FC Dallas haven't won a trophy since claiming both the Supporters' Shield and the US Open Cup in 2016.

After back-to-back Audi MLS Cup Playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020 under Luchi Gonzalez before his departure with eight matches remaining in the 2021 season, Dallas hired Nico Estevez as head coach following nearly three years as a US men's national team assistant under Gregg Berhalter.

And so far, so good: they've lost just once all season and sit third in the Western Conference table (5W-1L-4D). The latest triumph for Estevez's side came on Saturday night, a 2-0 win over a Seattle Sounders FC team just days removed from winning the first Concacaf Champions League title by an MLS team since the competition's relaunch from the Concacaf Cup in 2008.

Unsurprisingly, with the Sounders on short rest and a midweek showdown with the San Jose Earthquakes looming in the US Open Cup's Fourth Round, manager Brian Schmetzer opted for a heavily-rotated starting XI, as Nouhou was the only holdover from the Sounders CCL Final Leg 2 starting XI.

However, Estevez, while dismissing the notion it was simply the result of a full-strength lineup beating a "B" team, did concede fatigue and lineup rotation put Seattle at a disadvantage.

"I think if you analyze the lineup they (played), a lot of the players that started (could start elsewhere) in MLS," he said. "When we have to do an evaluation, we have to be careful about that, we have to be careful because they weren't the best prepared to compete today. Even if they bring the other players, we don't know if it was best for us because maybe they were tired because they played midweek."

Still, the FCD manager mentioned the challenges of Seattle's five-man backline, comparing it to English Premier League side Liverpool facing the same scenario during their 1-1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the day.

"It was really difficult for them, and they have really, really good players. It's not easy for any team in the world, (and) it's not going to be easy for us," he said.

FCD ultimately scored in the 65th minute during a sequence with some USMNT flair. Jesus Ferreira, thanks to a skillful layoff by Paul Arriola in the scoring area, passed his father on the club's goal-scoring list and, at least briefly, put himself in a three-player deadlock atop the Golden Boot presented by Audi race with seven goals.

It's moments like that why Ferreira is squarely in the No. 9 discussion for the United States with the World Cup just over six months away. But the 21-year-old striker's mind is focused on more immediate matters, even with his club coach and national team coach undoubtedly in frequent contact with each other.

"I don't want to think too much ahead on the national team or what role that would be," he said. "My mentality's mainly here, here at home, (to) keep working hard, to earn a spot on the (Dallas) roster. I'm going to keep working, keep doing the things to make Dallas gain points. The ultimate goal is to win a championship with Dallas, so obviously my mindset is always (to) score goals, help the team in any way I can so we can achieve our goals."

Ferreira's play has certainly helped Dallas make a strong first step toward the club's first MLS Cup, but both players and coaches understand there's plenty of time between now and the final on Nov. 5. They're nine games unbeaten across all competitions.

"Naturally, throughout seasons, you're going to have a lot of highs, you're going to have lows," Arriola said. "This year, I think we've managed to keep a lot of highs and to try and stay level. In theory, we haven't accomplished anything yet. Yeah, we're high up in the standings, but there's still a lot of room for improvement, and we all know that."

So what's the ceiling for this FC Dallas team, one might ask?

"I think the sky's the limit for us, as long as we stay humble," Arriola said. "One game at a time, one week at a time, focusing on how we can consistently get better, not getting ahead of ourselves, individually staying motivated and willing to sacrifice the individual for the team. If we can do that, we're going to be a really, really good team throughout the year. I'm really confident in that."

It's a message his coach echoed earlier during his post-match remarks.

"We have to keep working hard. We have to keep improving," Estevez said. "We have to keep getting confidence that we can play well. And we'll see where we're at the end, but right now, it's focusing (on) every single game that we have, (making) the team better every single week."