SAN JOSE - In the run-up to Saturday's match between FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes, much of the talk coming out of the Quakes' camp was about how they wanted to make a statement to the Hoops as both teams head into the playoffs. The idea was to quash any hopes FCD might have had about securing a result at Spartan Stadium, should the two teams meet up in the Western Conference Championship.
But if any statements were made in the 1-1 tie, they were delivered by the visitors. Intent on resting some players ahead of Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup Final, Dallas fielded a lineup comprised mostly of reserves.
Still, FCD was fully worth their draw, and had they been a little more clinical in front of goal, the Hoops might have walked away with all three points. It was a performance that left Dallas head coach Colin Clarke satisfied, but also tinged with mixed emotions.
"I'm pleased with the performance," said Clarke. "We were unlucky not to get a [win]. We could have been one or two up early on. But I'm very pleased for the boys, and at the same time a little disappointed."
As for as any messages being delivered, Clarke preferred to let the results FC Dallas have secured in San Jose speak for themselves.
"We haven't been beaten [at Spartan] in two games this year," said Clarke. "The playoffs are going to be fun. I think the crowd got an early taste of what playoff soccer is all about. Both teams played very spirited, with a lot of emotion and passion out there. It was a fun game."
A healthy portion of that fun was enjoyed by players who aren't normally in the starting lineup. And when the subject of resting some of his best players was brought up, Clarke indicated that he was fully confident that Saturday's starting 11 would get a result.
"What best players?" Clarke asked with a completely straight face. "Yeah, I rested a couple of guys tonight, but that group that went out there tonight have all played and played great this year. I'm not taking anything away from that group that played tonight. They were magnificent."
Among the usual reserves included in Saturday's lineup was defender Drew Moor, who added that Clarke and assistant coach Steve Morrow prepared the side well for the match against San Jose.
"[Clarke] and [Morrow] have put together a great squad here, not only individuals, but the way they coach," said Moor. "The way we train, they have everybody ready. From night to night, you never know what the lineup could be. Everybody's listening in when [Clarke] is announcing the lineup, because it could be anybody at any position, and that's the kind of depth you want on a team like this."
Results like Saturday's are especially gratifying given the brutal 10-game league winless streak the team emerged from just a couple of weeks ago. Captain Simo Valakari now feels that the team has regained its form at just the right time.
"The playoffs are getting closer and we're getting our game together, so it's a good time," said Valakari. "Maybe [the streak] was a little bit mental. But you can sense in the locker room now that every game matters and so does every practice because we are close to the playoffs. You can feel it."
The only player in the FC Dallas lineup on Saturday who hadn't started a game during the season was center back Alex Yi, who had yet to make his MLS debut. He left the match in the 66th minute with an apparent knee injury, but Clarke indicated afterward that Yi had carried an injury on the knee into the match, and that it didn't appear to be serious.
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.