Since originally publishing this piece in 2020, we’ve received numerous submissions and suggestions of additions. We’ve been combing through these and have added those that best fit. Think you have one that fits? Let us know.
Back during the 2020 “COVID season” I was sitting around thinking just how wheels-off that year had been. It spurred memories of other seasons, which then blossomed into conversations that maybe this club owns a very unusual and unique history.
Certainly, you could go through any club’s past and pick out a quirk or unfortunate story from a season here or there, but could it be anything close to what our local MLS side has collected, annually, for 25+ years?
When you break it down by year, there are seasons with a stunning pile of facepalm moments and some that have just a single, kooky event but there is something – each and every year.
What follows is a crowd-sourced – from former, current, and long-time connections to the club – a curated list of items, per year, from the life of the Dallas Burn, aka, FC Dallas.
- The fact the team even exists may just be the foundation of what would become a club with annual issues. Established in the summer of 1995, mostly because Chicago could not finalize a stadium deal, MLS leaders turn to Dallas because the Cotton Bowl was available.
- Ironically, that lease contract for use of the Cotton Bowl was not signed until the night before opening day, and a club with issues was born.
- Tom Soehn, signed to be a starter in defense, gets hurt playing indoor soccer and misses the inaugural season.
- Uruguayan midfielder Washington Rodriguez plays in 14 games and scores four times before eventually leaving in the summer due to unhappiness related to the monetary value of his contract: his agent failed to let him know the salary was gross of taxes not net of taxes.
- While filling in at goal during an inter-squad pre-season scrimmage, equipment manager Kevin Harter all but lost an eye after getting hit by a Washington Rodriguez shot.
- Team captain, MVP, and MLS Best XI Leonel Alvarez, despite having a multi-year contract, asks MLS to release him from his contract at the end of the season so he could go play for Veracruz in LigaMX. Veracruz was offering to raise his salary by a substantial amount and since the league couldn’t match what Veracruz was willing to pay him, MLS acquiesced.
- Daniel Peinado comes in to replace Leonel Alvarez as the club’s defensive midfielder except it turns out he’s more of a linking mid. Apparently lost in translation was the difference between a defensive mid and a mid who plays defense.
- Argentinian Diego Sonora. demanding a raise, threatens to sit out pre-season, and even literally ‘sat down’ in the middle of a practice. Sunil Gulati has to get involved but that is only a short-term fix – Dallas trades Senora to NY/NJ at the end of the season.
- Star player Alain Sutter gets sick prior to game one of the Western Conference finals, claiming food poisoning from eating calamari at a team meal. No other players got sick. Sutter doesn’t play in Game One and only plays 34 minutes of Game Two. The heavily favored Burn lose to the Rapids in both games by one goal.
- After helping the team end 1997 with its first-ever hardware, the US Open Cup, Sutter’s career is effectively ended after stepping in a hole and injuring his hip – at the club’s borrowed training grounds at a local private high school. Sutter favors holistic medical treatment, much of which included him sitting on a beach, and he never plays again.
- On June 4th, the Burn suffer their worst loss in team history, an 8-1 defeat at home to the LA Galaxy. Leonel Alvarez got two yellow cards one minute apart – in the 17th and in the 18th minute – resulting in the team having to play shorthanded for 72 minutes. An interesting note: the Burn’s goal came from a 44th-minute Damian Alvarez Olimpico, the first in MLS history.
- Brandon Pollard has his lower leg violently broken by Chicago’s Dema Kovalenko in Game 2 of the first round of playoffs. While he does recover, Brandon is never quite the same player and retires from professional soccer during the 2001 preseason to become a baker and later a beekeeper.
- On August 26th, the Burn would suffer arguably its most embarrassing defeat to date; Clint Mathis scores five goals (3, 26, 40, 68, 83), the Burn lose 6-4 at home, and Clint sets a new MLS record for goals scored in a single game. Including the playoffs, Mathis scored 9 goals against Dallas that year.
- MLS signs Miguel Saavedra to a P-40 contract out of the USL A-League but on draft day he is sliding down with no teams showing interest. Quietly behind the scenes, to avoid embarrassment, MLS “orders” the Dallas Burn, a league owner team, to draft Saavedra in the 6th round if he falls that far. Saavedra never plays for Dallas, goes on loan twice for 5 games total, and is traded to the Chicago Fire at the end of 2001.
