How do we evaluate the 10 days at the Dallas Cup 2009? Well, lots of different emotions ranging from disappointment to pride. Overall, I think that the trip has been a fantastic learning experience for the whole squad and the coaching staff. We were disappointed not to advance in the tournament after a nervous start in extremely windy conditions against Solar SC. Solar went all the way to the final and I firmly believe that had we played them on a normal day with normal conditions we would have won comfortably. They played the wind much better than we did as they are so used to playing in it as the home team.
Losing the first game meant that we had to win our second game and we produced a much improved performance but were denied by a poor referee. We were playing well and looking likely to get at least a draw V Miami when Michael Pestana was sent off for a sliding challenge. Michael was a little late but it was never a sending off. I was proud with the way the team kept fighting and working for each other despite going 2 down and playing with 10 men for 30 minutes.
We finished the competitive games off on a positive note with a strong performance V FC Barcelona USA. We won 4-0 and it could have been more as we attacked with pace, skill and purpose. I was proud of the reaction of the team and the mentality to play so well after the disappointment of the first 2 games. We reacted very positively to going out of the tournament.
We finished the week very well with 2 good performances in friendly matches, beating last year's winners, Houston Dynamo, 2-1 and losing 3-2 to super-group team, Dallas Texans. The game v the Texans was probably our best performance of the week as we more than matched the Texas champions for 90 minutes. We conceded a late goal, missed a penalty and numerous other chances as we dominated large parts of the game. The fact that we played so well in our 5th match of the week was especially pleasing as it proved that the extra fitness work that we had done in training had paid off.
So, at the end of the week, we can look back on 5 tough games and improved performances throughout the week as we got used to the conditions and style of play. Our young team learnt the importance of keeping possession and more importantly working hard as a TEAM. They learnt to be positive with each other and improved as a team as a result.
I am confident that this experience will make us more determined to return next year as a stronger group of players. With the right attitude and work rate, I'm sure that we will have enough quality to challenge for the title next year.