reporters after the game. "Sometimes it’s hard to score against a team that is organized and sitting back on you and playing off the counters. It was a game we wanted to get points but for Salt Lake a real gutsy performance and [RSL goalkeeper] Nick Rimando made a couple of great saves … I think we needed to score in the first half and it didn’t happen.”
Perhaps the best of those saves came in the 33rd minute after Rimando somehow got a foot to a point-blank effort from Jackson after a fine feed from Fabián Castillo.
And according to Hyndman, getting to the half scoreless allowed RSL to regroup a bit and formulate a plan for playing the final 45 minutes a man down.
"I think the half also gave Salt Lake also a chance to organize," he explained. "They went out of the diamond midfield and more into a flat midfield so they could cover the flanks a little bit better."
The changes did offer RSL some respite, and despite pressing the advantage for the majority of the game, FCD ended up conceding the first goal in the 60th minute when Real striker Álvaro Saborío managed to hold off three defenders and find enough space to rip a shot past Chris Seitz, standing in for Raúl Fernández in the visiting goal.
Dallas would eventually get one back after halftime substitute Kenny Cooper poked home a low cross from one of Je-Vaughn Watson's first touches off the bench that Rimando could only redirect to the Jamaican's feet, but it wasn't enough to spark a comeback.
The result meant Dallas gained just one point on the fifth-place LA Galaxy, who can extend their lead over FCD for the final playoff spot to seven points with three games remaining should they win their game in hand on Sunday.
Is there anything one-time Supporters' Shield leaders can do to achieve what would be a seemingly miraculous playoff qualification?
"What we should have done today," Hyndman said. "We needed three points. We don’t need ties, we need wins. We’re so disappointed, so frustrated right now because Salt Lake gave us the chance to get those three points and we didn’t capitalize on it.”