- The terrorist attacks of 9/11 halt the 2001 season. The attacks occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The team was scheduled to be on a flight to DC that same afternoon to play DC United on Wednesday. That game and the next (that last two games of the regular season) were canceled league-wide.
- In February – after six months of successful negotiations between the City of McKinney and the Hunt Sports Group, for the joint development of a Soccer Specific Stadium – the McKinney City Council surprisingly votes to cease negotiations on the project. Lamar Hunt after the vote: “We, and the American soccer community, were clearly blindsided by this development and shocked at the inexplicable negative turn of events regarding the soccer stadium.”
- In the 2002 Dispersal Draft (the draft held after the contraction of Tampa Bay and Miami), with their first pick (5th overall), the Burn selected Tampa Bay Mutiny midfielder Josh Keller. Keller, rather than continue his professional career, retired from soccer to go work at Morgan Stanley. Needless to say, Burn Coach Mike Jeffries was pissed about wasting their dispersal pick since the #10 SuperDraft pick, Brian Dunseth, Kyle Beckerman, Preki, and Alex Pineda Chacon were still available.
- Then a month later in the 2002 MLS Super Draft, with the first overall pick, the Burn passes on Taylor Twellman and instead selects Herman Trophy winner and highly touted college prospect Chris Gbandi, despite the player having to miss the entire 2002 season in order to rehab from an ACL injury.
- After taking over the club, Hunt Sports Group decides to relocate the team to the Southlake High School’s Dragon Stadium (due to the McKinney stadium project falling apart in early ’02). Thus began one of the most painful, self-inflicted errors in the club’s history. The move to Southlake proved near-fatal, “more circus than soccer”, destroying all the previous hard work of building a fan base (aforementioned grassroots program) and all but severing ties with the Hispanic community who had no interest in the new location.
- After leaving “the best field in MLS”, Southlake was a “very hard” artificial kind, that included a full set of gridiron markings that originally were promised to be laid with a paint that could be washed off for MLS games. It never was. In addition, the end zones were painted black and along with the natural absorption of the sun as a rubber crumb field will do, made for stories of shoes melting, very hot feet, and the team’s worst-ever season.
- Off the field, it wasn’t much better. Attendance cratered and the historically good scenes outside the Cotton Bowl, the game-day atmosphere took a hit from a ban on tailgating and especially on alcohol. The Burn front office’s “solution” for this was an unlit open field that was next to Dragon Stadium, where one could consume adult beverages without worrying about running afoul of the Southlake PD. The problem was, to get to the open field, you had to hike through the woods.
- Tells one original season ticket holder: “In many ways, that season burned that fanbase down to the most committed core. Anyone who put up with that bullshit for an entire year and still came back for 2004 and beyond, those were fans that would put up with almost anything. So yeah, I was zero percent surprised that attendance didn’t rebound in 2004 when they went back to Fair Park. There were fans that I remember never seeing again at games after a few games into the 2003 season. Dragon Stadium was such an affront, such a sign of disrespect to the fans, that it would’ve been tough for anyone — no matter how skilled they might be — to rebuild those fences.”
- Attendance craters, ending with an average of 7,906 (from 13,122 the year before).
- Oh and to top it all off, Ronnie O’Brien, arguably the team’s best player heading into the 2003 season, had his fibula broken by Dema Kovalenko in the third game. Yes, that is the same Kovalenko that had also broken Pollard’s leg in 1999.
- Jason Kreis tears his ACL on August 13th at Dragon Stadium playing against SJ Earthquakes in a 0-3 loss.
- Hunt Sports Group announces the long-anticipated rebranding of the Dallas Burn, to “FC Dallas”. The rebranding didn’t include a nickname but the choice of a red and white “hoops” design resulted in some of the fewest sold jerseys in MLS history. The club would later attempt to capitalize on “Hoops” as a nickname, launching a “Hoops Nation” marketing campaign, only to abandon it shortly thereafter in case the hoops design would someday be abandoned. “What does FC Dallas have to do with basketball?” quipped the new VP of Marketing.
