FRISCO, TEXAS – A chance to secure “El Capitan” tonight in Houston marks the end of one of the most grueling stretches FC Dallas have ever faced.
After the conclusion of tonight’s Texas Derby vs. the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, which will decide who gets to keep the aforementioned cannon for the next year, FC Dallas will have traveled more than 5,100 miles since leaving for a match at Real Salt Lake nine days ago. Their itinerary has taken them from Utah to Nicaragua for a CONCACAF Champions League match vs. Real Esteli, and finally back to the Lone Star State.
“That’s just the life of a footballer every once in a while,” Ryan Hollingshead told MLSsoccer.com. “It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you just have to push through.”
So far, Dallas are 0-1-1 on the road trip, but still remain first in the race for the Supporters' Shield, top their CCL group, and can win their annual cross-state rivalry cup with Houston tonight (though it will take a victory by five goals or more).
They’re also only a couple of weeks away from a chance of winning the US Open Cup on their home turf, leaving them with a chance at the treble, or even quadruple – if they’re able to continue managing their schedule, something midfielder Kellyn Acosta says the coaching staff has done a tremendous job with.
“A lot of guys are interchanging minutes a lot, and I think that’s really paid dividends for us,” Acosta told MLSsoccer.com. “Coach Fabian [Bazan], our fitness coach, this is the fittest we’ve ever been collectively as a team. I think it’s been showing in games when teams have been dying and we’ve been pushing and grinding out results. A lot of credit goes to him and the coaching staff.”
Even though head coach Oscar Pareja & Co. have delegated minutes carefully, he still has not been afraid to play many of his starters on a regular basis, showing each trophy in FC Dallas' contention is of equal importance to the club.
As far as the travel goes, it’s been difficult for some of the players, including Hollingshead, whose wife gave birth to their first child just before the team embarked on this lengthy trip.
He admits he doesn’t enjoy being away from his wife and newborn this long, and wishes he could be home to spend time with them. But Hollingshead said the team just has to make the most of the situation, especially in terms of fitness and recovery.
“Being on the road allows you to get a lot more rest, a lot less things to worry about,” Hollingshead said. “You don’t have home life to worry about, so it’s easy to get more sleep, do more recovery and regenerations and let your body heal.”
For Acosta, the 5,000-mile-plus road trip has given him time to get closer to his teammates, something he says will be beneficial on the field as well.
“We look at each other more as brothers and as a family,” Acosta said. “Being on bus rides, we listen to music together, have conversations. Getting to know each other a lot better, I think that’s really helped us.
“I think these give us a chance to get more in-depth, more than just on the soccer field and more so about their families, their wives – it’s helpful to gain a bigger understanding through our team. I think it helps create that bond that we need on the field.”