FRISCO, Texas—Oh, the difference a few weeks can make.
Before FC Dallas went on its recent three-game road swing that took them to Canada twice and New York another time, the club was atop MLS, competing with and defeating top-tier talent.
But a month-long road trip left FC Dallas in disarray, with the trip yielding 0 points, a slide down the standings and a lot of head-scratching in Frisco.
“If I could put my finger on it, we’d get some better results on the road,” defender Zach Loyd told MLSSoccer.com. “I think all of us are putting in the work trying to do what we can do on the road.”
The club’s difficulty securing points on the road is not a new phenomenon. In fact, this recent stretch is reminiscent of a five-game road stretch FC Dallas faced last season (May 23-June 19, 2015), during which they also suffered a pair of 3-plus goal shutouts and only managed two draws, finishing 0-3-2.
Similar to last year, this recent swoon dropped FC Dallas in the standings and took them out of the driver’s seat. Since sitting atop the Supporter’s Shield Race a few weeks ago, Dallas is now sitting fourth in the West.
“In this league, travel is pretty brutal,” Loyd said. “We’re traveling on 3- or 4-hour flights, so I think a lot of teams struggle on the road. We particularly need to get better on the road. We continue to say that. I thought Toronto was a good step in the right direction. We obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but going in there and putting in a performance where we thought we could at least come away with a point is a positive.”
The circumstances surrounding this year’s road slump are slightly different, however. It is no coincidence that Dallas began floundering on the defensive end when the road trip began right as captain Matt Hedges was sidelined with a knee injury. Since his injury, the club is 1-3-0 and has lost games to the tune of 3-0 and 4-0.
There has also been uncertainty at the goalkeeper position amidst the defensive question marks, with head coach Oscar Pareja switching back and forth between a promoted Chris Seitz and a seemingly slumping Jesse Gonzalez, who was injured late in Saturday's loss to Toronto FC.
“All those factors had an influence on the games,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s difficult for me to point one out and say this was the reason. I think when you have a game, you have to consider all those revelations. I think all of those are [valid].”
But even when looking back at the 3-0 loss to Vancouver, Loyd said the perception of being dominated on the road is somewhat overblown due to how they put pressure on the Whitecaps throughout the match. The difference to him – especially away from home – is taking care of the little things.
“On the road, a big thing is you can’t make simple mistakes,” Loyd said. “When we do that, we’ve been getting punished on the road. I think we can improve in that area, and we still have a lot of road games left to figure it out.”
FC Dallas won’t have to figure out its road woes for another 10 days, with two games at Toyota Stadium between now and Saturday. Until then, Pareja’s club is chomping at the bit just to secure some points again for the first time since April 17.
“We can’t wait to get a result again,” Pareja said. “The boys have been working hard, and I’ve said it before. We have 17 points already. We collected them. Nobody gave them to us. We earned them. We’ve had two really bad results, but they’re behind us.”