- At the press conference to name Colin Clarke head coach, former Burn assistant coach Armando Pelaez somehow gets a press credential and proceeds to ask a bunch of questions accusing the Burn, GM Greg Elliott, and Coach Clarke of being racists. Elliott somewhat famously says, “Winning is our Ethnicity.”
- Due to the fan rejection of Southlake, the club returns for a one-year deal at the Cotton Bowl, but the damage had been done and attendance ends averaging on 9,008 a game.
- DC United selects up-and-coming American soccer phenom, Freddy Adu w/ #1 pick in the 2004 draft. That pick originally belonged to Dallas, but because the league and Adu would reportedly only play for DC United, Clark Hunt and DCU’s Kevin Payne were left to work out a deal.
- The story goes that Dallas would have drafted Chad Marshall with the #1 pick. In promising not to draft Adu, Dallas requested that DCU trade with whatever team had pick #2. Due to the obvious marketing importance of Adu being drafted #1, the league refuses and Dallas is forced to accept a trade for an allocation spot.
- After winning team “Defender of the Year” for 2004, Cory Gibbs goes for a “training stint” in Europe and never comes back and is sold to the Dutch club Feyenoord.
- Originally scheduled for a February 2005 opening, a partially completed Pizza Hut Park hosts its first game in August of 2005. Since it is a bowl-type stadium, literally dug into the ground, an overabundance of rain that year caused large construction delays.
- Richard Mulrooney tears his ACL in May. “We feel terrible for Richard, but this team was not built around one player,” says GM Greg Elliott. 10-2-3 through June, the team goes into a free fall going just 3-8-6 the remainder of the season, including losing 7 of 9 in July, Aug, & Sept.
- Despite winning the first leg of the playoff in Denver 2-1, Chris Gbandi received a straight red (for a tackle on the offensive half of the field) in the 29th minute. FCD would go on to lose a two-goal aggregate lead and lose in PKs, which ended with Dario Sala punching out Colorado’s Hunter Freeman at the end of the game after he missed the deciding PK. Sala was suspended for 6 games to start the 2007 season.
- In a move mostly driven by Dan Hunt, the club signs Denilson as a Designated Player – only the 5th in league history. Denilson plays just eight games and ends up being regularly considered the “worst DP signing in MLS history”.
- Club understandably goes all-in to promote the 1st DFW appearance of David Beckham, who’d just signed with the Galaxy, for an upcoming Superliga match. Anticipation of Beck’s appearance is so great, the game becomes an extremely rare sell-out, but due to injury he doesn’t even travel and FCD GM Michael Hitchcock has to post an apology statement and promise to offer anyone who’d bought a ticket some sort of special pre-sale option for Beckham’s next scheduled appearance in Frisco, but turns out to be free tickets to a charity game that took place the following pre-season.
- More playoff misery, this time against new rival Houston, as FCD again held on to a two-goal lead at the start of the 2nd half when former Dallas player Brad Davis goaded Arturo Alvarez into a red card. FCD would go on to lose in OT.
- Clarence Goodson was a late scratch after getting sick after the pregame meal. It was later rumored Goodson, in reality, had developed a case of the nerves.
- Kenny Cooper’s leg is broken by Tyrone Marshall in June, ending his season.
- In an attempt to help their defense and bring in a “big name” Mexican player, FCD signs Dulio Davino. Davino plays in such a static fashion he earns the nickname “traffic cone” and has little impact on the gate.
- Juan Toja – in an on-again, off-again, bickering war over sale price that included an article with fake quotes from the player, and eventually FIFA involvement – is finally sold to Steaua București.
- Rogelio Funes Mori beats out 2,000 other contestants to win “Sueño MLS,” a Univision reality TV show. Rogelio expects to be offered a professional contract, but instead, he and his twin brother, Ramiro, are added to the earliest incarnation of the then-new FC Dallas academy. Jorge Alvial, hired by FC Dallas as an international scout, sets up a trial for the twins at Chelsea, despite knowing they will be unable to re-enter the United States (due to their status as illegal immigrants). Rogelio goes on to become one of Monterrey’s all-time top scorers with more than 100 goals. Ramiro claims 26 caps with the Argentinian national team and sets the record for the highest ever transfer of a River Plate defender with a $14M move to Everton in 2014.
