The day after the World Cup is usually one of an extreme soccer hangover for most people in the world, as top leagues like the Barclays English Premier League and Spanish La Liga do not start up until August.
Luckily for American soccer fans, Major League Soccer is in full swing, punctuated by the over 60,000 fans that attended the Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders match last night and saw a goal by recently returned US Men’s National Team captain Clint Dempsey.
Major League Soccer took a two-week break during the group stage of the World Cup, however US Open Cup games were still played during that time. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is a tournament played yearly amongst between every team in every division of American soccer, from the smallest amateur adult team, to Major League Soccer.
Locally, FC Dallas currently sits in 4th place in the Western Conference, twelve points behind the division-leading Sounders, and right in the thick of the playoff chase. The “Hoops” started the season hot, wining six of their first eight games, but fell into a May/June swoon where the club only won one league game, a swoon that has become common like December Dallas Cowboy losses in the past few years.
However FC Dallas has made some positive strides in July, winning the Independence Day game against the Philadelphia Union by a score of 2 to 1. They will face that same team in the Open Cup semifinals August 12, as it knocked off the North American Soccer League’s Carolina Railhawks 5-2 in the Open Cup quarterfinals last Wednesday, reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
The team has struggled with injuries to major contributors, as fullback George John and rising young midfielder and potential 2018 US World Cup member Kellyn Acosta are currently out with different ailments. Argentinian midfielder Mauro Diaz made his return to FC Dallas in the Open Cup quarterfinal game, scoring a late goal in the victory.
As in 2012 and 2013, Panamanian forward Blas Perez leads FC Dallas in scoring with five goals and four assists on the season, with Brazilian midfielder Michel, and always-enigmatic forward Fabian Castillo also contributing five goals each.
What is interesting to note is although the team has missed the playoffs the past two seasons, attendance has grown steadily, with 2014 producing an average capacity crowd at Toyota Park of 16,931 through July 7th, lower than the average MLS crowd, but a 10% improvement over 2013. Attendance may experience a post- World Cup bump as well, though a US Men’s National team will not be coming to Toyota Park until Kyle Beckerman and Real Salt Lake face FC Dallas on August 22nd.
The next home game is July 19th against the New England Revolution, who is currently sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference. The team also has a friendly four days later against Aston Villa of the English Premier League, giving Dallas soccer fans a glimpse at goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who many soccer analysts expect to replace Tim Howard as the starting goalkeeper for the US Men’s National Team in the 2018 World Cup.