FRISCO, Texas – For FC Dallas, injuries, a 120-minute battle, and a penalty shootout were just a bridge too far on Tuesday night.
Despite the team's best efforts, those combined forces helped to see Dallas crash out of the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup just short of the final hurdle, falling 4-3 to the Philadelphia Union in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
“We emptied ourselves, the players did,” Pareja said. “That is something I’m really proud of. They left everything on the field.
“It was one of those performances that encourage you and make you not just proud but honored to belong to this club and belong to this group of players.”
For a team that has suffered a rash of injuries throughout the 2014 season, Tuesday's match was a microcosm of those challenges. An injury in the first half to defender Walker Zimmerman and two other injury-related substitutions at halftime for Adam Moffat and Mauro Diaz contributed to some disorganization at the back when Vincent Nogueira quickly took an 47th minute free kick that ended up on the foot of Amobi Okugo, via Sebastien Le Toux, for the first goal of the match.
With just under half the game to go, Dallas took until the 81st minute before a breakaway from midfield set up by Blas Perez gave Fabian Castillo a chance to beat Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath to the ball for a free chance to put the equalizer home. But through the remainder of the match, neither side was able to find the decisive goal.
“There is a frustration for not getting the final here,” Pareja said. “I thought the boys deserved it.”
So it went to penalties and there, Perez had his chance saved, his third penalty miss on the season. Victor Ulloa also had his attempt saved by MacMath.
“Blas gave me more than his heart – he has two hearts and he gave me both,” Pareja said. “His frustration is normal because we all like to win. Blas Perez for me sets the standards for this team.”
Between the short turnaround and the injuries, it was another valiant effort from FC Dallas.
“The response of the players was great, in spite of the adversity,” Pareja said. “This is the group that I want to coach. This is the group that I dreamed to coach one day. Tonight, I was very pleased today. The game gave me the opportunity to coach these players.”