New Year, New Team, New Opportunity
The schedule is out and with multiple competitions this year has lots of promise and hopefully the boys in Frisco can make a legitimate run at multiple pieces of hardware this season. Here we will dive into the different phases of the season, the different competitions (and some schedule changes that may occur as a result), finally ending with what I think will be the toughest and easiest stretches of the season.
You can find the schedule here.
Preseason starts on February 3rd with a match in Tennessee against Chattanooga FC, an NPSL team with a rabid fanbase. Playing against more grassroots teams is a fantastic thing, and I hope to see more of it in the coming seasons. Chattanooga FC finished the 2017 season second in the West Division of the Southeast Conference, and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Inter Nashville FC. Interestingly enough, last January Chattanooga FC announced a partnership with VfL Wolfsburg of the German Bundesliga, and apparently have plans to participate in some friendlies with them. Expect at least 8-10 thousand fans and plenty of rowdy Chattahooligans for this one.
Eleven days later, the team kicks off against New England in Tucson, though this is just a closed scrimmage according to the club. On February 17th, our boys take on Portland in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup with another potential match a week later, though to be honest I seriously doubt FC Dallas would participate in another match and create a short week for themselves with important matches coming up.
CONCACAF Champions League
Now the fun stuff. This is where I feel that the Frisco Football Fantasy can take off. Traveling down to Panama on Wednesday, February 21 to take on Tauro FC, FC Dallas plays the first leg of the round of 16 in the CCL. One week later on February 28 the return leg is played in Frisco. Taking care of business in Panama is going to be crucial as FC Dallas only has three days to recover before starting the MLS season.
MLS Regular Season
Kicking off the 2018 MLS season at home this year, FC Dallas takes on Real Salt Lake on Saturday March 3. I personally would have preferred a Sunday or even Monday game coming off the back of CCL competition midweek. Apparently that is not taken into consideration, or this just is not a premier enough match to warrant such consideration so we are stuck with just two days of rest.
Four home games to start the season is generally a good thing, and it does present a big opportunity as well. All four games are against Western Conference opposition, so taking points from all the games is going to be critical. Dropped points at home against conference foes is what you will look to at the end of the season if things do not go our way. Fourteen days without a match (CCL aside) follows the opener before Seattle comes to town, followed six days later by a visit from Portland. Another two weeks of no games (again CCL aside) brings the Rapids to Frisco in a Saturday night match. Only one of the first four seems to be nationally broadcast, but that can help alleviate pressure at the start of the season.
A trip to New England on April 14 is followed on Saturday the 21st of April as the Union stops by for a Saturday night game. Yet another fourteen days with no matches brings Cinco De Mayo and with it a trip to Los Angeles to take on the rather deep pockets of LAFC. Returning home on May 12, FC Dallas takes on the other Los Angeles team, LA Galaxy before starting what I feel could be the toughest stretch of the season.
May 19th - home vs Vancouver
May 25th - away at Toronto
May 30th - away at LA Galaxy
June 2nd - home vs LAFC
For those not counting at home that is 5700 miles travelled in two weeks. Not to mention going on the road and playing against the defending champs, this four game stretch is going to test the limits of squad depth and how well Pareja can handle squad rotation.
Another home game on June 9th against Montreal is followed by a trip to New York to take on the Red Bulls. A short week ends in Minnesota on Friday June 29th, thankfully giving FCD an extra day before taking on Atlanta in Frisco on July 4th. Just two days of rest is granted before traveling to Rio Tinto to take on RSL on Saturday July 7. The rest of July is pretty unremarkable with games against Chicago, Houston, and Sporting KC (all with a week between).
August arrives and after hosting San Jose, FC Dallas gets their first - and only - English language nationally televised game of the regular season as they head to Seattle to take on the Sounders. Minnesota travels down to the DFW on August 18th and then consecutive mid-week away games come up as the team head to Houston (Thursday August 23) and then out west to face the Quakes (Wednesday August 29). Four times this season FC Dallas plays on a Wednesday and follows with a Saturday game (five if you count the preseason). Two days rest is just incredibly tough to handle once or twice per season but four times is pretty fantastic...if you are an opponent on Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, FC Dallas returns to action after an exhaustingly long 48 hours with no matches to take on Houston at Toyota Park on Labor Day Weekend. A full week of time off follows this game before the good guys return to action against Columbus at home on September 15. A trip to Vancouver on Sunday September 23 is followed by a trip to Portland on the 29th. A week off leads into the final three games as FC Dallas travels to DC October 13, heads home to take on Sporting KC on October 21 and ends the season on the road in Colorado Sunday October 28.
Then, there is the playoffs.
The Champions League quarterfinals are to be played March 6-8 and March 13-15. This likely would not result in any changes to the schedule, but it is something to look out for in regards to further congestion. Following the quarterfinals, the semis will be played midweek in the first two weeks in April, which could be worse since the games are against Colorado and New England. The real kicker, to me at least, is how quick the finals will occur. Just one week after the semifinals take place the two legged final will happen. April 17-19 and April 24-26 are the dates set aside. If, and I mean if, FC Dallas manages to make the final it would mean an added six games. That means that the team would potentially play 14 competitive matches in 62 days, or a game every four and a half days. Very intense to say the least.
The US Open Cup also presents opportunities for silverware this season, and going deep this year is something I would like to see. I desperately want to see the depth of the team stretched by scheduling and not by injuries, to see how the coaching staff handles the stress of so many games and who plays where, which players emerge and so on. There will likely be some dates altered slightly if the team progresses deep enough, and here’s hoping that is what happens.
I think there is an opportunity to get the shine back on the franchise in 2018, but there is also the danger of slipping further away from the national spotlight if results are not consistent. Rotation is going to be a must with multiple instances of very short weeks and fixture congestion will really expose the team’s depth or lack thereof. Five out of six games at home to start the season is nice, but it does mean that the season ends with four out of five games on the road. The only three game road streak is tempered by a week off in October, making it not as bad as it could have been, though the two games prior to the week off are in the Pacific Northwest.
Let us know what you think the toughest stretch is, what games are trap games, and where you think the team can make a run. I will look forward to seeing your comments below!