Now that we're a couple days into the offseason with FC Dallas, it means we have to start discussing some key points for the next few weeks. Here are a few things I am going to be keeping an eye on this offseason.
1. Can they find a 15-goal a year type striker?
We know Blas Perez isn't returning next year. David Texeira? His option was declined for 2016 by the club earlier today but there is still a chance that they bring him back at a lower salary.
But no matter how you look at it, the one big hole that FC Dallas clearly had down the stretch was at the striker position. Teams that have done well in the past in this league typically have at least a 10-goal scorer, if not a 15-goal scorer on their roster. FCD came close this season with Fabian Castillo's nine goal effort and Mauro Diaz's eight, but to get to the next level in this league FCD needs someone that they know can bang in 15 goals at a minimum.
As of today, FCD has the cap space to really be aggressive in the winter transfer window to snag a top-level striker.
2. What kind of depth will be added for the CCL and additional games in 2016?
Outside of the core group that we know isn't going anywhere, what will Fernando Clavijo and Oscar Pareja do with the rest of the depth? We know how big of a burden Champions League games can be for MLS clubs. Those four additional games to go along with the 34-game slate and those pesky US Open Cup games make for a clogged schedule.
Next will will certainly be a year that sees Dallas with a less favorable schedule as it is with potential breaks for the Copa America tournament, as well as any other FIFA breaks on the calendar. Pareja and Clavijo have to find some depth in areas like central defense, the wings, and of course at striker.
3. Will any more Homegrown players be added?
It seems odd but FC Dallas did not add a single Homegrown player in 2015. The last one signed was Alejandro Zendejas, and he was signed at the beginning of October last year. FCD has set the standard for Homegrown success in this league with the likes of Jesse Gonzalez, Victor Ulloa and Kellyn Acosta. I've long thought and expected at least one to be signed this fall but that has certainly fallen through. Maybe the bigger question is, who is truly worthy of signing a HGP deal next? I appreciate Pareja and Clavijo taking their time on the next project though, no need to rush a player along if they aren't ready and if the support system isn't properly in place.
4. The state of the USL affiliate
Which brings me to my next point. The USL affiliate route did not go well this year for FC Dallas. Danny Garcia may have gotten some decent minutes with Arizona United SC but Otis Earle did not by any stretch. That may be more on Earle as a player but we'll dive into that another day.
The fact is that with the smaller rosters in MLS now, loaning a couple players for long stretches of the year may just not be doable for MLS teams going the affiliate route. I don't expect the Hunts to develop a USL team of their own next year but the pressure has to continue to mount for one to happen sooner rather than later. I do respect their decision to play the 'wait and see' game on how MLS teams are doing in the USL but it certainly overdue to get one going.
Since we know they'll likely not start a team next year, the question remains, who will the affiliate be in 2016? My gut tells me they make a switch to one of the Oklahoma teams. With Austin being out of commission for a season due to stadium issues, going a little more local makes a lot more sense.
5. Can FCD keep Diaz and Castillo?
This may be one that all of us will have to keep a close eye on this winter as transfer windows open back up in January. We've all seen the rumors and I'm sure there will continue to be more for both players. Will FCD be able to hold on to one or both of those two? The success of 2016 will certainly depend on the answer to this question. At the same time, it is fun to dream about what transfer fees they'll be able to get for both of them. That is a lot of money potentially there.