After a disappointing end to what was almost a magical night on Sunday, November 29th in Frisco, a hungry FC Dallas side will hear the dinner-bell of 2016 ring on Sunday at 2 p.m when it faces the Philadelphia Union.
Dallas fell short of the MLS Cup final on the night of November 29th, and the club is antsy to get back there.
Head coach Oscar Pareja will field an XI comprised of both young FC Dallas veterans, and newcomers to the North Texas club with big game experience.
“We’re really optimistic,” Pareja said. “We are eager to start. Just a few more days and we’re competing for points. It’s time.”
One of the returners coming back to a fresh FC Dallas squad is veteran centerback Zach Loyd. Loyd has become a main-stay in the FC Dallas defense with his versatility.
Whether he’s playing centerback next to partner, captain Matt Hedges, or playing wide-back, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 SuperDraft will likely find his name on the line-up sheet come Sunday. That is not to say he does not have competition, though.
With the signing of Maynor Figueroa from the Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas now have a big veteran presence to compete with Loyd for both centerback and outside back spots. Figueroa, like Loyd, has spent time both on the outside and the inside of a defensive back-line.
The Honduran international appeared in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for his country, and was crucial in Wigan Athletic’s magical FA Cup championship in 2013. Loyd is excited to have a veteran presence who could spot up next to him and Hedges in the trenches.
“Maynor is a great player,” Loyd said. “He just adds another dynamic to us in the back. Especially a guy with experience like that who can share with us and grow together as a back-line. It gives coach a lot of flexibility.”
Pareja also has options in the midfield. With the signings of Ecuadorian international Carlos Gruezo, Colombians Carlos Lizarazo and Juan Esteban Ortiz and Argentine MLS-vet Mauro Rosales, there is a lot of pressure on mainstays Victor Ulloa and Kellyn Acosta to be their best each week.
Gruezo is arguably the biggest of those names, as he was the fourth-youngest player at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Gruezo was singed from VfB Stuttgart even though he signed a four-year deal with the Bundesliga side in January of 2014.
While all great additions, with Lizarazo adding some attacking midfield prowess and Ortiz adding great defensive depth if Ulloa needs a rest, Rosales is easily one of the better signings for Dallas from this offseason.
Rosales eats minutes, with over 1500 minutes in five of his last six seasons, with two 2000 plus minutes seasons. He brings a versatile, hardened midfielder to a young FC Dallas midfield that lacked depth at some points last season.
Despite his recent surge, with a call-up to the United States Men’s National Team in January, where Acosta made his first start against the Republic of Ireland. The homegrown welcomes the veteran Rosales and others to his midfield.
“We have a more complete team now,” Acosta said. “The guys coming in have different assets that help the team tremendously. They fit into Oscar’s system and execute it. There’s a lot of competition so everyone is pushing themselves. Each day everyone is getting better and better.”
Acosta will look to improve on a break-out 2015, in which he scored his first MLS goal, finishing with three total. He said to expect more goals from him this season.
“I just need to shoot more,” Acosta said. “Good things happen to guys who shoot.”
FC Dallas burns teams with their attack, opponents know this. That is why the addition of Maximillian Urruti is a good, but not great move. He was not the #9 fans were looking for, but he could be the one fans deserve at the end of 2016.
His chemistry with Mauro Diaz has been apparent in pre-season, and the way FC Dallas could beat teams is also apparent. If defenders try to close Diaz, his passing finds Urruti. If teams mark Urruti closely, Diaz has space to find a second-year MLS-er in Michael Barrios or a deadly Fabian Castillo.
The Diaz-to-Urruti combo could be crucial this season. Urruti could reach his career high in goals, 10, if things go to plan. The two already have great chemistry.
“They have the responsibility to create chances and score goals,” Pareja said. “For sure we have these two guys, but the rest of the forwards and wingers have that responsibility too.”
All said is without mentioning FC Dallas’ second-round pick from this year’s SuperDraft in German, Timo Pitter, who had a massive pre-season. Pitter was the Big-East Midfielder of the Year in his final college season at Creighton University.
Oscar and the boys want a trophy, which goes without mentioning. The club will have three chances in MLS play, U.S. Open Cup Play and in CONCACAF Champions League, which the club did not qualify for the season before last.
Loyd plans to win a trophy this season, his seventh with the club.
“The goal at the end of the year is to come out and win one of those trophies,” Loyd said.