FRISCO, TX - JULY 02: Brek Shea #20 of the FC Dallas celebrates with fans after FC Dallas beat Columbus Crew 2-0 at Pizza Hut Park on July 2, 2011 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
It's over. Almost two months, over a dozen games, a cavalcade of trialists, and training session after training session has led to this, the week before opening day AKA the true beginning of the season. So what did the last two months teach us about this team? Well first lets take a look at the cumulative numbers:
FC Dallas went 7-3-3 over the 13 games, going 4-0 vs universities(20 goals scored - 2 GA), 2-0-2 against non-MLS professional teams(6 goals scored - 2 GA), 0-1-1 against US youth international squads(3 goals scored - 4 GA) and 1-2-0 against MLS teams(1 goal scored - 5 GA).
All of these numbers really don't mean that much as the squads were full of trialists and reserves early in the season. The most important games started with the game vs the U23's which was the first time most of the starters went past halftime. The results were mixed, but mostly positive with Dallas performing well with the starters against Orlando City, Hacken & Houston. Perhaps most encouraging is there was no time with the starters on the pitch where the team was outplayed, in my opinion. What else did we learn?
The D in Dallas stands for defense It's been the calling card of FC Dallas since Schellas Hyndman took over and, with the return of George John, this year looks to be the strongest and deepest defensive unit Schellas Hyndman has ever had. Dallas finished fifth in the league in goals allowed last season and if you take away that 4 goal game by San Jose on the last day of the season against an FCD reserve lineup, Dallas finishes second in goals allowed. This year, they will add Hernan Pertuz, Carlos Rodriguez and Matt Hedges for quality depth while the non-factor of fixture congestion should keep the guys fresh. Bottom line is if George John's impending move isn't a distraction, there's no reason Dallas can't be at the top of the league in fewest goals allowed. This is the same back four that went to MLS Cup in 2010.
Blas Perez is as advertised The traditional scouting report on Blas Perez is certainly true. He's a big, bulky guy who is going to give MLS center backs a lot of problems. He doesn't do the work of creating chances, but damn if he doesn't always seem to pop up in the right place in the box, regardless of whether he finishes the chance. I think this guy could be a cult hero at FC Dallas Stadium before the season is over.
David Ferreira has not lost it Whether or not he will be fit to play every game is a question, but from what I've seen I don't question that when he is on the field, he will produce. We got two games to really see what he can do, against Hacken & Orlando, and El Torito was the star of the show. I pray that the coaching staff doesn't rush him back as the last thing this team needs is a nagging injury for him. Sit him out another 2 or 3 weeks if you have to, but have this guy on the field in October.
Offensive depth is a major issue I talked about it yesterday, I know, but it bears repeating again. When you get past the attacking quad of Brek Shea, Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez and David Ferreira, there's a lot of young promising talent, but none that is proven. A 4-4-2 formation in the absence of Ferreira can work, but that makes the depth even more paper thin. Carlos Rodriguez is fine in a spot start role, but does not provide enough offense to be a legitimate option to start in place of Brek Shea. An Eric Avila or Eric Alexander type of player sure would look good on the bench...however...
Andrew Wiedeman has earned his chance Just two players, Bobby Warshaw and Matt Hedges, played more minutes this pre-season than Wiede, whose 6 goals and 3 assists in 592 minutes earn him the pre-season golden boot award. His crossing game has come a long way(see one peach of a cross towards the end of the Houston game) and Schellas has to love the goal poaching instincts that exist from the college forward. As it stands right now, Wiede is pretty much the first attacking option off the bench.
Daniel Hernandez's minutes will need to be managed The former captain is certainly one of the X factors in this season as a return to 2010 form could make Dallas an almost unbeatable team. However, if his age begins to show and his knee problems plague him throughout the year, Bobby Warshaw becomes a very important part of this thing as the heir apparent to Hernandez's d-mid position. Much like the Mavs would manage Jason Kidd's minutes to have him ready when it really matters, I don't think it would necessarily be beneficial for Daniel Hernandez to start 34 games this season.
Those are my impressions from watching almost every game and multiple training sessions. It's been a pre-season loaded with minutes for young talent with flashes of greatness from the starters. While the first XI haven't gotten a ton of time together, Blas Perez is really the only new addition and he's gotten plenty of minutes.
What have you seen from the pre-season?
Dont miss Big D Soccer Pub Night at Mad Tavern on Monday, March 12 starting at 7:30. Beer--Soccer--Prizes (Click for more details)