VANCOUVER — After a hectic stretch marked by injuries to key pieces, coach Marc Dos Santos needed every single Vancouver Whitecaps player.
The 'Caps posted a 2-1 win over FC Dallas on Saturday. It was Vancouver's sixth game this month.
"After the weeks that we've had — 16 days, five games, travel that was a nightmare, it's a reality — we knew coming in here that ... (we needed) a level of passion and commitment and heart more than anything else," Dos Santos said.
"We deserved the three points tonight because of the commitment and passion and the toughness of the group."
The Whitecaps (4-6-5) are now undefeated in three games.
The squad has proven recently that they're a cohesive group, said right back Jake Nerwinski.
"It's not just 11 guys, it's not just 14 guys with three subs off the bench. It's a whole team," he said. "We shifted lineups three different times over the last eight days and we got results every time. It just shows how important every player on this team is."
Vancouver has only played a single game decided by multiple goals this season. The team looked to be in position to win by 2-0 on Saturday until Dallas scored in the final minutes.
"We like the theatrics," Nerwinski said. "We would have liked the shutout tonight, of course. It's unfortunate they scored. But our response after the goal to just become a block in the back, I think we did really well and we were able to just grind out a result."
Dallas (5-6-3) dominated possession through 60.3 per cent of Saturday's game and out-shot their hosts 20-7.
But when Vancouver broke through, the team was dangerous.
The 'Caps drew first blood in the 30th minute after Ali Adnan split Dallas defenders Michael Barrios and Reggie Cannon and powered to the net. The Iraqi international got a high shot into the top right corner for his first goal in Major League Soccer.
In-beom Hwang was credited with the assist.
Winger Lucas Venuto doubled Vancouver's lead 10 minutes later, converting a sneaky back-heal pass from striker Fredy Montero into a low shot past Dallas 'keeper Jesse Gonzalez.
Dominique Badji responded for the Toros in the 85th minute, sending a low, bouncing shot past Vancouver goalie Maxime Crepeau.
Crepeau made three saves for the Whitecaps and Gonzalez stopped two-of-four on-target shots for Dallas.
Saturday's match was a memorable one for homegrown Whitecaps striker Theo Bair, who made his MLS debut, coming in for Montero in the 71st minute.
Four minutes later, the 19-year-old Ottawa native had a solid opportunity to put Vancouver up 3-0, taking a strong cross from Nerwinski and getting a shot off from the centre of the box.
"I've worked really hard. This is what every player who comes out of the academy dreams of. I got my chance, I got my moment. It felt great. Hopefully many more to come," he said.
Standing on the sidelines, Bair thought about his parents watching back at home and said the idea made him "really happy."
In the stands, several 'Caps academy players shouted encouragement and stood when he hit the pitch for the first time. Bair's sister was also at the game and greeted him with tears and hugs after the win.
"The fact that I actually touched the field, I wanted to cry myself. I won't lie," Bair said. "It's just amazing. It's everything."
The young athlete has fought hard to get into the action and has always been there for his teammates, Dos Santos said.
Now it will be important to not put too much pressure on him, the coach added.
"Theo has a lot to learn, a lot to grow," he said. "It was very positive today. He had to come in and help the team and he did it."
The Whitecaps now have a rare few days rest before hosting Toronto FC on Friday.
The Toros face the Seattle Sounders on June 1.
NOTES: Adnan left the game in the 42nd minute with a groin injury. The team says he will be re-evaluated on Sunday. ... The loss extended Dallas' winless streak to six games. ... A crowd of 18,309 took in the action at B.C. Place. The Whitecaps wore rainbow-crested jerseys as part of the club's annual Pride match.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press