- After years of asking and offering the manager’s gig to Schellas Hyndman, on June 16, 2008, he accepts a deal that finally justifies walking away from the stability and financial benefits of his college job. Hyndman most famously demonstrated his beliefs in the martial arts and mental strength by allowing a Dallas Cowboys punter to freely kick him in the genitals.
- FCD trades DFW native and fan favorite Drew Moor, a 2nd round draft selection, and allocation money for Schellas Hyndman’s personal favorite, SMU grad Ugo Ihemelu. Ugo would play 68 games over 5 injury-plagued seasons for FCD – including a career-ending concussion – while Drew Moor is still active in the league and has played in 261 games since the trade, winning two MLS Championships, including the 2010 MLS Cup – that’s right – over FCD.
- On a frigid night in Canada, in the 107th minute, Dallas loses its only trip to MLS Cup via a George John own goal.
- Schellas’ hired his friend and long-time college soccer coach Barry Gorman as FCD’s first technical director. Gorman doesn’t know the expansion rules and submits an illegal protection list. FCD had to scramble on the flight home from Toronto to decide which players the team wanted to expose.
- Consequently, FCD exposes Dax McCarty in the expansion draft (to protect Eric Alexander) and McCarty is taken 1st overall. McCarty is, of course, still playing in MLS and has been selected to multiple All-Star games.
- 2011 Concacaf Champions League. After accumulating 7 points in their first 3 games, including the first MLS win on Mexican soil, FCD would go on to lose the last 3 games to crash out of the tournament.
- FCD legend, “face of the club,” and the broadcast voice of the team, Bobby Rhine, passes away from a heart attack unexpectedly at age 35.
- FCD agrees to sell George John to Blackburn, who had been allowed to leave midseason to fly to Greece to finalize his Greek/EU citizenship before negotiating personal terms at Blackburn. FCD then cancels the move at the 11th hour and calls back a pissed-off John after releasing a statement that GJ and Blackburn decided against the transfer instead.
- Barry Gorman is fired.
- In November, FC Dallas CEO Doug Quinn is accused of and arrested for assaulting his wife in a Manhattan hotel. Quinn officially resigns in February of 2013. He later is acquitted.
- At Toyota Stadium, George John gets hit in the head with a bottle after he scored the game-winning goal against LA Galaxy. 4/13/13. The offender tried to play it off and explain that he had just got back from deployment and let loose. His dad contacted FC Dallas supporter groups looking for a contact with the club to explain that his son had never served in the military and was a disgrace to the family.
- Peter Luccin signs with FCD to be their holding mid and blows out his knee in the preseason.
- Ryan Hollingshead is drafted but opts to take a year off to build a church with his brother.
- A confusing set of changes occur with hard-nosed midfielder Daniel Hernandez being retired into a coaching role he didn’t ask for. A couple of weeks later he is fired and later files a lawsuit against FCD for wrongful termination.
- In the first year that MLS adds the “away goals” rule to playoff matchups, FCD in the home tie draws 1-1 to Seattle. Then holds the Sounders to a 0-0 draw on the road thus becoming the first team to lose out on away goals in MLS history.
- FCD hits 60 points for the first time in franchise history but loses out on the Supporters Shield in a tie-breaker. Due to the imbalance of MLS schedules, the Shield was awarded to NYRB who clearly had played a far weaker, Eastern Conference heavy schedule.
- Ezequiel Cirigliano signed on loan, is immediately described as a head case by staff, appeared only eight times, and was released just six months later.
- FC Dallas releases 2016 prices, almost doubling the cost of many tickets but leaves the ‘cheap seats’ out of the initial sale describing it as the first pieces “of the puzzle” – fans coin the term ‘Puzzlegate.’
- FC Dallas trades for Bakary Soumare as midseason defensive cover. He sustains a concussion in his first week of training and is forced to retire.
- Fan-favorite Fabian Castillo, goes AWOL taking a flight to Turkey in an attempt to force a sale, later seen in social media photos having a physical and hanging out with officials from Trabzonspor – he’s successful. Hunt had said he’d rejected a $3.5m offer from Olympiacos, wanting $10m. Reports are the final deal was worth only $3M.
- Star player, Mauro Diaz, tears his Achilles in a late league game, ending his season and most certainly ending the club’s run to a first “domestic treble”.
- FCD attempts to move from free parking to selling passes for the blue lot, lack of sales and Flash Seats issues lead to this being abandoned in the first month.
