FRISCO, Texas -- And then there were none.
MLS’s lone remaining unbeaten FC Dallas took their first loss of the season Saturday night falling 1-0 to the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, and leaving the hosts with a sour taste in their mouth as they continue a busy week – three games in eight days.
“This was the game we needed to win to start this little mini-trip,” said defender Walker Zimmerman. “Three games in a week is always tough. We wanted to get the result at home, and now I think it gives us some urgency to respond in Chicago and pick up some points we might have dropped here.”
Zimmerman called the loss a “weird feeling,” saying it had been awhile since they had lost an MLS game.
It's also rare that the home crowd at Toyota Stadium is sent home without a point to boast. Before Saturday night, FCD had only lost three home matches in regular season play dating back to 2015.
But head coach Oscar Pareja isn’t hanging his head after the team’s first loss of 2017.
“We have faced many, many, many times when we come here [after a game] with a smile on our face being proud of the result,” Pareja said after Saturday’s match. “At this moment, I want to back that group of players who gave me all that they have. I have to say, the respect and admiration I have for the group is even bigger today in a moment where we all feel that at home, we disappointed our fans and didn’t get the points.”
When asked why Pareja was so positive despite being disappointed after the team’s previous 1-1 draw at home against New York City FC, he said the result doesn’t always tell the full story of 90-plus minutes on the field.
Pareja admitted his team didn’t look like themselves in the first half. But what he said he admires is how they stuck with it late, even as the idea of their first loss of 2017 started to become more and more like a reality.
“This group of players that I have, in moments like today, they make me admire them more because I see them looking for any way possible to get the result,” Pareja said. “I have such great respect for that behavior.”
One reason FC Dallas struggled much of the night was their re-implementation of the 4-2-3-1 – a formation the club made a staple with Mauro Diaz pulling the strings.
Pareja said the switch was not his way of familiarizing the team with Diaz’s strongest formation, but rather an extension of what they’ve done all season – played to the competition.
The team eventually moved back to a 4-4-2 late, which not coincidentally is when they began seeing more quality chances. But whichever formation they utilize, Pareja said the result and future results have more to do with execution than anything else.
“We played one of those games where we weren’t very clear in the last third, and we didn’t have very many ideas just to break that line of four they put out,” Pareja said. “We didn’t turn the lights on in any moment of the game.”
Added Zimmerman: “I think we may have lacked a little bit of urgency later in the first half and early in the second half. There’s definitely things we can build on, but we have a quick turnaround and we can’t linger on this result. We’ve got to look ahead to Thursday.”