Hello, 2016 MLS season!
Offseason certainly can be a fun time of looking ahead, building expectations for roster changes, new players, staff changes, and front office drama. But it never beats actual honest-to-goodness soccer. FC Dallas looked stunning in their new kits in Frisco on Sunday afternoon, opening up the long awaited 2016 season and potentially their brightest in team history. Of course, no matter the expectations, it comes down to 11 players on the field, working together to make something beautiful.
And on Sunday afternoon, FC Dallas sure created 90 minutes of beauty, crushing the visiting Philadelphia Union 2-0 on goals from Fabian Castillo and Maximiliano Urruti. It could have been much worse, and probably should have, except for Philly keeper Andre Blake, a heck of a talent in his own right. For new signings, like Carlos Gruezo and Maynor Figueroa, opening day was an opportunity to impress and claim their spot in the starting XI. For returners like Atiba Harris and Walker Zimmerman, the day was similar, a chance for squad players to emerge as potential starters.
It's going to be a long season, so a strong three points at home, a shutout no less, is a great way to set the tone for what is going to be a grueling marathon to the end.
Each week, I'll take a look at the most recent game and invite you to weigh in too. Beyond the obvious Man of the Match discussion, I love to point out a player for FC Dallas who maybe didn't end up earning tons of fantasy points or had his name credited on the final score with an assist or goal. And I need you to vote.
We call it the Workhorse of the Week.
I define a workhorse as a player who got into the trenches and did the quiet, hard, gritty work to help FC Dallas pull out a solid result. While this award seems tailor made for defenders and defensive midfielders, it's really open to any player who showed the kind of moxy and grit that epitomizes the FCD spirit. And of course, it's really up to you. Each week, I'll post a few recommendations of my own, but you get to vote on the player, regardless of their goal tally or lack thereof, and stake your own claim in the comments below.
I always recommend that you read the comments before voting, in case someone might sway your opinion if you happen to be on the fence. Over the course of the season, we'll tally up the winners and hold a big final vote to name our official Workhorse of the Season.
Are you ready? Let's get to it.
This Week's Strong Recommendations
Carlos made his first start, and he looked better than Kellyn Acosta. Now, I'm not saying Kellyn had a bad game or anything. In fact, he was quite good, but Gruezo impressed. Gruezo dominated. Gruezo looks damn good out on that pitch. Will he get better? Hell, yeah. Vote for this guy.
If you spill blood for FC Dallas, you get a recommendation.
Left back is one of those positions that caused some of us fans a bit of worry. Who was going to fill in? Would we see Ryan Hollingshead there? Zach Loyd? We knew Maynor could play there, but he did more than fill the position on Sunday. He owned the left side. It's his job to lose.
Atiba is another somewhat surprise start, with Zach Loyd on the bench. I imagine Zach may unseat him at some point, but Atiba's performance had to give the coaching staff pause. He destroyed Fabinho, and it was just Blake's shot blocking skills that kept him from an assist or goal of his own. Killer game from Atiba.
Who did I miss? Who would you add? Vote for the Workhorse of the Week below.