FRISCO, Texas – Jeff Cunningham scored on a penalty kick in the 67th minute to tie the MLS career goal-scoring record, and FC Dallas equaled the longest single-season unbeaten streak in league history with a 3-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
Dallas clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2007 by running its streak to 18 games (10-0-8), tying Columbus' 2004 mark for the longest run without a loss.
"What a great night for FC Dallas," said coach Schellas Hyndman, who was hired in June 2008. "We worked so hard in the last two years to be in this position, to clinch a playoff spot and I've lost a lot of sleep. It was very stressful when things didn't go well at the beginning. The words I always used, we wanted to develop a culture of winning and I think we have that here now."
Cunningham, who won the MLS Golden Boot Award last year for leading the league with 17 goals, scored his 11th of the season and 132nd of his career, tying DC United veteran Jaime Moreno.
Chicago fell to 1-6-2 in its last nine and will likely miss the postseason. The Fire, who were shut out for the fifth time in six games, are 3-12-1 in Dallas.
"It was a difficult match," Fire coach Carlos de los Cabos said. "We played against one of the best teams in the league this season. We started well in the match and had chances to score. I think that the second half was more difficult for us because Dallas played better."
With Dallas ahead 2-0, Cunningham sealed the triumph with his penalty kick goal. After Fire defender Dasan Robinson pulled him down in the penalty area, Cunningham stepped up to the dot with a slight hesitation before slotting a low shot just inside the left goal post.
Cunningham, who hasn't spoken to the media since he lost his spot in the starting 11 earlier in the season, entered the match in the 57th minute and found the back of the net for the seventh time in the last nine games.
"It's unbelievable," midfielder Dax McCarty said of Cunningham's career numbers. "Jeff is a top professional, he takes care of himself really well. He's just a great goal-scorer, there's no other way to put it. He works really hard in training, and he's kind of found his niche for us, coming in the second half when other teams are tired, and he really takes advantage of it."
Milton Rodriguez scored his fourth goal of the season in the 19th minute and Marvin Chavez connected for his second of the year, both in the last two games, about 30 seconds into the second half.
Dario Sala made two saves in recording his first shutout of the season and 23rd of his six-year MLS career. Sala, playing his third straight game in place of injured starter Kevin Hartman, even earned his second career assist when a free kick he boomed from just outside his own penalty area led to Rodriguez's goal.