Last year, two Dallas-area sports teams exceeded the expectations of many in their respective sports: the Dallas Stars and FC Dallas.
Unfortunately, the Stars have failed to build upon that surprising season to be in a better position this year. With only about a month or so until the end of the regular season, it’s going to take a miracle for the Stars to even make the postseason again.
But the situation further north in Frisco is, at least for the time being, much brighter for the Hoops.
We’re just over a week away from the start of the 2015 MLS season (which is the perfect time for a shameless plug for a weekly MLS blog that I’ll be writing over at The Daily Texan), and with the start of the season comes hope. For FC Dallas that hope is certainly plentiful, especially after the way the team overachieved last season to make it to the postseason and then give Seattle a run for its money in the Western Conference semifinals.
And unlike the Stars, the Hoops have a really good chance of being able to springboard off of that terrific season and be contenders in the Western Conference again.
The biggest benefit for FC Dallas this offseason is that this team now has had a full offseason to get better. Manager Oscar Pareja has had a full season and offseason cycle to implement the way he’s going to run the team and set them up for this year. It can’t be understated how much that stability helps a team heading into a new year.
Also, the players have had a full season and offseason to get to know how each other plays and their styles and figure out a way to mesh. Last year, things looked a bit bleak for FC Dallas in terms of attacking options; now going into this season, there’s quite a plethora of options of front. There’s Fabian Castillo, who has the speed to beat any defender, Tesho Akindele, who will hopefully avoid the sophomore slump. Mauro Diaz has asserted himself as a playmaker on the ball and then there’s the reliable Blas Perez. And this preseason, Ryan Hollingshead has asserted himself into a goal scorer role. In the first match of the ATX Pro Challenge, Hollingshead scored twice, both from the benefit of Castillo’s shots being blocked/hitting the post. In the friendly Friday night against D.C. United, he added another “poacher” goal.
FC Dallas is also solid on the back end with Matt Hedges and Zach Lloyd on the back line and Chris Seitz and Dan Kennedy likely splitting time in goal this season. And if the sit-back-and-wait-for-the-counter-attack approach continues from last season, FC Dallas could catch a number of teams off guard.
Of course, FC Dallas is playing in the Western Conference, which only got more stacked in the offseason with Sporting Kansas City and Houston moving from the Eastern Conference to make way for the new teams: New York F.C. and Orlando City. With so many teams competing for five playoff spots, the Hoops could very well be left out.
And then there’s the fact that the team didn’t make any huge splashes during the latest transfer period. They brought in Abitta Harris and Michael Barrios, but it’s really uncertain if they’re going to make a big enough impact on the team.
Still, the same core group of players from last year’s overachieving team will be back on the pitch for FC Dallas this season and, even if it’s the preseason, they look ready and I feel confident that they’ll be able to build off last year’s success, unlike the team just a bit further south.