- FCD signs Anibal Chalá but he gets hurt, never plays a single minute, and is such a head case Oscar Pareja ships him off to never return.
- Up-and-coming Academy midfielder, Weston McKinnie, passes on signing a pro contract with the club and upon his 18th birthday instead signs in Germany with Schalke. This meant Dallas was left without any compensation for his time in their academy and subsequently spurred the Hunt family into signing Homegrown players at a league-leading rate. *Bonus: Weston’s agent is the same Cory Gibbs who skipped town to Europe in 2005.
- FC Dallas had launched a women’s team to play in WPSL in 2016. The team would be self-sufficient but be given free access to FC Dallas facilities as part of the FC Dallas Youth program. Midway through the 2017 season, FC Dallas billed its women’s team $3,000 for field use. FCD would attempt to negotiate a deal where the volunteer staff of FCD Youth coaches would hand over $35,000, as well as 95% of any future fundraising in return for the continued free use of Dr. Pink Field.
- The club promotes a record transfer fee signing in Christian Colmán, who seems to have all the qualities to be successful in MLS, with the exception of actually scoring goals. In his two seasons, starts only 16 games and scores just four goals. Many of his misses become low-lights and internet memes.
- Walker Zimmerman recovers from a knee injury but Oscar Pareja continues to leave him out citing the injury. Post-training interviews were literally, Staff: “He still has a knee injury”, Walker: ‘That’s not true, I’ve been fit for weeks now.’” Zimmerman is traded in the offseason to LAFC.
- Ryan Hollingshead misses five months after being hit by a car while helping a stranded motorist. He breaks three vertebrae in his neck after being flung 30 feet.
- $5m bids for Michael Barrios and Maxi Urruti are rejected with Dan Hunt telling the media they “did not want to leave”. Urruti airs a grievance that Hunt does not get to put words in his mouth.
- FCD had announced the signing of Jose Salvatierra from Alajualense. He turned up drunk to his physical and was promptly released.
- Dallas dominates the LA Galaxy 5-1 on Decision Day, but San Jose scores in stoppage time to win their match and claim the final playoff spot due to the tiebreaker of total wins. SJ had a -21 goal differential on the season.
- Reportedly on the advice of Bulgarian legend, Hristo Stoichkov, the club signs Anton Nedyalkov from CSKA Sofia. He immediately looks great as exactly the attacking fullback Pareja is looking for, but he gets hurt. Right as he’s expected back it turns out he went home to Bulgaria and isn’t coming back. (His girlfriend couldn’t get a visa) He asks to be sold and gets his wish.
- Kellyn Acosta, arguably the FCD Homegrown poster child to that point, runs into issues and conflicts in his personal life. It’s clearly affecting his on-field play and despite efforts from the staff to help him work through all of it, Acosta goes to Pareja and asks for a trade because he simply needs to get out of town. The Hunts work to accommodate Kellyn, but can only gin up a last-minute deal with Colorado for Dominic Badji – who ends up not producing and being traded to expansion side Nashville after the 2019 season.
- On Nov 19 – a little over two weeks after the season ends – Oscar Pareja dramatically and unexpectedly resigns expressing a desire to take advantage of new opportunities. He confusingly takes a gig at volatile Tijuana in LigaMX – a club famous for burning through managers – and only stays for one season.
- Despite claims of interest from people with “international coaching experience” Dan Hunt hires someone with zero professional coaching experience – his Director of the Academy, Luchi Gonzalez, suggesting a clear philosophy of “play the kids” and capitalizing on all the amazing work and production from the club’s best-in-class academy.
- In the summer window, the club takes on loan Edwin Gyasi from CSKA Sofia and makes him the 2nd highest salary on the wage bill. Gyasi turns out to be so one-footed he could have left the other back in Europe and been the same, but the real issue would quickly occur. Gyasi gets his first start in Orlando. Due to the Florida humidity, Gyasi clearly is almost immediately gassed, goes down after softly turning the ball over, and has to be subbed at the 30-minute mark with what appeared to be a season-ending knee injury – only to be fully fit and 100% at practice two days later. Obvious to all he had faked the injury and quit, Gyasi would never recover from that Scarlet Letter.
