If you take a look at the MLS table, FC Dallas are sitting pretty at the top with 9 points from a 9 available points. They are the only team in the league who have done this, and there is great reason. FC Dallas are the best team in the league. There are 5 big points to support this.
Let us get the obvious out of the way, FC Dallas is the only team who have a 3-0-0 record in 2015. The team has a history of starting hot, going 3-0-1 during March in 2014, and went 4-1-0 in March during 2013. The 2013 season did not end well for FC Dallas as they missed the playoffs. The 2014 campaign was an improvement as FC Dallas made the playoffs, but went out on away goals to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Semi-finals after defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps in the knockout round. This season could be the change, as FC Dallas looked to be a changed team from the ones of 2013 and 2014.
Offensive Weapons Everywhere:
This FC Dallas team is deep, deep with talent, especially in the offensive firepower area. There are young guns like Fabian Castillo, Ryan Hollingshead and Tesho Akindele. There are veterans like Blas Perez, Mauro Diaz and Michael Barrios (who is only 23.) Those guys are considered veterans around here, but Blas Perez is the only player listed out of those three who is above the age of 25. Barrios sits at the spry age of 23 and Diaz is 24. Barrios has had plenty of first team experience back in the Colombian league before he joined FC Dallas this season, and Mauro Diaz has had three years in FC Dallas’ first team. Albeit, Diaz has been struggling with injuries for most of his time with FC Dallas. Blas Perez has shown that he is still the goal scoring threat FC Dallas need him to be. He has 3 goals in 3 games, and does not look like he is slowing down anytime soon.
Michael Barrios has yet to make a start with FC Dallas, but in his two appearances with FC Dallas, he has shown he can add some explosiveness to the FC Dallas attack when he is involved. Fabian Castillo continues to grow and mature as a player. He is picking up where he left off in his breakout 2014 as he has already picked up a goal and two assists. Ryan Hollingshead got his first MLS goal against the Philadelphia Union. Hollingshead has shown he is dangerous, and that he fits into Pareja’s offense perfectly. Just look at that run, and that through ball was sublime. Also involved in that goal, Fabian Castillo shows how his speed can kill. Also a very calm finish from the youngster showing how he is growing. The 2014 Rookie of the Year, Tesho Akindele, took three weeks to get his first goal, but he has showed his versatility as an attacker in Pareja’s offense. His hold-up play is much underrated.
The rest of the league should be having nightmares about facing FC Dallas’ offense, because not all of those guys can be on the field at the same time. There is a lot of attacking depth on this team. The attack will come at you with talent for the full 90 minutes. There will be attacking talent for some time to come as well, as this is a young FC Dallas team.
Brick Walls or Defense?
The FC Dallas defense has been impeccable over the course of 2015. They have only allowed one goal in three games. FC Dallas is normally known for giving up late leads, but they have done none of that this year. The only goal they have allowed this year, came in the first half of the game against Sporting Kansas City. Atiba Harris is the weak link of the FC Dallas backline, but with the re-signing of Jamaican international, Je-Vaughn Watson, the backline just looks to keep getting better and better. Harris just needs time to learn his adjusted position of right back. The question is, will he ever be firing on all cylinders? For a converted outside back to center back, Zach Loyd compliments Matt Hedges very well. As first pointed out by Daniel Robertson, in 16 games with the Hedges and Loyd CB pairing, FC Dallas has a record of 9-5-2 with 6 shutouts, .87 goals against average and 3 shutouts in last their last 4 games. That is impressive to say the least. Zach Loyd is settling in well to his converted position from last year.
This defense only had 4 shutout wins all year last year, and it took them 22 games to get one. This year, they got their first shutout win in week one. They got another shutout win in week three putting them with two shutout wins in 2015 for those keeping track at home. They look very calm when dealing with pressure. Especially when they make a mistake, they recover very well. It is hard to break down this backline with their speed, collectiveness and strength.
People are taking notice of the great performances the backline is putting in. Matt Hedges earned his first call to the USMNT earlier this year and Moises Hernandez earned his first call-up to the Guatemalan senior team for the March friendlies. Very exciting stuff here on the home front.
Everyone thought Dan Kennedy would be the number one keeper coming into this season, but injuries have sidelined him to start 2015. Chris Seitz is definitely making a case as to why he should be kept as the #1. That should be unsettling to any striker. Knowing that you either have to face Christ Seitz, who has faced 11 shots all season and only allowed one goal (he sits third on the save percentage list at 91%, just behind Clint Irwin and Tyler Deric respectively.) If Seitz is not sitting in net, then opposing strikers will have to face Dan Kennedy who at Chivas USA, proved himself as one of the top keepers in MLS time and time again. Let us also not forget about FC Dallas homegrown product Jesse Gonzalez, who has made multiple appearances with the Mexican U-17/18 national team.
Most Talented, Not Most Effective:
It is a very fair assumption to say that Mauro Diaz is the most talented player in FC Dallas’ squad. He wows time and time again with his on the ball skills. He is known as the playmaker in the middle of the FC Dallas midfield, but Mauro has not been as effective as a play maker. He has not had a shot on goal yet, and has no assists as of now.
Out of Mauro’s 242 minutes in 2015, he has completed 88 passes total, but only 4 of those have been key passes, according to Opta. Compare that to the first three games of 2014 where Diaz put in 256 minutes. Diaz completed 108 total passes, and 6 of those passes were key passes. He also tallied a goal. Out of the 6 games sampled from 2014 and 2015, Diaz’s lowest pass total came in 2015 Week 2 against Sporting Kansas City. Diaz completed a measly 16 passes on 20 attempts. He only had one key pass in this match. Now think about where Diaz lines-up. He is in the middle of the FC Dallas attack, right behind the striker. It is not very effective to only have one key pass when you are the one needing to feed the ball into the striker.
That led to Diaz being subbed off after 69 minutes, and his frustration was apparent as he sulked off the field. This led to a change in FC Dallas’ formation as Ryan Hollingshead was subbed on for Diaz. This also led to another FC Dallas goal. Which brings us to our next point. Oscar Pareja and his magical second halves. The fact that FC Dallas’ most talented player is not at his most effective right now, should be disturbing to other MLS teams. Wait for when Diaz is firing on all cylinders.
In Papi We Trust:
The first time everyone saw FC Dallas shift to a 4-4-2/4-2-4, as Oscar calls it. There was a lot of, “Huh?” Pareja quickly silenced the questioners, as FC Dallas got off to a 3-0-0 start with 6 goals, and all but one of those six have come in the second half. Pareja has recognized when he needs to change to his 4-2-4, and that was apparent against Philadelphia especially. FC Dallas lined initially in their traditional 4-2-3-1, but then, the Union’s Zach Pfeffer earned himself a red card. Pareja saw an opportunity, and swapped Michel for Hollingshead, and moved to his 4-2-4. This lead to pressure, and it put the ten man Union heavily on the back-foot. This pressure led to a Tesho goal, and a Hollingshead goal. FC Dallas had the lead they were looking for, and could defend it, so Pareja switches his team back to a 4-2-3-1. He throws Kyle Bekker for Blas Perez to sure up the midfield, and FC Dallas holds on to win 2-0. Absolute genius. Pareja is like a mad scientist, and his players and formations are his tools of science. So far, every experiment has passed with flying colors.
FC Dallas has made a pretty heavy case to show why they are the best team in 2015. It is hard to disagree. It will be exciting to see if this team can hold exactly what is happening now, for the majority of 2015. If they can do that, it could be a MLS Cup year for FC Dallas.