FRISCO - It's hard to achieve a three-peat in sports. It's even harder to do so when almost a team's entire roster is turned over each season. However, the opportunity to achieve three consecutive U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-16 national titles is very real for FC Dallas.
A stellar regular season by the FC Dallas U-16 squad, who went 21-2-2 to claim the number one overall seed for the USSDA Playoffs, was followed by an undefeated showing during the USSDA Playoff Group Stages.
"Every game was a challenge, but we approached it well," U-16 Head Coach and FC Dallas Academy Director Luchi Gonzalez said.
Dallas collected seven points from three group stage matches, holding Crew SC Wolves to a 0-0 draw in its final game to win Group F in the U-15/16 division. The team's biggest challenge came in the opening match against Baltimore Armour, though, as Dallas quickly found itself down 2-0.
"That first game for us was huge because of the Generation adidas Cup and what we experienced losing the first game," Gonzalez said. "We knew the first game was do or die for us. It was a moment for the boys where their season kind of flashed before them."
After outscoring its opponents 8-1 in the group stages after that initial 2-0 deficit, Dallas brings confidence into its quarterfinal match against the Colorado Rapids.
Dallas and Colorado have already faced each other twice this season, with each team claiming a road victory. Last October's meeting saw Colorado win 3-1 in Frisco, while Dallas returned the favor with a 2-0 win in April.
"We're just going to focus on our game and getting the win," midfielder Brayan Padilla said. "We are going to come out with intensity and just play our style, the FC Dallas style."
Padilla scored in April's win, and like most members of the U-16 team, wants to add a national title after several close calls.
They were part of the FC Dallas U-15 team that lost the 2015 National Premier League National Final, and also suffered an early exit in the Generation adidas Cup earlier this year on a tiebreaker after a first-match loss.
The lineup for Thursday's match could also feature a pair of rarely-seen faces with the team. Bryan Reynolds has been busy with the U.S. Soccer U-17 Residency Program in California, as well as at the CONCACAF U-17 Championship in Panama, but is joining the U-16s for the remainder of their season. Jesus Ferreira, who has been with the FC Dallas senior team and the U-18 team this year, is also eligible for the U-16 squad and could see time in the remaining games.
"These players of ours are players for the club, not for one team," Gonzalez said. "We're going to try and put the best product on the field. This is what competition is and what the program is all about."
Thursday's match offers fans, family members and friends the chance to watch the team earn a trip to the USSDA National Semifinals, played in Carson, California.
"It's a great opportunity to have, it makes it that more special to be able to play where everybody can come out and see and support you," goalkeeper Michael Collodi said. "It's just another game we have to get through."
Thursday's match is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start, and will be played at Toyota Soccer Center Field 4, the same field Colorado beat Dallas on earlier this season. Admission is free to the public.