FRISCO, Texas — When FC Dallas winger Michael Barrios first joined the team in 2015, the squad at the time was hitting its peak. Now with a rejuvenated roster and coaching staff, Barrios is a key part of the beginning of the next era in FC Dallas history.
In his first season at FC Dallas, Barrios helped the team clinch a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and the team enjoyed a playoff run that ended in the Conference Finals.
He’s experienced the highs of winning the double in 2016 — the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup. He’s also experienced the lows of missing the MLS playoffs entirely in 2017 and faltering late in the 2018 season in which FC Dallas ceded the No. 1 seed in the west and dropped to No. 5 within the final week.
Now in 2019, he’s a seasoned veteran on MLS’ youngest roster, who made the playoffs with a first-year coach and a new playing style. Barrios will be a key facilitator and attacker when FC Dallas takes the pitch against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday in what will be yet another playoff matchup between the two teams.
Barrios and FCD have won once and lost once against the Sounders in the playoffs — the win coming in penalty kicks in 2015. But this year will be different for him and the rest of the league with the new playoff format. Two legs in each matchup are no more. Instead, the format has been replaced with a new one — a single-elimination game where the winner takes all.
Michael Barrios dribbles past two Sounders defenders in the 2015 Western Conference Semifinals
Come Saturday, nothing that has happened in the regular season will matter because everything can change with as little as one goal.
“The important thing is to be attentive, prepared, and concentrated,” Barrios said. “Try to get a goal before them and maintain that lead for the rest of the game. Our defense plays an important role in keeping that lead to keep us ahead on the scoreboard. Within the field, we have to keep a level head throughout the game and approach every play in a calm manner.”
Barrios has been an important player for FC Dallas — someone who can blaze down either wing and deliver a good ball into the box.
“Mikey’s a player that’s been pretty fluid for us playing in the front three — right, left or central,” FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “He can be important in opening them up with movements and isolations. Him and some other players can do that for us.
Along with being a young team in general, FC Dallas is the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, punching its playoff ticket on the final day of the season. This will be the first time Barrios will play with FC Dallas while being the bottom seed in the playoffs, but he said none of that matters. With a single-game elimination format, anything can happen when a team comes to play with the right mentality and execution.
“I think that being in seventh place is nothing bad,” Barrios said. “We know as a team that all we a have left are finales. Every game has to be played as if it were a finale. They are different games. Everyone starts at zero. We know that the home team will have an advantage on their field, but as a young team, we know that we can bring that surprise, first to Seattle, and then to the matches that follow.”
Looking across MLS, FC Dallas is in a different position than a lot of teams. Not only did the team make playoffs with a young squad, the potential for the roster to continue to grow with one another is a big factor when looking at the future.
At 28-years-old, Barrios is in the prime of his career, and players around him like Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania and Bryan Acosta are only going to get better as time passes. Taking a first step in the right direction — winning against Seattle — will be impressive for a young team, but they won't be satisfied. The group is hungry for the MLS Cup.
“We know that this is a step by step process,” Barrios said. “We reached our first goal, to make the playoffs, but now we have to concentrate on Seattle and playing on their home field. We have to me malleable and ready to follow the technical team’s strategies and move on to those next steps.”