FRISCO, Texas — When FC Dallas took the long trip to Vancouver on August 15, they sat 10 points behind LA and 11 points behind the Whitecaps in the race for the final playoffs in the Western Conference.
Fast forward a month, and what looked like an insurmountable deficit has thinned to the smallest of margins. After beating Vancouver, 1-0, on Julian de Guzman’s 96th-minute winner on Saturday night, FCD are now just one point behind the Whitecaps for the final spot.
“In preseason, we talked about getting into the playoffs and giving ourselves a chance to win a championship, that’s what it’s about,” forward Scott Sealy said after the match. “This is definitely a step in the right direction, a team that’s ahead of us by four points, being able to cut it down to one point and hopefully riding that momentum until the end of the season.”
Indeed, FC Dallas’ playoff hopes were 30 seconds from being all but extinguished. With Vancouver having five games remaining to Dallas’ four, anything but a win for FCD would have had the Frisco club beginning to set their sights on 2013. That only seemed to add to the drama of de Guzman’s late equalizer.
“It’s huge for the team to get those three points in that way to bring us closer to the playoff race,” defender Matt Hedges told reporters after the win. “I think we finally are getting the bounces go our way and it’s a good time for that to happen here at the end.”
Further adding to the drama was the multitude of missed chances by both sides throughout the evening. For FC Dallas, a first-half penalty kick miss by David Ferreira, coupled with a late goal by Blas Pérez called back for offside had Schellas Hyndman & Co. wondering if this night would be a microcosm of their season.
“To still be in the position with four games left to challenge for the playoffs is something that we’re still pretty proud of and pretty excited about,” goalkeeper Kevin Hartman said. “We’ve overcome a lot of difficulties including tonight. We missed a PK, and scored a goal that was pulled back so it was really, really difficult. But at the end of the day we got the result we deserved.”
The fact remains, however, Vancouver are still in the driver’s seat with four straight home games upcoming. All Dallas can hope for now is a further slide from the Canadians — who have lost five in a row — and continued good form on their own part. FC Dallas have the next matchday off, not returning to action until Saturday, Sept. 29, in San Jose. It won’t be an easy match against the current Supporters' Shield leaders.
But after clawing their way back from an 11-point deficit in just over a month, they will have everything to play for. And by then they’ll know just what kind of impact Saturday’s win over Vancouver had, as the Whitecaps will make up that game in hand next weekend.
“As an entire team, moments like this when it starts to wind down in the hunt for the playoffs can be a big difference maker and a turning point,” de Guzman said on Saturday night. “I think this could be a big turning point for us. And for Vancouver. And this is what we wanted.”