The FC Dallas season is around the corner and there are reasons to be optimistic. Former MLS MVP David Ferreira is back, short of his current ankle hang up, and there is a new striker in town... just to name two.
There are, however, some red flags that could derail the season and Coach Schellas Hyndman has his work cut out for him.
Older Player’s Health
Older players do get hurt more, they break down, they need more rest, and they can’t play as many games. The core of FCD’s team is old (in soccer terms) and several of them are coming off injuries. Hernandez in particular has been playing hurt at playoff time the last two years, needing knee surgery in both cases.
Can these older gentleman hold together for the season and carry FCD deep into the playoffs? Time will tell.
FC Dallas struggled with a very heavy fixture schedule last year and Hyndman admitted at the end of the season the team was short on depth. The schedule will be lighter this year with no CONCACAF Champions League, but the team’s depth hasn’t gotten any better. Several players who logged a lot of minutes last year are gone (Jackson, Marvin Chavez, Eric Avila, Maicon Santos, Daniel Cruz) a few of them without being replaced.
It’s good for the long term situation at FCD that the club has six home grown players… but in the short term it’s bad. Those Home Grown players eat up roster spots that could be filled by players coming out of college or signed from other leagues. Bottom line, FC Dallas needs some of the Home Grown players (other than Ruben Luna that is) to start improving, getting some minutes, and making an impact.
Maybe FCD’s new TD Fernando Clavijo can help with this one.
Brek Shea and Summer Olympics
At this point Brek Shea appears to be a big part of the US U23 team that will be heading, pending qualifying, to the 2012 Olympics in London. Olympic qualifying starts March 22nd for the US, Shea will probably be gone for a camp then the games that could run till Mach 31st.
Then Olympic soccer tournament will run from July 25th to August 11th. Doubtful, of course, that the US will advance to all the way to the final, but we can hope yes? There will be camp before the tournament where the final team is selected and Shea will almost certainly be a part again.
So a quick glance at the MLS calendar says Shea could miss 10, maybe 12 games, and that doesn’t include call ups to the senior team for which Shea has now started 10 games in a row.
With FCD’s depth the way it is, there aren’t a ton of solutions when Shea will be out. Scott Sealy can play some in wide midfield; Andrew Wiedeman is getting a lot of time with reserves this spring; and Carols Rodriguez is a possibility, if not an ideal one.
Bottom line, FCD’s best player last year may miss a third of this season.
George John contentment/happiness
I’m of two minds about George John’s return to FCD. On the one hand he’s a terrific MLS player who is a great asset for the back line. Alongside Ugo Ihemelu, they make one of the best center back combos in MLS.
But on the other hand, I’m not real sure John wants to be here in Dallas. Twice now he’s gotten involved in a potential transfer, the most recent of which involved a loan with a buy option (that wasn’t picked up). John has a Greek passport, which makes him eligible for play in Europe without counting as a foreign player. Coach Hyndman says John has turned down multiple contract offers from FCD.
And just this week John again didn’t want to talk about his contact… “I have no comment on that right now. I’m with the team, John said. “I’m here for the year, just looking forward to earning my spot back on the squad and playing some games.”
It’s not that I blame John for wanting to go to Europe. He would make way more money over there and play at a higher level. MLS and FCD both have a typical salary structure which means there’s only so much a club will want to pay a domestic center back. Of course John wants to go, wouldn’t you?
The problem for FCD is how John will react to being back. John has always been a player who worked his tail off both in training and in games. He’s physical, tough, and doesn’t back down from challenges. If he does not really want to be here will he be the same player?
It’s clear last year the team’s defense went downhill after John returned from his first potential transfer that didn’t happen. Yet what I know about John tells me he will still work hard and be the same guy he’s always been; leading a once again tight FCD defense. It’s not in his nature to mail it in.
As I said at the top, Coach Hyndman may have his work cut out for him this year.