One moment can change history. For FC Dallas, one moment was all it took on Saturday night.
The team clinched a top-spot finish in the Western Conference and a berth into the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League, all while surpassing the franchise record for points in a season - in a game that was largely controlled by their opponent, Real Salt Lake.
“The team won a game they needed to win,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “I’m very proud of these young men and the willingness they have to win.”
Dallas conceded 12 shots in the opening 45 minutes and Jesse Gonzalez once again delivered a stellar performance. The young goalkeeper made four huge stops to get the game to halftime scoreless - including three within a five-minute span late.
“[The saves] helped us stay in the game,” Gonzalez said. “For a bit, they were pressuring us and we didn’t have anything to do in the game right there and I think those saves helped us [hang in there].”
With one second half play, and one key playmaker, the team was no longer hanging around.
After a few quality chances in the opening 10 minutes of the half, David Texeira found a perfectly-placed ball at his feet as he made a run towards the penalty area - a ball from the foot of one Mauro Diaz. Texeira needed only one touch to score the game’s lone tally.
“We spoke at halftime that we had to win the second balls,” Texeira said after the game. “Once we started getting the second balls, we started playing and we gave the ball to Mauro, and Mauro started making us play.”
“Mauro cleans stuff [up] and glues us [together]. He comes up with those plays that made the difference,” Pareja said. “I’m happy for him, I’m happy for David and I’m happy for the group. That’s the result of a unit effort.”
Finishing the regular season atop the conference means that Dallas will play the deciding second leg of each postseason series in front of their biggest supporters at Toyota Stadium. However, their eyes are set on different Supporters before season’s end - in the form of a Shield.
“[It’s] important certainly, to have the boys winning the West - a very tough conference. They want more. They know they can do it,” Pareja said. “To win it is going to take more performances like tonight.”