FRISCO, Tex. -- This time five years ago, FC Dallas entered the home stretch of the 2010 season with playoff aspirations. They only lost two of their last 12 games that year en route to an MLS Cup Final berth.
Fast-forward to today, and Dallas sits in prime position to make a similar run. The team currently sits in third place in the Western Conference with a clean bill of health – a pleasant change for the club following last season’s injury woes.
That 2010 team fell one goal short of winning the first MLS cup in franchise history -- but the small handful of players that still remain from that roster feel positive about this year's propsects. They say each team in between then and now possessed enough talent to get over the hump, but they also say there is something different about this year's squad.
“I think the biggest thing is the chemistry we have,” center back Zach Loyd told MLSsoccer.com. “In 2010, not only did we have guys that hung out here [at practice], we hung out off the field as well, whether that was barbecues or just going to someone’s house and hanging out. I think that’s something we’ve missed over the years and is coming back this year.”
Team chemistry is not measurable on any box score, nor is it a statistic that can be accumulated by any form of advanced metrics. But it can be seen at practices in the locker room, when players routinely wait for one another to hang out after a late evening practice, or exchange both verbal barbs and celebratory embraces in the locker room after a match.
While Loyd mentioned that chemistry often times clicks with the right group of guys, he also said the 2015 team is working at building camaraderie.
“I think it’s an effort, especially from the older guys trying to get guys together,” Loyd said. “I think it’s like any friendship. At first you have to put yourself out there a little bit and then everyone, once it all gets going, everyone sort of buys into it. I think it’s a little bit of both, and I think it’s been great this year.”
Chemistry alone does not put the ball in the back of the net or win championships, however. It takes a combination of top-tier talent and trust on the field to reach this team’s goals of capturing its first-ever MLS Cup.
One of Loyd’s fellow defenders, Atiba Harris, also played in 2010, and believes the current roster’s explosiveness rivals that of the squad from five years ago.
“Dallas still plays the same kind of soccer, but I think [what] we’ve added now is that we’re closing down a lot more trying to sustain the attack,” he said. “So I think in that sense, it’s kind of similar to what we had before."
“The talent is probably about the same,” Loyd added. “We’ve got some guys that are pretty special on this team, but we also had some guys that were pretty special on that team. It’s hard to say, talent-wise.”
The 2010 team featured the league's second-place all-time scoring leader, Jeff Cunningham, as well as explosive midfielder David Ferreira, whose son now plays in the FC Dallas academy. But the 2015 squad also sports one of the most explosive midfields in MLS, with Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz regularly hogging the highlight reels.
In the end, a long five years have passed since that MLS Cup berth, and now, FC Dallas are looking to create their own legacy by staying true to head coach Oscar Pareja’s message.
“You can’t be complacent,” Loyd said. “We’re always trying to not only better ourselves as a group, but individually. With Oscar, he never gives you a second to rest. You just continue to keep going, and hopefully at the end of the year it’ll pay off.”