FC Dallas has had to deal with a lot of games so far this season. After six months of play in 2016, the team has already played 25 league games, four US Open Cup games and one Champions League game. That isn’t far from a normal full regular season in MLS.
Anyways, lately it appears that Oscar Pareja has kept to a pretty small roster rotation of 16 or so players. Following last Saturday’s draw with Sporting KC, a question was asked as to why there isn’t more rotation, to which Pareja said:
Because we can do it. We have the fitness, the energy, and we have the spirit to be part of this game. We have another week to prepare the next one, which is going to be three games away, but I wanted to give them rhythm and keep playing with the players that have been taking care of the results. Today was important and we wanted to keep the rhythm of the team.
So today our staff will discuss whether or not it is good that FC Dallas isn’t opening up things more to the end of the depth charts.
When I look at the calendar right now I see nine regular season games, one USOC final, and three CCL games left. Obviously this excludes the potential of five to six playoff games depending on where FCD lands in the seeding and if they go all the way. That is still a whole lotta soccer left to be played.
Yet, on the other end of it, this team has already played a whole lotta soccer to this date and the rotation has been there. Its dwindled a bit as we’ve moved on but it is there. We’ve found out this season that this team is equipped to handle the short turnarounds of a three games in eight day scenario. Or even the wilder eight games in 29 days or whatever it was in July. Players are proving that they are a bit healthier this season to handle this (I’m looking at you Mauro Diaz) too.
Back to the question though, would I like to see more shuffling? Sure. But only in those three CCL games if we can do it. As long as this team picks up a draw or a win next week down in Nicaragua, there is no reason in my mind not to throw the deeper reserves out for the remaining two games in that competition.
Pareja has his guys right now, right where wants them. If anything we have to continue to trust in him, like we have learned to do all season long.
It’s funny and somewhat ironic because last year around this time, there was some criticism and concerns regarding Oscar Pareja’s going overboard the other way and rotating too many players. Remember that never ending circle of hamstring injuries that seemed to cripple this club? Me neither. Those feel so long ago now with Fabian Bazan running strength and conditioning the last two years. Pareja’s had a very long term view with this squad, no doubt he and his staff were preparing their players for this stretch for some time now. If Pareja and his coaching staff think his players can handle it, then they can handle it.
I was taken a bit by surprise that Pareja only made two changes to a team that had just gone through a tough 120 minute encounter just days prior, but given that they had the previous weekend off without a game, they were probably still fresh enough to go again understandably in his view and they nearly proved him right by winning the SKC game too.
Honestly, at this point, there isn’t really a whole lot of reasons to rotate the squad around anymore. That has been done carefully throughout the year up until now and will probably continue to be done on a smaller scale during the remainder of the season, but we certainly shouldn’t expect plenty of it. And nor should we. The team is in a good position to win the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup as well as advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stages. Rotating heavily at this point would probably serve to disrupt the rhythm the team has built over the last 3.5 months where they’ve only lost twice in the last nineteen games in all competitions. Making too many changes from game to game now could potentially damage the team’s position in any or all of those competitions and that’s certainly not something anyone here will be wanting to see happen.
The team is also pretty much going to be on a one game a week schedule from here until late November with the exception of three CCL matches and a USOC final which will be played in midweek and where we may see some more rotation take place before, during, or after those games. But otherwise, we shouldn’t expect much rotation and rightfully so.
The team is in a luxurious position now in that respect, even with the recent loss of a key player. Injuries haven’t been a big issue lately, the schedule will soon start to ease up, and the team has the necessary depth with players like Jesse, David, Loyd, Ulloa, Rosales, Getterson, and Tesho all waiting in the woodworks and there to be called upon when needed. It’s an envious spot to be in and there isn’t much to complain about there.
The toughest part of the season is here, all of the homework and preparation for it has been done, and now it’s just down to managing the numbers well and going full tilt at every objective game by game. Pareja and the staff have prepared for this moment all year and now that it’s arrived, the team is in a very healthy position to compete for everything they set out for when the year started and that’s all you could have asked for back in March for when the time would come.