FRISCO, Tex. – The top of the table has become a familiar position for FC Dallas in 2016.
They’ve been in first place overall since a 4-0 win over Orlando City on July 4, and remain in the driver’s seat for the Supporters’ Shield, while somehow finding a way to also bring home the 2016 U.S Open Cup and stay competitive in the CONCACAF Champions’ League.
“The importance of the game Saturday is clear,” said head coach Oscar Pareja, who typically preaches the message that every game is equally important. “We’ve been working with the group that didn’t play [Wednesday night], and we’re preparing for that crucial game. It’s a big game.”
Pareja said after Wednesday’s 0-0 CCL draw with Suchitepequez he had been preparing for both matches this week simultaneously, keeping one eye on the Galaxy while also keeping an eye on staying relevant in CCL.
If the Galaxy can steal three points from Toyota Stadium, they’ll trail FC Dallas by only two in the standings with another meeting between the teams at StubHub Center in October. So despite dominating for so much of the season, momentum could change in a hurry.
“Obviously every next game is the most important game, but this one has the most implications on the line,” defender Walker Zimmerman told MLSsoccer.com. “I think our focus and mentality is do or die. We know what it’ll do for us to get three points, especially at home. Everyone’s pretty excited.”
But even looking beyond the standings, beating the star-studded Galaxy would still have more meaning to FC Dallas. Despite being a consistently top team ever since Pareja returned as head coach, the national spotlight hasn’t necessarily always been there – at least in the eyes of those who play in Frisco.
“We’re kind of underrated even though we’ve been at the top of the table most of the year,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta told MLSsoccer.com. “I think guys don’t really pay attention to us. But we really don’t mind though. We just slowly do our work and continue to get to be the top squad. That’s fine – the Galaxy can get the attention. But as far as doing our duties to get the win, that’s all that matters to us.”
While Acosta preached the general message of the Galaxy being just another team on the schedule, he did admit the match does hold a special level of excitement for him because he will be getting to play against players he watched growing up as an aspiring pro.
He’s not the only one. Zimmerman said while growing up in Georgia, the Galaxy was the team always on TV, and he said Saturday’s match “does mean a little bit more” in terms of personal significance.
“We certainly want to change everybody’s opinion that now it’s no longer the LA Galaxy’s MLS,” Zimmerman said. “It’s FC Dallas on top.”
But even a win on Saturday wouldn’t give the hosts a perfectly comfortable cushion. Acosta lamented the fact they were only able to get two points over their last two road games in Salt Lake and at New York City FC, leaving them in a position to need wins – especially at home – down the stretch.
That's because the Colorado Rapids are also tied with the Galaxy behind FCD in the standings – and they have two games in hand – so Zimmerman knows they can’t take their foot off the gas after Saturday.
“It’s going to be a matter of finishing the deal,” Zimmerman said. “Those three points this weekend will go a long way, but at the same time, it certainly doesn’t cement us the Supporters' Shield. We know we have to focus still on the games that come after that.”