Dallas is a tough place to play.
Apologies for the nail on the head cliche, but it’s true. For Toronto FC, a trip to Dallas usually means one thing: broken hearts and a sunburn that lasts for weeks.
It’s worth remembering previous times, when the Reds achieved one of their biggest results in club history.
They are names of yesteryear: Aron Winter, Joao Plata and Danny Koevermans, but that game in the heart of the Texas heat bears mentioning.
On October 18, 2011, Plata was sensational, scoring twice in the second half to lead Toronto to a 3-0 win in Frisco.
Though that Champions League campaign fell short, the match remains one of the best wins in club history. On Saturday, they’ll look to erase that moment. It’s a new day, with a new team and new players. And though the expectations from then to now are incredibly different, the point remains the same.
Michael Bradley is expected to play, matched up against Mauro Diaz, arguably the best player in MLS through six weeks.
The American’s absence last week against Colorado didn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.
“Any team world wide would miss a player like Michael Bradley, we might have him back this weekend,” said defender Bradley Orr.
By most accounts, Bradley will be available in Dallas, and the timing couldn’t be better.
Diaz is the lifeblood of FC Dallas. Through set pieces and maneuvering through the middle of the pitch, Diaz, along with Fabian Castillo and Je-Vaughn Watson, led Dallas to an excellent start so far.
“It’s arguably one of our toughest challenges so far this season,” manager Ryan Nelsen said after practice on Thursday. “The guys are really looking forward to it. It’s exciting for us. It’s a real good challenge for us to see where we are. Whatever happens in Dallas, whether we win or get a result, we know we’ve got a nice little foundation now.
“They’ve got a lot of speed out wide and experience in that central midfield. They’ve got a lot of experience. At home, they’re a very tough team to play against.”
Indeed they are. They’ve beaten Montreal, Chivas, Portland and Houston. Not exactly a murderers row, but the wins all count for the same.
The question for Toronto FC is simple. Ahead of a bye week, with several home games on the docket, can they win a game they aren’t expected to win?
Jonathan Osorio is back, Steven Caldwell and Bradley Orr are developing a solid rapport. Gilberto is primed to breakout.
Caldwell was cognizant of FCD’s pacey frontline, namely David Texeira.
“We play against fast strikers most weeks, so we’re aware of that,” Caldwell told reporters. “We know that they’re very good players and we have to try to limit their space, limit the quality balls that come into them.”
The optimist says they can do this. The realist says it isn’t impossible. This is why they play the games.
A humid night in the deep south waits. This is why we watch.