FRISCO – Eight games in 29 days, nine games in 38 days. The players are very aware of how daunting FC Dallas’ summer schedule has been, but coming off a thrilling 1-1 draw against the league’s second-best team, Colorado Rapids, last Saturday in Commerce City, Colorado, players are finally getting a much-deserved rest.
FC Dallas, after enjoying their first full week between games since June 15th, sets their eyes on the upcoming stretch of games that’ll lead into the final three months of the season and the beginning of CONCACAF Champions League play.
But before that, players had the chance to take a breather, having two full days off - without travel, practice or anything else - before getting back to training Wednesday evening. It was their first such day in over a month.
“Yeah it’s nice to finally get a couple days off, get the rest in,” defender Matt Hedges said. “We had a pretty busy schedule the last month, so it's good. A lot of guys need a rest, guys have some knocks, some injuries, so it's good to get back in the kind of normal schedule.”
With a week-long break for MLS All-Star festivities before Sunday’s tilt with Vancouver Whitecaps, players have had the chance to catch up on their rest –– something they know they’ll need later in the season.
As grueling as the June and July stretch of matches has been, it’s only uphill from here as the U.S. Open Cup heads to the semifinals, the MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shield race heats up and Champions League play begins.
Starting with Sunday’s game, FC Dallas will commence a stretch of seven games in 27 days, which includes a pair of Champions League games against Real Esteli FC and the Open Cup semifinal in Los Angeles against the Galaxy.
Thankfully, after going 6-1-1 during the latest string of games, the confidence is there that the team can handle such scheduling tests.
“Yeah it's kind of our first test on how we're going to have to handle the rest of the season,” Hedges said. “I thought [the last stretch] went well and gave us confidence and I know that we can play that many games in a stretch like that and still get the results that we need.”
Thankfully, three of the first four games in that run will take place at Toyota Stadium, where FC Dallas has gone 16 consecutive games without a loss –– a franchise record.
Two of those games, Sunday against Vancouver and August 13th against Sporting Kansas City, will be against Western Conference teams currently in the MLS Cup Playoff hunt.
“Obviously we need the three points against every Western Conference team we play here because, you know, it's tough to go to those places away,” Hedges said. “To get those teams kind of in a row and get on a roll with those games –– it'll be really helpful for us.”
To have additional games combined with MLS games, plus a plethora of games against teams with playoff positioning on the line, it hasn’t been easy for FC Dallas. Despite that, they’ve remained steadily positioned at the top of the Supporter’s Shield standings.
“We had a great preseason and that's what we've prepared for,” midfielder Victor Ulloa said, who scored a dramatic, game-tying goal last Saturday in Colorado.
“I think we showed [our preparation] and we display it during this tough schedule that we've had and what a great run we've had. We have to keep it going.
“We're great physically and like I said, we had a great preseason so we're prepared for anything.”
Catch FC Dallas in action at Toyota Stadium this Sunday, July 31st, at 5 p.m. against Vancouver.