The 2017 season was marked with plenty of ups and downs for FC Dallas. As we begin to dive deep into the various off season items around here we wanted to give our staff a chance to offer up their biggest takeaway on the season.
Scott Hiney - Depth Was Built
This might sound weird, but stay with me. One of FC Dallas’ biggest downfalls this season was the lack of a normal rotation and clearly-defined roles. I think having a regular rotation of 13-15 players is important, because it puts an expectation of continued success on the starters and regular subs, but also motivates those fringe players to work that much harder in order to break into the rotation.
This didn’t exist in 2017, but it might in 2018 as a result.
FCD had 16 players log at least 750 minutes, but just seven players started at least 25 games. I think this crosses too far over the line between good depth and roster inconsistency. IF the team use the off-season to identify their everyday starters like they have in seasons prior (i.e. Hedges, Barrios, Gruezo, *Diaz), suddenly the team goes into 2018 with a highly-experienced roster filled with reliable veterans and a few players who will be fighting to get the minutes they got in 2017, but that won’t be guaranteed in 2018. *If Diaz is healthy, he must play 2,000 minutes like in ‘15 & ‘16.
Nathan Hill - Pareja is human.
To begin, I don’t think a majority of fans were under the illusion that Oscar Pareja could do no wrong. He has had a share of tactical mistakes and strange lineups that fell flat on their faces in past seasons. But this season, Pareja’s mantra, busca la forma, became a team and fan rallying cry. It was billed as an ethos that would both empower younger players and create the kind of freedom that might revolutionize not only MLS but potentially US soccer.
During the disastrous drought of games that left FC Dallas falling off a cliff from first place to no playoff spot, busca la forma instead began to ring hollow.
Pareja suddenly looked very mediocre with his inability to help this team find its way at all. Certainly, he doesn’t shoulder all the blame. Eleven players on the field really deserve the brunt of responsibility for the poor run of play, but Pareja did not help with his stubbornness in lineup selections, refusal to turn to younger players for a spark, or failure to find some creative motivation to free this team from its death spiral.
Next season, Pareja will show some improvement. How can you not learn from such a tough experience? But we fans can no longer joke that our beloved coach is infallible. Now, it’s entirely conceivable that Pareja’s future with FC Dallas could be shorter than any of us anticipated... if he doesn’t find his way again too.
Cody Gammond - They learned the hard way
Ghenghis Khan grew up a poor boy in the Steppe. He starved, his father was murdered, he wore skimpy coats made of mouse fur to survive bitter winters. He struggled and fought to build the biggest land empire the world had seen, but the next generation of Mongols were born in that empire. They lived fat and happy as rich men. They didn’t have to work for it and soon the Mongol empire collapsed.
FC Dallas has done the same this year. In 2014, Pareja had everything to prove. Dallas were a bad team in a tough conference. They expected very little. Through a combination of youth development, rotation, a few clever signings and a lot of hard work, grit, and determination (I know, cliché) that team became a terror in the west. 2015 and 2016 were utter domination and after 2 trophies last year, this team finally proved that it was the best.
This year, FCD sat fat and happy on its throne and learned that they aren't the best anymore. No competition for places, a lack of motivation, and a group of players ready to move on to new challenges does not breed a winning mentality. This team had no hunger. Dallas abandoned what made them great.
The lesson for Dallas should be, that nobody should be here that doesn't want to be, nobody should be a guaranteed starter, and the players on this squad with desire, the untested players from this year, the Jacori Hayes', Anibal Chalas', and Paxton Pomykals' of this team, guys with a desire to prove themselves, those are the guys that deserve minutes going forward.
Jared Tilley - False Hope
The season started with so much hope. We wanted a deep run in CCL and then were going to wait around until the playoffs started so that we could have another run at MLS Cup. Even though we fell short of the CCL title, we had that much more belief that this team was going to be able to make a deep run.
The front office brought in some young midfielders to help cover for time missed by Kellyn and Carlos. There was a new batch of HGs that were going to challenge for playing time and the biggest holes on the roster were addressed. All of that was suppose to lead to a deep playoff run.
Instead, the team fell flat on its face, well until the last match. In the last match, they looked like the team they were suppose to be all year. This team did a great job of getting us to believe that this year everything was going to come together. Even in late August we were still saying, once they have to turn it on, they will. Clearly that didn’t work. We were all sucked into the hype and didn't realize the obvious flaws in the squad. Flaws that eventually lead to the teams demise.
Jason Poon - Savor The Highs
Many of us have followed this team and this league long enough to know that MLS is just crazy. Just because Dallas did well last season, wouldn’t mean it would do well again the next. So when Dallas raised two trophies last year, I remember doing my best to try to savor the moment and not to take them for granted.
This season probably reinforced that. And with how Dallas were eliminated from the playoffs, it doesn’t even need to be a trophy savoring moment. Any three points should be savored. Almost any road point should be savored, especially against a Western Conference team.
Enjoy the moments when we can, but also remember because #ThisIsMLS, anything can happen next year too.
Drew Epperley - Constant tinkering
I still find it hard to believe that this team went from pushing Pachuca to the edge in the Champions League to one that just flat out sucked for the last two or three months of the season.
Really for me, it came down the constant lineup rotating by Oscar Pareja. I know the guy built up a lot of trust in his first couple of seasons but he burnt a fair amount of it away with how he rotated players as much as he did this year, particularly down the stretch.
I know there were injuries, call ups and just poor form, but this team never got consistent.
Ben Lyon - VAR is an incredible innovation
VAR was instrumental in getting a team with a goal difference worse than the Colorado Rapids into the playoffs this year. Well played.