Swag. It's an incredibly overused term, but it's something the top teams in MLS have come November. It's the idea that I'm going to play my game no matter what the other team tries to throw at me and it's something FC Dallas had through the first half of the season. Somewhere along the way in the jungle of two games a week and international travel the swagger has vanished.
The sky is not falling, but for a team that has aspirations of MLS Cup, 1-3-1 in their last five games with the only win coming on a miraculous comeback is just not good enough. The results haven't been awful, but it doesn't take Alexi Lalas-type analysis to see that things aren't perfect with FC Dallas.
Let's take a look at what's going wrong and what needs to happen to fix things
Midfield combo Villar and Cruz simply are not a good combination in midfield. Dallas is 0-2 in the MLS games they're started together and while individually they are at least acceptable, together it's trying to put a square peg in a round hole. This is one of the problems that will probably not be an issue in the playoffs as Dallas should finally have the midfield spine of Ugo Ihemelu/George John/Daniel Hernandez/Andrew Jacobson back for the first time since July 9. Dallas is 10-3-2 in games where those four start and we haven't seen them together and healthy in the starting lineup since that July 9 loss at RSL that saw AJ hobble off with an injury.
Outward distractions The outward distractions have been just immense on FCD. Between the George John saga, travel craziness including getting stuck in El Salvador and all of the recent sadness, it's understandable that the team may have their minds elsewhere. This is where Schellas has to use his jedi skills to focus them and have them ready to play. I don't anticipate there being any problems with this towards the end of the season, but Hyndman always talks about how he tries to avoid added pressure and I worry about the pressure heaped on a team that's trying to win it for Bobby.
Scoring woes FCD has scored more than one goal just twice in the last 11 games while if you go back to the 11 games before that they did it seven times. It doesn't really seem like Dallas has much of a method of attacking right now with Brek Shea clearly gassed while the team gets nothing offensively from Ricardo Villar or Daniel Cruz. Simply put, Dallas needs Maicon Santos to finish the scoring chances he's getting and most importantly they need David Ferreira and Fabian Castillo back in the worst way possible.
I'm not worried about the defense at all, they will get back to their old selves before the playoffs start and be fine, but I worry if the FC Dallas attack will be enough if Ferreira doesn't add anything. Castillo is another major X factor here as he has picked up some mysterious injury and we don't really know how badly things are for the youngster.
Should we panic? Absolutely not, as I said the defense will work itself out. I'm very confident that as long as there's a back four of Benitez, Ugo, John and Loyd with Hernandez and Jacobson in the middle that Dallas will be in every game. However, this is a championship or bust season and the X factors will be if Brek Shea can regain his mid-season form, Fabian Castillo contributes offensively, Maicon Santos catches one of his notorious hot streaks and David Ferreira makes a contribution at the end of the season.
If Dallas can get a couple of those things to fall in place, they'll be right there in November. If the offense can't figure things out then it could be another trophy-less season. I'm still optimistic and believe that the soft schedule in October will get FCD on track, how are you feeling about this thing?