The 2016 professional soccer season may have just gotten underway, but FC Dallas is already preparing for post-season mode, hoping to make it to this year's MLS Cup after coming up just short in its last go-around.
As of April 29, FC Dallas has the best record in the league, having won or tied at all of its home games played at Toyota Stadium, the most recent one on April 17 when it upended Sporting Kansas City 2-1. Tracing back to last year, it was the team's sixth straight victory, thanks to stellar performances from the likes of midfielders Michael Barrios and Mauro Rosales. The second-half goal by Rosales sealed the deal for FC Dallas and also served as the veteran's 14th goal of his career. Rosales is a new face in FC Dallas roster, last year playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
FC Dallas victorious over reigning champion
While the topping of Sporting KC is FC Dallas' most recent victory, its most satisfying win came a few days earlier at Providence Park, defeating the reigning champion Portland Timbers 3-1. FC Dallas followers will recall the Timbers bested their hometown team last year in the Western Conference Championship on aggregate scoring 5-3. Eager to prove its bounce-back ability and make up for last season's heartbreaker, FC Dallas' intensity rendered the rematch over almost before it even started, scoring three goals in the first half. Barrios got the goal party started a mere four minutes into the game, followed by midfielder Fabian Castillo in the 26th minute and forward Tesho Akindele three minutes later.
It wouldn't be until well into the second half that Timbers' forward Darren Mattocks scored Portland's sole goal.
The win was rather noteworthy for a few reasons. In addition to handing Portland its second loss in a rather bumpy start to the season, it was the first time in FC Dallas' history that it accumulated three points at Providence Park. It also put it in sole possession of first place in the MLS standings, a position it has yet to relinquish, despite losing to the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 23 at BC Place 3-0. The loss not only broke up its six-game winning streak, but it was the first game on the season it failed to net a goal.
The stellar start has borne fruit for FC Dallas, which currently leads not only the Western Conference but also the MLS as a whole. Through nine games, Big D's hometown team is 5-2-2, the two draws coming against the Columbus Crew – which faced the Timbers in the championship last year – and the San Jose Earthquakes, both at Toyota Stadium. Dallas also leads the league in points with 17. Nipping at its heels are fellow Western Conference members the Colorado Rapids with 16 on the season and the LA Galaxy with 14. The Montreal Impact leads the Eastern Conference with an overall record of 4-3-1 and 13 points.
FC Dallas leads ESPN's Power Rankings
FC Dallas is also the top team in ESPN's weekly MLS Power Rankings poll. However, making a strong case for the new frontrunner in next week's survey is Toronto FC. Speaking of which, FC Dallas will be going north of the border to contend with Toronto at BMO Field on May 7. It will be looking to avenge being blanked by the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena 4-0. Unlike the April 29 contest, though, it has the potential to be an offensive slugfest from both teams.