FC Dallas adjusting to new label of favorites

Hyndman hopes lure of title will be enough for former underdogs

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Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

TORONTO – All season long, FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman has motivated his team by convincing them no one believed they were good enough to win a championship.

Now, for the first time, FCD are in a role they’re not accustomed to: favorites. And that, Hyndman admits, is a big adjustment from his season-long credo.

“It’s been very difficult to keep our focus,” the Dallas coach admitted on Thursday, hours after arriving here for Sunday’s MLS Cup final against the Colorado Rapids (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN/Galavisión/TSN2). “It’s going to be my job leading up the game to keep the guys level-headed and focused because this is the biggest event in many of our lives.”

WATCH: Hyndman on season, Sunday's big match

That is not an overstatement. Only three players on FCD’s roster have ever been in an MLS Cup final. Only two were even on the squad the last time they made the playoffs in 2007: backup ‘keeper Dario Sala and midfielder Dax McCarty, who understands what a rare moment the team is living.

“Certainly one of the biggest games I’ll play in my career,” McCarty said. “Definitely by far the biggest game I will have played in my MLS. While you want to take it serious and you want to be focused, you also want to have fun.”

McCarty adds that playing the role of favorites is an entirely foreign one to him, and that he and the rest of the team have been relying on their underdog status during a remarkable season that saw FC Dallas rattle off a record 19-game unbeaten streak.

“We’ve had this us-against-the-world mentality that we’ve needed to have,” he said, “and I think that’s ultimately what has made us pretty successful this year.”

WATCH: McCarty, Loyd on Colorado

But being the second-longest tenured player on the team despite his young age of 23, McCarty also understands how long the organization has waited to play in its first-ever MLS Cup final and doesn’t think the players need any extra motivation to bring home the franchise’s first title.

For his part, Hyndman does have some concern that the dizzying heights of the moment could be enough for his players to be overwhelmed. The newly named MLS Coach of the Year is also hoping, much like his star midfielder, that the potential to be crowned champions will be enough of a grounding influence.

“I think the mind set is going to be, I hope, very easy to get the guys excited about playing the game, as important as it is,” he said of what he’ll communicate to his players. “I hope that that excitement doesn’t get out of control.”

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