FC Dallas is through week one of their two-week preseason trip to the UAE. FCD is set for a pair of preseason matches against Swedish side BK Hacken, but first there was a little matter to be settled. Here's the latest dispatch from FCD PR Director Leigh Anne Gullett from Abu Dhabi:
Tuesday morning after the team wrapped up a light training session, the technical staff wandered to a corner of the field where they had set up Soccer Tennis, but this wasn't any run-of-the-mill game. This was a 4v4 matchup with Oscar "The General" Pareja, Fernando “Crazy Eyes” Clavijo, Luiz “One-Foot" Muzzi and Drew “the Mad Irishman” Keeshan on one side and Marco “Silky Smooth” Ferruzzi, Brent “No Touch” Erwin, Josema "Not Again" Bazan and Karim Darqaoui on the other (Editor’s Note: Credit Keeshan with the nicknames).
What followed has become the stuff of legend.
Pareja and Clavijo are unbeaten in any format versus any opponent all-time (and by all-time I mean 2014 preseason). Tuesday’s game was no exception as the top-seeded squad won 4-2. Pareja was gracious as always postgame saying, “We have a team that is training and working hard to come and fight us, so we’re happy. We’re happy to be unbeaten.”
Wednesday morning Clavijo was still basking in the championship glow.
“I told them that they have no chance,” said Clavijo. “They’re never going to beat us. I’m really sad that today, the day after the game, they still have not recovered. But, that’s life. Hopefully they’re young and they learn from it.”
Several hours later, I had the misfortune of sitting between Keeshan and Erwin in a taxi. Since we were stuck in traffic, I decided to ask Keeshan about the previous day’s win.
With Erwin on my left repeating “This is a joke,” throughout the interview, Keeshan enjoyed his moment in the sun on my right.
“Well, it was a passionate affair,” said the Mad Irishman. “It was ebb and flow throughout. The quality actually shone through in the end where the team of Clavijo, Pareja, Muzzi and the Mad Irishman* prevailed 4-2. We want to thank the fans who came out to watch.** It was a special moment for us to win on foreign soil. We do it because we love the game. Commiserations to team B. No shame in second place, unless there are only two teams in the race.***”
“When’s the rematch?” I asked.
“Tomorrow. Today. Go park the car. We’re going back right now,” said Erwin, who then wanted to share his thoughts on the previous day’s match.
“Obviously a disappointing result,” said No Touch. “Just? I don’t know. But, I’m proud to be part of a team with Josema and Marco and Karim. Those guys really stand out as men among men. Being the sportsmen that we are, we would like to congratulate the other team. I mean, obviously playing on the same field with such professionals as Fernando Clavijo and Oscar Pareja, and watching them carry their team (Keeshan is repeating “sour grapes” to my right for the next 45 seconds), it was really something to see."
"We just have to go back, regroup, look at the video and do a little work. Usually championships aren’t won on the first day. Last I checked trophies were handed out at the end of the season. So, we’re going to come back strong. We’re really not in this to win matches. We’re in this to win championships.”
“Obviously you’re not in it to win matches,” said Keeshan.
At this point, they are both talking at the same time. Muzzi is silent in the front seat and I’m still stuck between No Touch and Mad Irishman in the back. Longest cab ride ever.
"It's always sad to see a fellow competitor have such sour grapes," said Mad Irishman.
"I think if you notice in our previous statement, we congratulate them on their win. It was inspiring," said No Touch.
With Keeshan repeating "I feel sorry for him," Erwin continued, "I’m humbled to see them play. We just have to go out there and work. I mean to see Luiz Muzzi jump around out there on one foot is something special."
Keeshan switches to a repetition of "We didn't celebrate" as Erwin moves on to the rematch, "We just have to go back and do our work and we’re going to come back and win a championship."
Thankfully, the taxi finally arrived at our destination and the bickering was put on hold… at least until the rematch, which at this point is still up in the air and possibly may never happen according to Clavijo.
“I told them they need to qualify,” said Clavijo. “We are too big of a team to play them right now. They are third or fourth division right now. They need to get up a couple of divisions before they can play the champions again.”
*Yes, he referred to himself in the third person, using a self-given nickname.
**There were no fans.
***There were only two teams in the race.
Final Note: This article was written under a shroud of controversy and in spite of threats to abandon the reporter in the desert. As of Feb. 6, the second place team was no longer speaking to the media.