SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When FC Dallas go about their business during a week of game preparation, they’re deadly serious about the work ahead.
When that work pays off, everyone lets their hair down.
Such was the case in the visiting locker room at Buck Shaw Stadium after FCD’s scoreless draw with San Jose on Saturday night – a hard-earned point by a short-handed Dallas unit that extended their unbeaten run to 14.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
It was difficult to hear goalkeeper Kevin Hartman wax philosophical about the “character” of this Dallas team as, fittingly, a room full of characters next door was whooping and screaming to the ranchera-style music pumping out of a boom box.
“Guys like to enjoy the after part,” Hartman said over the sound of the horns. “I think that’s good. You take everything serious leading up to [the game] in training. When we step out onto that field on Saturday, there’s an expectation for you to be successful, and the guys so far have done so.”
Saturday night’s result wasn’t pretty. Dallas didn’t press forward as much as they usually do, and they didn’t take as many chances as they have during their streak. Such was the game plan with both regular center backs, Ugo Ihemelu and George John, out injured.
But rookie Zach Loyd and Brazilian Jackson Gonçalves stepped in and filled the spots amiably. Those youngsters perfectly complemented Heath Pearce and Jair Benitez on the wings, with help from captain Daniel Hernandez, who returned Saturday from suspension.
The resulting back five may have been patchwork, but they stayed compact and, for the most part, limited the chances of an Earthquakes team Hyndman had termed “vastly improved.”
“We went into this game without our two [regular] center backs,” Hyndman said. “We’re in a situation where we’re putting a lot of band-aids on our lineup and getting great results from the players.”
That ability all season long of FC Dallas to slot in young players and seldom-used substitutes into key roles in key moments has created a team chemistry that even 14-year veteran Hartman says is a rare thing.
Said Hyndman, “You don’t get these kinds of things done without the team chemistry.”
With their unbeaten run now at 14 straight, FCD tie the mark for the second-longest undefeated streak over one season in league history (San Jose and D.C. United also went 14 games without a loss in 2005 and ’06, respectively). They're still four behind Columbus' 18-game run to close the '04 season, but that's not something the team worries about, says Hartman.
“It's exciting to be a part of, but we don’t really talk about it," the 'keeper said. "When it ends, it will end. We don’t have unbelievable expectations that we’re going to go forever without losing a game. We're just making sure we keep things in perspective.”
Come Monday, that locker room full of characters will turn their focus to New York on Thursday, and get back to work.