FC Dallas is a few days away from traveling to one of the cathedrals of American soccer, but Providence Park will be missing its choir.
Players often talk about playing in front of big crowds, whether the fans are cheering for or against, and how it energizes them. Michael Bradley infamously doesn’t like playing at FC Dallas because of the silence outside of the supporters’ section.
Aside from a forgettable night in Atlanta, FC Dallas hasn’t had to contend with the big away games taking place in front of no fans.
“There’s certain individual players that value playing with pressure of fans,” said Luchi Gonzalez on a media call last week. “I’ve had conversations with certain players and they’ve had to do exercises with themselves, so they make sure they’re hyped up and have energy and commitment on the day knowing that there’s not thousands of people watching them.”
“You have others that are indifferent to it.” Goach G continued. “That they could be training on a Wednesday 11 v 11, or playing in Portland with 20,000 plus people at Providence Park, and they’re going to be super motivated, drain themselves, and leave everything on the field.”
“So it’s just about kind of knowing your personnel and having moments with individuals.”
Visiting goalkeepers are a target for any home crowd, stuck close to the areas of hardcore support behind the goals. Jimmy Maurer won’t miss that aspect, and even believes the absence of the Timbers Army will help sway things in Dallas’ direction.
“The fans give them energy and they also pressure the refs a lot up there,” said Maurer. “It’s really hard to get calls when the fans are in the building up there, and so for us it’s just all about taking advantage of the moments.
“It’s really unfortunate their fans can’t be there. It is an incredible atmosphere,” Maurer continued. “I’ve really enjoyed the games we’ve been able to play there and seeing that that atmosphere in that venue when it’s been full, but to be honest, it’s an advantage for us and we got to go up there and push and take advantage of it.”
The FC Dallas keeper will make his first career playoff appearance in Major League Soccer after a knock kept Maurer from playing in the regular season finale in Minnesota. The three time NASL champion, under now-Portland coach Gio Savarese, returned to training last week after what was described as a precautionary measure.
Maurer’s replacement for that final game – Phelipe – will not feature due to his participation in Brazil’s pre-Olympic camp in Saudi Arabia.
The loanee from Gremio played the full 90 minutes as Real Madrid forward Rodrygo led A Seleção to a 3-1 win over South Korea. Then the team lost 2-1 to Egypt with the 21-year-old watching from the sidelines. Phelipe will now enter quarantine upon his return to Frisco.
Bryan Acosta is also in line to travel with the FCD. The Honduran midfielder returned to full training on Tuesday after a hamstring strain kept him out of the previous five games.
Acosta has missed 50% of the season between a suspension (1 game), the appendix issue (2), his first hamstring problem (3) and the most recent one (5).
As Dallas’ injury issues appear to be improving, Portland coach Gio Savarese is having to contend with his own. Sebastian Blanco and Jaroslaw Niezgoda both suffered season-ending ACL tears.
The Timbers may also lose Andy Polo and Felipe Mora to post-national team quarantine, which would force Jeremy Ebobisse into action after missing the final five games of the regular season with a concussion.
After the surprise of Albert Rusnak’s rapid return when Dallas traveled to Real Salt Lake, Luchi Gonzalez is preparing for Portland’s best rather than their most likely.
The travel situation is fluid as Major League Soccer announced a plan on Wednesday to use charter flights to negate a quarantine period for players.
“I do understand that there is a possibility that players coming back from international break will have a shorter court quarantine and could be available,” Gonzalez told reporters on Tuesday.
“There’s not exact dates or clarity on that, but for me personally and the way we’re going to prepare, we’re going to expect Portland to have their full team, just because we don’t want to do the latter and then be unprepared. So we’re going to prepare to face the best.”
One thing FC Dallas will not have to contend with in its first west coast away trip of 2020 is same-day travel.
Gonzalez confirmed that the team will travel to Portland the day prior and fly back to Dallas immediately following the game on November 22nd. Both legs will be chartered as per the revised rules surrounding COVID-19, avoiding the age-old gamble of whether to use up a team’s allotted charter flights on the regular season or save them for the playoffs.