- During its normal pre-game events, inexplicably, the event staff fails to correctly spell the team’s name (above) with individual letter banners. Most confusing is the error isn’t just an incorrect order of letters, but one too many “A” and a missing “L”.
- Jesse Gonzalez, Carlos Gruezo, and Pablo Aranguiz are suspended one game for a violation of team rules at Salt Lake. Rumor has it they were late for the team bus, causing the club travel issues and delays.
- Club denies media inquiries into the status of its women’s team after not being listed in the forthcoming WPSL season in February. The coaching staff are not told of the change, but the league reveals that FCD pulled out in December 2019
- The front office executes a “Mexican Superstars Package” marketing campaign, continuing the club’s long-used strategy of selling tickets w/ opposing team’s star players. This time it goes viral and receives criticism after Jozy Altidore ridicules the club on Twitter, stating, “Lmao y’all not for real. Can’t be.”
- The club is the first of two teams sent home from the league’s “MLSisBack” tournament in Orlando due to the spread of the COVID virus within the team. By our count, 10 players and 2 staffers in total test positive in Orlando with 3 player cases from the month before in Frisco.
- The contract of GK Jesse Gonzalez is terminated due to domestic abuse allegations.
- The team would go almost 200 days between games, before returning to play the other COVID ejected team, expansion Nashville. FCD would lose (0-1) and draw (0-0) the two games, played in Frisco.
- Upon playing the National Anthem in that first game back, players and staff knelt as part of a protest of racial inequality, there is boo’ing from a small number of fans, one of whom throws a water bottle on the field and is removed from the stadium
- Reggie Cannon, his wife, and his mother are all sent death threats after Cannon called the booing, “disgraceful”.
- After being signed on a free in 2019, fan-favorite Zdenek Ondrasek (the ‘Kobra’) pulls a “Nedyalkov” (see 2018) and decides he wants to return to Europe due to a mix of lack of starts and personal issues.
- Spoiler Alert: Ends up being the 2nd worst season in club history.
- The season hasn’t even started when friction between the front office and supporters groups grows due to the decision to move the groups from the north end stage to the southwest corner section. Groups are promised a section with modern “safe standing”, but as the season opener approaches it becomes clear that isn’t happening. Due to flat-out poor project management on the club’s part, the section opens with temporary structures meant to mimic safe standing but was only slightly modified bicycle racks using the existing bolts that used to hold the seats. The resulting racks were janky, not very secure and the exposed bolts threatened to injure anyone who made contact with them. When the intended barricades eventually were installed, the results remained far from what is considered proper, modern safe standing. Additionally, the groups now were hidden from any TV coverage and their presence minimized from the overall game atmosphere.
- Two weeks prior to the start of the season, key center midfielder, Thiago Santos is inexplicably sold to Gremio. Less than a year after he’s acquired, but clearly a critical component to Luchi’s plan – the loss of Santos sets the season into an immediate spin of which it never recovers.
- Along with moving the groups off the stage, came the resulting empty space that haunted the entire north end of the stadium. What used to be the only real atmosphere of the game day experience was now a cavernous empty concrete stage. The club’s “fix” was to turn it into a quasi Toyota car lot, parking the sponsor’s vehicles – largely targets for Bryan Acosta’s off-target, long-range shots. Dan Hunt later admits he “hates” the empty space, but offers no solution.
- On the field, the team gets off to a stuttering start and by June the club had won just one game. A brief run of impressive results in late July/early August inject some hope for a late season run – but then is followed by a frustrating return of poor form. After a bad loss to rivals Houston, Luchi is sacked and replaced by Marco Ferruzzi as interim manager. Hunt’s comments confused as they implied a guy hired for his willingness to play young Homegrowns was in large part why they decided to sack him. Veteran Designated Players – Franco Jara and Bryan Acosta had become ineffective afterthoughts, and much hyped midfielder Andreas Ricurte all but evaporated and was eventually released after the season. Hunt insists the club has the parts to make a playoff run under Ferruzzi, but as the season would play out he would only generate a single win.
- Fans are horrified when they receive an email from the ticket sales team offering a deal for $9.11 tickets for the home game against San Jose – played on September 11th.
- Dallas ends up in 11th place in the West, with a record of 7-15-12. Three of those seven wins, and ironically the last three came against expansion club, Austin.