FRISCO, Texas – You could hear a pin drop in the FC Dallas locker room.
Day 56 since the club’s last win came and went, ending on an undesired yet familiar note: leaving the stadium with one point or fewer.
If it feels like an eternity since the club has earned three points, it’s because it has been. Their last victory came on July 22, and their last win at “Fortress Frisco” – hardly been the case this season – came on Independence Day, 74 days ago.
And if the club doesn’t flip the switch soon, they’ll find themselves somewhere they haven’t been since Oscar Pareja took over as head coach: below the playoff line, watching the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs from afar.
“Right now, it’s tight,” said defender Walker Zimmerman. “San Jose is right there. Salt Lake’s not too far behind. It’s kind of at the point where you’re paying attention to what they’re doing as well. It’s in our hands, but right now we’re still looking at ‘OK, they’re right behind us – what do we need to do to stay ahead?’”
A typically vibrant locker room, even when relatively muted by a loss, was noticeably quieter after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Seattle. Individual conversations could be clearly heard from the other end of the space. Players like Maxi Urruti sat at their lockers, still in uniform, bewildered.
The close-but-no-cigar results have hovered over FC Dallas like a dark cloud for weeks. Just two weeks ago, the club fought valiantly to earn a single point against the New York Red Bulls, putting in two equalizers while down a man.
Players and coaches alike thought that was a turning point, a sign of things to come: that they were able to generate an attack down a man, getting their magician Mauro Diaz back in the starting XI, and showing the resiliency FC Dallas fans have become accustomed to.
But that feeling disappeared in a heartbeat with a 3-0 road loss in Atlanta, and now another uninspiring draw at home.
“At this time, we need more. That’s the feeling we have in the locker room,” Pareja said. “But we keep fighting, and we’ll do that.”
The deafening silence didn’t necessarily mean that a sense of hopelessness has creeped in. Rather, many players were beating the positivity drum, pointing to performances like the comeback against RBNY or not giving the Sounders any real scoring chances in Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
“Some bad, but a lot of good performances where we could have walked away with a lot more points,” Zimmerman said. “So it is frustrating to look back and say it’s been two months without a win. But at the same time, we’re still in the playoff spot, we have a talented team, and we believe in each other.”
The club have but four points to show for a nine-match span, and you can tread water only so long before you sink. And FC Dallas knows.
“You have to be realistic with the players, because they know the moment we’re going through,” Pareja said. “At the same time, as a leader, we have to make them feel that things are possible all the time. It’s what we believe, and it’s what we work for. I’d like them to achieve what they’ve achieved in the past years every week, and get the wins and have a smile on our face.
“This time, we’re just getting through this [stretch] of getting no more points than one, and we have to keep fighting,” he added. “The league is that tough and has become that hard for us this year. But we’ll keep fighting.”
Added Zimmerman: “It’s getting close to do-or-die time. It might not be here yet, but it’s getting close.”