FRISCO - It's been a while since Toyota Stadium hosted a Western Conference Semifinal second leg. How long?
Homegrown player Alex Zendejas was only eight years old, many of the buildings currently around the stadium were just blueprints or twinkles in a local developer's eye and Moises Hernandez was a ball kid on the sidelines. But one member of the FC Dallas staff, technical director Fernando Clavijo, remembers things like they were yesterday.
Clavijo, then head coach of the 2006 Colorado Rapids, led his side to a dramatic 3-2 win over FC Dallas coming from an aggregate goal down in both regular time and extra time before defeating the home team on penalty kicks. It was a match that had everything: red cards, great goals, unlikely heros and a dramatic finish.
Leading 2-1 from the first leg, FC Dallas defender Chris Gbandi was red carded in the first half before Carlos Ruiz scored early in the second half to put FCD up two goals on aggregate. Nico Hernandez found two late goals to send the match to extra time before Clarence Goodson put FCD up. A wonder goal from Clint Mathis sent things to penalty kicks where Colorado prevailed.
"I can tell you right away, I remember like yesterday..." said Clavijo. "We managed it somehow a way to [advance]."
Nine years have passed since such an important MLS playoff game was held at Toyota Stadium. Things hang poised for a night to remember as FCD trails 2-1 from the first leg in Seattle, but heads back to a Toyota Stadium where they won 13 of 17 this year and five in a row. Clavijo expects his FCD side to come out with just as much passion and energy as he saw back in 2006.
"We have an opportunity right now not every player has to make it to the playoffs and a chance to win the championship," said Clavijo. "When you come to the win or go home games, everything is on the line. You’re going to see expectations, players performing to an even better level and desperation. I expect FC Dallas to come out with intensity to make it happen."
Having also led his 2005 Colorado Rapids team to similar Western Conference semifinal success against FCD, Clavijo teams are 2-0 in playoff knockount round games at Toyota Stadium and he hopes to make that three on Sunday.
"When you look back and look at today, it’s another game you don’t want to lose," said Clavijo. "You know if you lose you go home and you do whatever it takes to win. I know that Oscar is preparing the team both emotionally and tactically to make sure it’s not the last game for FC Dallas."