FRISCO - It was a night for the ages at Toyota Stadium.
Exactly one year ago, September 13, 2016, was the night FC Dallas players, staff and fans had waited 19 years for as the club lifted just the second trophy in its history. It was the culmination of a vision put into full motion two and a half years prior when Oscar Pareja was brought back to Frisco.
Three years removed from a Western Conference Championship, Dallas found themselves at a crossroads on the heels of losing seasons in 2012 and 2013. On January 10, 2014 they brought back a club legend to lead them into their new era, with a priority placed on development from within. He led a charge to the playoffs late in his first season back, finished tied for the best record in his second and in his third, brought a title to the club he had given his all to.
“This championship means a lot to my story here,” the head coach said that night. “This club gave me a chance to play and now a chance to coach. I came back here to Dallas for this group of players, from the guys in the Academy…I came back here from Colorado for a chance to win with this club. Today was a night I won’t ever forget.”
It was only fitting they would take the trophy named after the club’s patriarch, Lamar Hunt, who saved the team from some of its darkest days when he bought the franchise in 2003. Immediately, the Father of Soccer in North America went to work finding a permanent home for his hometown club. He found that home in the up-and-coming town of Frisco and eleven years after opening just the third soccer-specific stadium in the United States, it was the backdrop to history.
“We made dreams a reality,” Homegrown Kellyn Acosta said after his first professional trophy. “I mean, we’re just so excited that we can finally give back to the Hunts all they have given to us. I mean, beautiful franchise, beautiful facility. Lamar started a great program and we’re just really thankful and grateful that we got the opportunity to do so and also to just give back to them, all they have given to us.”
Acosta has become the face of the FC Dallas youth movement and the very Academy that Pareja helped launch in 2008. The Plano-native is just part of the vision to develop the talent sitting in the club’s own backyard.
Winning with Acosta and fellow-Homegrown Victor Ulloa on the field was proof that the system in Frisco would work. Winning was proof that Pareja’s plan was for real. Winning was just the beginning.
FCD would go on to complete a domestic double with the 2016 Supporters’ Shield captured six weeks later. If not for an ill-timed injury of the club’s offensive quarterback, it could’ve made a run for the first-ever treble. Dallas went all-in on a bid at becoming the first MLS side to capture the CONCACAF Champions League title, falling one game short of a spot in the Final.
Now, the team has its eyes set on the one trophy it has yet to claim - the MLS Cup. And Pareja is leaning on the feel of that first trophy one year ago as a point of motivation to get the team out of its current downtick.
“It’s a great memory, but at the same time, it has to encourage the players in the group to believe in what we’re doing. At this time, we’re in an important moment where we need to overcome some circumstances and just remembering what they have achieved at this club in this period is important.”