FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas isn’t afraid of the odds.
Just don’t tell that to red-hot FCD, who will host Liga MX club Pachuca in the first leg of the CCL semifinals on Wednesday night (8 pm ET; UniMas in the US; Facebook.com).
“I know no other MLS team has won it, but we have the mentality of ‘Why not us? Someone’s got to win it at some point,’” defender Walker Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We’re focused on this game Wednesday, but getting off to good start at home is extremely important.”
FCD easily handled Arabe Unido in the quarterfinals, winning 5-2 on aggregate against the Panamanian club. Pachuca will be a much tougher test. Los Tuzos have plenty of talent all over the field, recently dispatched Costa Rican club Saprissa 4-0 in the CCL quarters and are tied atop the Liga MX standings.
Zimmerman admitted the team hadn’t studied Pachuca too intently ahead of Monday’s training sessions due to a compact schedule that’s seen them play two MLS matches, including a 0-0 draw at Kansas City on Saturday, since advancing past Arabe Unido. But he and his teammates still understand the challenge that comes with making it this far in the tournament.
“They have some special players, and I know they’re a fast paced team that likes to counter-attack,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta told MLSsoccer.com. “We need to be very mindful of that. We’ve got to be aware of some of those guys who, with too much space, can hurt us.
“We’re playing at home, so we can’t just play off of them. We need to really push the tempo and really set the tone of the game.”
Acosta said the team is excited to be back on its home pitch – the first time they’ve played at Toyota Stadium since a dominating 4-0 win over Arabe Unido in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Feb. 23.
Because of that, he’s expecting the team to feed off the crowd and play aggressively – especially considering the lineup head coach Oscar Pareja used on Saturday at SKC was largely made up of reserves.
“I know there’s spaces in between their midfielders and back line, so we need to exploit that, find some good pockets, then attack them as much as possible,” Acosta said. “Hopefully then we can be clinical in front of the goal.”
If they are, FC Dallas has a chance set the tone for the series yet again, just as they did in the quarterfinals. And if they do that, they’ll have a chance to do something no MLS club has done in the CCL.
“If you look back at some of the other MLS teams that have done well in this tournament, we think ‘OK, I think we’ve performed as good as they have throughout the course of the season. If they can make it to the final, why can’t we? Why can’t we win the whole thing?’” Zimmerman said. “It’ll come with challenges, but right now we’re focused on our home result and coming away with a win.”