It has started to seem like there are two FC Dallas teams. Either one of them can show up on any given day. This day and night FC Dallas trend showed up at times last season, and has become very prevalent this season. It almost seems like there is no rhyme or reason as to why the doom and gloom FC Dallas shows up a weekend after sunny FC Dallas rolled over a team 3-1 the weekend before, but this season seems to have offered us some answers.
It all seems to hinge on former University of North Carolina Tar Heel, Matt Hedges. Let us look at the first anomaly, the 5-0 loss to the now last place Houston Dynamo on match day two.
Houston came out and knocked FC Dallas in the face with a goal in the 6th minute by David Horst. Then, it really hit the fan when Hedges scored an awful own goal on a pass back to Jesse Gonzalez that ended up in his own net.
The captain, Hedges, was visibly annoyed and that trickled down through the rest of the team. Emotions can sometimes get the best of FC Dallas, and the emotions Hedges had were worryingly infectious. This became increasingly apparent as Dallas found themselves down 4-0 inside of 30 minutes.
Do you need further proof that Dallas are an emotional team? Look no further than the playoffs last season, especially the final 10 minutes of the second leg of the Western Conference Semi-finals against the Seattle Sounders, but this time that same volatility worked in their favor.
Dallas were down 1-2 on aggregate in front of their home crowd when Tesho Akindele scored in the 84th minute for a 2-2 aggregate score line. Toyota Stadium went nuts. It was one of those moments we live for in sports. One of those moments that makes the hair on your neck stand-up. The players felt it and Oscar Pareja urged his side back on the field after a short celebration. Hedges circled the wagons and got his troops’ emotions in check.
That emotion carried on until Chad Marshall shut everyone up with what seemed to be the final dagger in the 90th minute putting Seattle up 3-2 on aggregate. But I watched Hedges look around at his teammates with their hands on their knees. He clapped loudly to gain his teammates attention, and urged them back to the center circle reminding his team that there were still five minutes left on the clock.
It rejuvenated the squad, and along with the encouragement from Pareja, The Hoops earned a corner just a minute later. Walker Zimmerman scored the header to send the match to extra time, and then penalties, and we all know what happened next. Zimmerman scored the game winning penalty and Dallas was on to the next round.
But without the encouragement of the fearless captain who isn’t afraid to knock some heads, none of that ever happens.
Jump forward in time to current day. It’s been three weeks since Hedges went down with a meniscus injury that required surgery. FC Dallas are 1-3-0 in his absence, and have given up nine goals while scoring just two. All of Dallas’ losses across his absence have occurred across a three game road swing in which Dallas were outscored eight to nothing.
They’ve looked lost without their leader Hedges. It even puts Pareja in a tough spot as he has had to roll out three different backlines without his captain and the anchor in the center of his backline. FC Dallas sport a -6 goal differential without Hedges, and a +1 goal differential with him.
It all anchors around Hedges it seems. The numbers reflect this. While he’s not scoring the goals, he clearly plays a big part in preventing them. His vocal leadership is missed, and his emotional leadership is essential. When FC Dallas get down on themselves, a positive Hedges has not been there to pull them out. While Hedges continues to nurse his meniscus, it will be interesting to see how Dallas cope with the remaining weeks in his recovery. Someone has to fill that void, but who?
Whether someone alone takes the void, maybe a Hollingshead or Chris Seitz type, or the team comes together to keep each other in check, something has to happen. Either that, or it is going to be a long couple of weeks in the remaining time of Hedges 4-6 weeks of recovery that is four weeks in already.
Dallas got off to a good enough start to where even with this slide they’re still near the top of the Western Conference, but should Dallas not find a way to be who they are when Hedges is in the line-up, things might become very gloomy in Frisco when the captain does return.