Turnabout is fair play? Luck evening out? There are so many directions we could go with this one – so many sports clichés we can apply to what happened to FC Dallas today at RFK Stadium. Ultimately, they all amount to the same thing: The fortune Óscar Pareja’s team had when David Horst was sent off against Houston reversed itself against D.C. United. Instead of using a man advantage to claim a superficially convincing 4-1 win, the Hoops were dealt their own three-goal loss, falling by the same score Saturday in the nation’s capital.
FCD took an early lead through Mauro Díaz before D.C. took control of the game, with Zach Loyd’s second yellow card in the 39th minute giving the hosts a permanent advantage. Five minutes into first half stoppage time, after Díaz had left with an injury, a Fabian Espindola goal sent the sides into halftime even. In the second half, scores from Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, and Espindola over a nine-minute period starting at the hour mark gave D.C. its most decisive victory of the season, one that gives 2013’s doormats a five-game unbeaten run.
I mention 2013 because this may be one of the last times we can realistically do so. This surge feels so new, it’s impossible not to cast it in contrast to last year’s failures, but after too long, we may get used to United being more than a doormat. Any mention of last year’s quality will either be lazy or ironic.
On form, there’s still a lot of progress to be made, yet their third win of the season inches the team closer to a symbolic milestone. Once they reach win four and pass last year’s record-setting low, 2013 may be irrelevant.
For now, last year helps provide important context for Saturday’s romp. While there’s a danger of reading too much into a team’s 11-on-10 performance (see: Dallas’s win over Houston), United’s ability to take advantage of its opportunities is noteworthy. Six months ago, this team was finding ways to give away points. Today, they were ruthless, quickly taking advantage of the 10-man Toros. It’s a quality that should serve D.C. well as pushes forward in its rebuild.
It’s a resourcefulness which, to this point in the season Dallas has shared – a quality one bad day in Washington, D.C., can’t take away. Though its inevitable that people ask whether today’s game burst the FCD bubble, it told us almost nothing about the team’s underlying quality. Just as the win in Houston wasn’t an indication of Dallas’s quick ascent into MLS’s elite, this game is not an indication Pareja’s side is about to slide.
The bigger worry is Díaz’s first half injury. Pareja also has to be concerned about any mental effect the lopsided result has on his squad. But as for what the final tells us about D.C.’s rise of Dallas’s potential fall: Not much.