FRISCO, Texas — When 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira went down with an ankle injury in a 2-1 win at Vancouver on April 23, the prognosis was bleak.
In the opinion of many, the team was finished. There would be no magical run to the MLS Cup final, much less a return to the playoffs.
“How do you replace David Ferreira?” said head coach Schellas Hyndman following the team’s 2-0 wild card loss to New York on Wednesday night. “I think you look at a very good player and you say, 'How do you replace him?' What you don’t know is what a great leader he was, and how much he changed the game by himself. He always found a way to give that killer pass that led to something.”
But something unexpected happened that saved FC Dallas’ season: Brek Shea.
The second overall pick by FC Dallas in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, Shea made the transition from center back to midfielder, becoming one of the league’s most dangerous scorers in the process. His 11 goals and four assists carried FC Dallas through stretches of the season, including a nine-game unbeaten streak from April 23 to June 4.
But the schedule would eventually catch up to Dallas, as the team competed in the CONCACAF Champions League and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in addition to the expanded MLS season.
Hyndman remained optimistic following the wild card loss to New York, in part because he believed this team exceeded expectations.
“When you look at the accomplishments of the season — 52 points, tying a franchise record; playing in three major tournaments and finding success; playing 48 games instead of 34; all the traveling; and you lose the MVP of the league, who is probably your best player — with all that adversity and all those events, we still got into the playoffs,” he said. “You look at the accomplishments of the season, we’re very happy with all of the things we went through and still competed very well in this game.”
Though the team did reach the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the loss to New York was in no way acceptable to members of the team who always expect to win.
“It’s tough,” said FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. “We just did not play up to our expectations, except for maybe the first 15 minutes.”
Defender Ugo Ihemelu echoed the frustrations of his teammate.
“It has been frustrating lately, you feel like you are a better team,” Ihemelu told MLSsoccer.com. “But that’s the game. Sometimes it is not going to go your way. That’s just how it is. The ball is going to bounce well for you sometimes. Last year, the ball bounced our way a few times in playoffs. This year it just didn’t.”
Maybe the ball didn’t bounce well for FCD during their short run in the 2011 MLS Cup playoffs. Or maybe Ferreira, the team’s most valuable player, was irreplaceable after all.