FRISCO – “Sweet, sweet revenge” is what Walker Zimmerman called FC Dallas’ dramatic shootout win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
This time one year ago, FC Dallas’ season ended against the Sounders on the new away-goals tiebreaker, and that "defeat" was certainly on the players’ minds heading into Sunday's decisive second leg.
“Just thinking back to last year sitting in Seattle’s locker room, it was tough, because they didn’t beat us; it was the away goals,” Zimmerman said. “So that left a bitter taste in our mouth.”
Adding fuel to the fire was the apparent lack of respect for an FC Dallas team that finished first in the highly competitive Western Conference during the regular season.
“We were like, ‘Alright, we’re going to be favored here in the series,’ but everybody said we weren’t favored,” midfielder Ryan Hollingshead said. “More than anything, that fueled us to, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. When is FC Dallas going to get the respect they deserve?’ So it’s a little bit of payback from last season, but more than that, just always being the underdog. Even when we finish first in the Western Conference, we’re the underdog. I think we wanted to prove those critics wrong.”
There’s no denying FC Dallas are a more dynamic team than the 2014 version that were done in by away goals against the Sounders. But in the Dallas locker room, one widely accepted factor that helped them achieve redemption this season was the crowd at Toyota Stadium.
Dallas sported an MLS best 13-2-2 home record in the regular season, one that continued unblemished on Sunday.
“The difference was, because of a good season, we put ourselves in a spot where we’re playing at home,” Zimmerman said. “That home-field advantage was pretty huge, with all the fans going pretty crazy.”
Hollingshead echoed Zimmerman’s sentiments, saying the crowd was critical in lifting the team's spirits and energy as exhaustion began to kick in, especially late in both regulation and extra time.
Head coach Oscar Pareja went as far to rank Sunday’s win near the top of his all-time list – in a career that includes meaningful games in MLS and on the international stage with Colombia.
“It was probably one of the most emotional games, for sure,” Pareja said. “Now we can say we completed the task and accomplished getting over one of the best teams in the league.”
The perception remains that FC Dallas are often ignored in favor of teams with high-profile stars, but, having gotten the monkey that was Seattle off their back, Dallas can rest easy knowing their formula of developing young talent is working in 2015.
“When you look at a lot of MLS stuff and all the propaganda toward a team like Seattle with their big stars, it does create a little bit of a chip on your shoulder,” Zimmerman said. “We may be young, but we’re talented. We’re hard-working, and we think we have what it takes to be an MLS Cup-caliber team.”