FC Dallas in Panama: Day Two
FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas returned home to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport this morning just as customs was opening, a fortuitous break right when the team needed it most. Despite the tropical setting, the less-than 48-hour trip was rife with adversity, ending without the three points the team desperately sought in CONCACAF Champions League group play.
Day Two began with the traveling contingent of FC Dallas fans and front office staff visiting the Panama Canal. Meanwhile, players and technical staff were laying low at their Panama City hotel, patiently waiting on their evening match-up with Tauro FC at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
As is their normal routine, FC Dallas head athletic trainer Josh Watts and kit man Marcus Owens arrived early to the stadium to make preparations for the players’ arrival. The latter was, for the first time of the trip, uneventful thanks to a Panamanian police escort. The same could not be said for the previous evening’s trip from training back to the hotel, as the team bus was conveniently re-routed, resulting in what should have been a 30-minute trip taking approximately an hour and a half.
The game itself was a bitter disappointment, both for the players – drenched in sweat and covered in a thin layer of sand from the pitch conditions – and for the fans, who had traveled with the squad on an exclusive tour package available only to Season Ticket Holders.
Perhaps the lone bright spot was young Home Grown striker Ruben Luna, who was involved in all three of FC Dallas’ goals – drawing the PK for the first, scoring the second from the run of play and burying a final PK in stoppage time.
“I was told they were going to be a tough team. I didn't get to play against them in Dallas, but watching them from the bench and from the warm-ups I could tell they were a physical team and their defenders were really big,” said Luna. “I knew that meant I was going to have to be strong up top…and I was successful.
“But none of that changes the fact that overall, we're just really, really disappointed with the result.”
Lightning cracked the sky in the waning moments of the match, but the predicted rain never fell and FC Dallas walked away with two red cards and a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the speedy Panamanian side. The loss, coupled with a difficult travel schedule that involved a 1:00 a.m. flight, was difficult for the Dallas side to stomach – as evidenced by the drawn faces and resulting hush over the traveling group at the airport gate.
“The game really set the tone for the whole trip. It was a tough place and a tough result,” said Luna, who was awake for most of the four-hour trip back to Texas. “It’s difficult to go to sleep after a game like that.”
The team arrived back to Dallas around 6 a.m., quickly passing through customs and boarding their waiting bus back to Pizza Hut Park. They won’t be back in the Lone Star State for long, however, as they train Friday morning and then depart to Colorado to face defending MLS Cup champions the Rapids. With Colorado only four points back from Dallas in the Western Conference standings, the match will be pivotal toward playoff seeding.
“It's going to be a very important game for us,” Luna said. “These last few [league] games are going to be critical. I think the whole world knows just how serious we're taking it.”
And so the players, fans and front office staff alike turned the page on an eventful 48 hours in Panama, without the result hoped for but with an unforgettable experience along the way.
“I liked the country, everyone there was first class,” Luna said. “It was a great experience for me personally, but obviously a tough result. I've never been in a situation like that.
“But today’s a new day, and I’m just going to keep it simple and rest. The game this weekend will be very, very important.”