FRISCO, Texas — The last time Dario Sala started a league match for FC Dallas, it didn’t go so well. A gaffe by the veteran goalkeeper on May 1 at Gillette Stadium led to New England’s only goal of the day in a disappointing 1-1 draw.
Despite starting four of FCD’s first five games, Sala’s mistake against the Revs was enough for head coach Schellas Hyndman to go with Kevin Hartman in goal. Hartman has started every game since before spraining his right MCL in the first half of a 2-2 draw against New York on Thursday night at Pizza Hut Park.
The Argentine veteran stepped back in, played the second half, and is now poised to start on Wednesday night when that same Revolution squad come to town.
“Can you believe that,” Sala mused last Friday. “I’m playing against New England again. Hopefully I don’t repeat the mistake I made in Boston that cost me the starting position this year. Hopefully I have a great performance and help the team.”
In 2010, Sala has appeared in five games -- four of which were starts -- with a record of 0-1-4 and has a goals-against average of 1.56.
“I would like to have one win this season,” Sala said. "I haven’t had one yet."
With five years in Frisco, the seasoned ‘keeper is FCD's longest-tenured player. And win or no win, Sala is a valuable asset for head coach Schellas Hyndman and a Dallas squad that has been ravaged by injuries.
“The thing with Darío is he’s a player with many, many years of experience,” Hyndman said. “When you have a player coming in with that many years of experience, they’re able to handle that pressure of coming in cold, which I thought he did a very good job with.”
Even though Sala and Hartman compete for playing time and for the starting spot, that hasn’t stopped the veteran duo from becoming close friends over the last six months since Hartman was acquired in a trade from Kansas City. Replacing Hartman due to injury was bittersweet for Sala.
“I didn’t want to come in under that circumstance,” Sala said. "I think the team needed a leader because we were in a really bad spot. We were one man down and had just given up a goal and our captain had also gone out."
"I think it was an extreme situation where any player coming from the bench had to show up and had to be in the best position to help the team.”
Sala started in a friendly against Inter Milan on August 5 and performed pretty well against the reigning European champs. But not even he had any idea that it would be over four months between league starts.
“This is the first time in my career that I’m not starting or not playing,” Sala said. “I think it was a learning experience.”
Despite not starting, the South American ‘keeper has been part of a 14 game unbeaten streak with FC Dallas as the team has established itself as one of the top sides in the Western conference. The club is currently eight points behind conference leaders LA, but 11 points out of the drop zone for a playoff spot.
“It showed me how I can enjoy some of the other stuff with the team,” Sala said. "At this stage of my life and at this age, you learn a lot. When you’re a goalkeeper and play every single day, you become a little selfish.
"Something I’ve learned from this experience is to always think of the team first. Being part of this group of people made me realize I was missing something. I’m really glad I found it.”
With Hartman set to miss two to three weeks with his injury, Sala should get at least four games to start for FCD. His first chance comes on Wednesday night.