FRISCO—What FC Dallas calls “Fortress Frisco” wasn’t as invincible as it has been, Saturday night.
The Rapids entered and took down the hosts 1-0 – the first time a team has come into Toyota Stadium and left with three points since the LA Galaxy did it on Aug. 15, 2015.
“The coaching staff and myself worked tirelessly to put forth a game plan to come here, play against a team that’s undefeated [at home],” said head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Last but not least, a group of guys who executed the game plan with the spirit, commitment, with camaraderie, with the fight that best represents to be a Colorado Rapid player – the culmination of all those things put forth the great result.”
The Rapids came to Frisco with only 16 active players on their roster, and Mastroeni lamenting the various injuries across their roster.
But the pride in his words couldn’t be any clearer, considering how they managed a result short-handed while coming into one of the statistically toughest places to play in MLS.
“We’ve lost two games for the first time, and a lot of people thought the sky was falling,” Mastroeni said, adding that the team struggled to get players healthy enough to play Saturday night, even adding some from USL affiliate Charlotte Independence. “What I’m speaking about is not the importance of the game and how it's reflected upon the table. I’m talking about a bunch of guys in that locker room who don’t make excuses, who turn up and put forth a performance that’s driven by the soul. Driven by a belief in one another that they’ll overcome regardless of what obstacle is in their path.”
Though FC Dallas in Frisco might have represented the most challenging obstacle Colorado could have faced at this point in the season, the mountain proved a little less steep to climb given how FC Dallas played it safe, resting playmakers Mauro Diaz and Michael Barrios in preparation of their Open Cup Final on Tuesday.
But once Dominique Badji struck Colorado to a lead in the 52nd minute, Dallas came guns-a-blazing, putting Diaz in the game along with Barrios, who came in at halftime. Along with Diaz came a flurry of chances to draw even with the Rapids – but it was nothing veteran Tim Howard couldn’t handle, finishing his night with seven saves, many from short range.
“With the type of players they have, who have been prolific in goal scoring this year, especially at home, we knew we were going to be under a bit of pressure,” Mastroeni said. “When you’ve got a guy like Tim Howard in goal, not only is he organizing and making it predictable by putting people in front of him to make saves, but the confidence he brings to the backline knowing that they have Tim Howard behind them is exponentially important.”
To make things sweeter for the Rapids, the win brings them within striking distance in the Supporters’ Shield race, putting them five points back of FC Dallas still with two games in hand – a window now cracked to make a late run ahead of the leaders.
Numbers and points aside, the win means much more to Mastroeni given the trials his squad has dealt with in recent weeks.
“To me, it’s greater than football, and that’s a powerful performance,” Mastroeni said. “One that’ll definitely give us legs toward the end of the season.”