Commentary: We can dig our own holes

“Ain’t much difference between winning and losing except how the outside world treats you. ... We can dig our own holes.” (Coach Gaines, Friday Night Lights, the movie)

I love this movie quote, and I love it a lot because it's about sports in Texas…the real sport that matters in Texas…High School Football. Yet the line seems so appropriate when you experience a match that shows in lights what the darkness can bring forth.

FC Dallas made their first appearance in the grand finale of MLS, fighting for the Alan I. Rothenberg Cup, Mark II. FC Dallas fought until the end, and at the end of 120 minutes and then some, the score was 1-2 in favor of another team that had never won before. The difference was a deflected cross off an FC Dallas defender, that floated like a dagger across the goal line and into wrong the net.

As anyone who watches and plays soccer will tell you, soccer is a cruel game. Its cruelty in the 2010 MLS Cup Final would be noteworthy, but in fact it is not. In soccer the own-goals and deflections are so common, that a bad bounce loss is merely an unfortunate result, not the definitive statement one hopes for in a Cup final.

Take a wager and ask every player on that other team if they ever came out on the wrong end of a bad bounce. A couple seconds later their eyes will go blurry and they will remember more than a few bounces that cost them a game, a season, a Cup, or a job. FC Dallas has had more than their share of bad bounces, never mind the systemic failures of the USSF soccer referee committee. It seems as if soccer's well of ill fortune never quite runs dry for FC Dallas.

Given the nature of the game, you have to balance the outcome against even in the high-stakes venue of an MLS Cup. I must take the whole story into account. And the whole story is that the 2010 team is an outstanding team. They posted a phenomenal record in the regular season, and marched through the playoffs an unstoppable force. They were the first FC Dallas team to even play a complete season, never having the habitual summer swoon that past teams could never escape.

Entering the playoffs they routed the sitting MLS Champions, and then took down the Galaxy, the team many people thought would be certain victors on their home ground. Instead, Dallas out-paced the Galaxy from one end of the field to the other, and took the Western Conference Championship into MLS Cup. That they came out a bad bounce short makes marginal difference to me. Things like that happen, and the champions of the sporting world recognize it for what it is, just another random setback.

A score line in soccer can be deceiving, to put it mildly. Often have I heard the commentary of a game describe that the score line did not do justice to the game that was played. This is said, rightfully, in both directions. Games with a close score line are often really never in doubt. Meanwhile what looks like a blowout in the end was a tight contest until an improbable sequence breaks open the game.

Being "hard done" by a score line is a phrase I learned early on observing soccer. The score line of the 2010 Cup was indeed deceptive. Dallas played solid attacking soccer, and took an undue beating for it. How Casey got through most of that game without a yellow card is something that needed asking in the post-game evaluation. He was spoiling for one from minute one, and the ref let him get away with it. When he got one, the game opened up considerably.

Fans, it's just another setback. The season and the final proved that FC Dallas is for real, and will be a contender out of the box in 2011. Be proud of your determination and loyalty to a franchise that is and always was the red-headed stepchild in every possible way, even in their own community. That chip on the shoulder is what gives the fans and the team its resolve and character. The dumb luck that took the Cup away is the whetstone to sharpen that chip of bitterness.

As the team takes a few weeks off to heal some knees, ankles, skulls, and the occasional hangover, I will be enjoying the memories of a great season by a cohesive and tough soccer team that deserves plenty of praise. This FC Dallas is worthy of your admiration. This merely adds to the mystique of the team. Always denied, ever ready to fight on. I will pass the off season filing my resentment to a razor's edge, getting the chip on my shoulder ready for the next campaign.

Well done boys. See you in the spring.