Red and white confetti rained down on a full west stand of Toyota Stadium. The Dallas Beer Guardians in the north end led the remaining crowd in the viking clap that Iceland made famous this summer. The sound of each clap and the exclamation of each “Hoops!” reverberated through out the stadium and into humid Texas night, each one releasing energy pent up after year after year of misses in lifting a major trophy.
On the field, players and coaches celebrated with their families on the pitch before high-fiving and celebrating with the fans packed along the front row.
It was a sight that hasn’t been seen at the stadium ever. And it’s a moment FC Dallas hasn’t had in 19 years.
Tuesday night, FC Dallas won the U.S. Open Cup final with a 4–2 win over the New England Revolution, winning its first major trophy since the team won the 1997 Open Cup. That win came in a shootout in Indianapolis over D.C. United.
The U.S. Open Cup, which completed its 103rd year, is a national tournament that’s open to professional and amateur teams alike. Unfortunately, the Cup isn’t highly regarded in the MLS as many managers chose to play reserve and youth players in leu of their typical starting XI. Among the four major trophies MLS teams can win in a year (U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup and CONCACAF Champions League), this Cup is typically the least cared about.
But neither the players or staff celebrating on the pitch, nor the supporters in the stand could be bothered by such facts. This trophy had been a long time coming — 19 years to be exact. FC Dallas wasn’t even FC Dallas back then; they were the Dallas Burn. They played at the Cotton Bowl. Frisco was more of an outpost on the northern edge of the Metroplex. MLS was just in it’s second year with clocks that counted down and shootouts to decide tie matches in the regular season. Professional soccer was on much rockier footing in those days.
In the time between major titles, FC Dallas a Buffalo Bills-like run in Cup finals. They lost two U.S. Open Cup finals in the 2000s, including the 2007 final against New England in this stadium. An own-goal in extra time of the 2010 MLS Cup final sunk their only chance at the league title. And last year they fell short of the Supporters’ Shield on goal differential.
To say that this moment was a long time coming — both for the team and the supporters — is quite the understatement.
— Jacob Martella (@ViewFromTheBox) September 14, 2016
The U.S. Open Cup win unlocks new potential, even historic potential. The title secures the first of what couple be a three-trophy haul this fall — the American treble. Not one team has managed to win the U.S. Open Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the MLS Cup in one season. Eleven teams have managed to win two of the three trophies; Seattle was the last two do that, winning the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield before falling in the Western Conference finals in 2014, but no one has won all three.
FC Dallas is in a pretty good position to do that, having won the first and sitting atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. And the team knows it and wants it too. As the celebrations continued on the pitch after the Cup win, manager Oscar Pareja went over to celebrate with the Dallas Beer Guardians in the north end and reportedly yelled “two more.” In one of the teams’ videos on Wednesday, midfielder Kellyn Acosta said “one down, two to go,” which is decidedly cliche but shows that team wants get the treble.
But maybe more important that the treble chase is the fact that FC Dallas can now feel vindicated for the way in which it conducts business. There are no superstars on this team. You can’t find a Kaka, or a David Villa or a Landon Donovan on the club’s roster. Maximilano Urruti might be about as close to a “star” as this team has, and that’s because of his time in Portland. Mauro Diaz deserves to be a star, but only people who follow the league closely know his name.
Instead, this team is built on youth and development. It’s no secret anymore that FC Dallas has the best development academy in the nation. Before the Open Cup title, the U-16 and U-18 teams won the U.S. Soccer Development Academy championships in July, the first academy to pull off such feat. And six homegrown players, players who have gone through the academy, are contributors on the senior team.
But for all of the accolades the club gets, and deserves, for its youth development, there were still questions about how far youth could take a team. Now, with a trophy, the Hunts, technical director Fernando Clavijo and Pareja look like the poster program for how to develop and win with youth. The hope from fans and some in the media, is that other teams start to follow this model, raising the talent in the league and ultimately, the U.S. national team.
None of that, however, mattered in this moment. Instead, it was about the here and now. About how this team the last 84 minutes of the match to come out with the win. About how it felt to celebrate in such a title-deprived town. About how 16,612 supporters actually showed up to this match and the incredible atmosphere that was created.
And, as everyone began to realize the time and head home, about how it wouldn’t take another 19 years to experience this again.