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Quick Burns: Examining what really went wrong for FC Dallas in 2018

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MLS: Knockout Round-Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The dust is finally settling on the 2018 season for FC Dallas. As we continue our post-mortem on the year, today we’re looking back at what exactly went wrong for the club.

Feel free to write in your thoughts below in the comments.

Jason Poon - Ill-Prepared for Diaz Departure

This isn’t to blame any player or anyone in the coaching staff, it just is. You can’t replace someone of Diaz’ caliber in the middle of the season. Hindsight is 20/20, but now that the season has finished, this has every bit of the same feel as the Fabian Castillo saga back in 2016. Once Castillo left, it was just make shift patchwork to get it done.

Credit to the FO for moving quickly on Pablo Aranguiz as a replacement, but it was too much too soon for Aranguiz to take over all the play-making responsibilities of Diaz. But like 2016, once Diaz left, it was putting Maximiliano Urruti in there as a stop gap that kind of worked. He was fine, but created so little open play scoring opportunities. Urruti’s xA was just 4.4 over the entire season, which is really too low for a starting #10.

Nathan Hill - Lots of Little Things

Yes, the Diaz, Acosta, and Nedyalkov departures were challenging and difficult. You could tell the team and front office managed things as best as they could but were likely not fully prepared for the timing of it all. Injuries too likely altered the course of the season. Imagine if Acosta hadn’t started off with an injury - would he still be on the roster? Imagine what might have been if Cristian Colman had stayed healthy before the playoffs. Would a healthier Roland Lamah had made a difference? Wonder too if the playoff match hadn’t been at home on Halloween. Picture the soccer gods giving this team a couple more bounces off the post in a key game or two.

All in all, this year was undoubtedly, scientifically, unequivocally an improvement over the disastrous collapse of 2017. Heck, this team made the playoffs. And that is in the midst of losing three starters, dealing with injuries, navigating team harmony, rotating players, announcing new partnerships (Bayern Munich!), unveiling a Hall of Fame addition, and integrating new high potential players. Most teams would rightfully collapse after that. A lot went right for this team, and we fans, as emotional as we can get, need to acknowledge the hard work by this coaching staff to keep this team together and moving forward.

If the coaching staff can figure out a way to deal with a few of those little things, maybe next season will be even better.

Mohammad Bushnaq - Inability to Change

The biggest frustration for me watching a Dallas team seems to be the inability to recognize something is not working in the face of adversity. It’s like walking up to a wall and then continuing to attempt to walk through the wall. Eventually, you are going to have to give someone a chance to prove themselves and help you go over, under, or around the wall. Whether it’s FC Dallas or America’s Team (come at me), these coaching staffs seem content to continue to push for the same old same old instead of lighting a fire under some people’s behinds by sitting them on the bench or adjusting the tactics. Now, we do not have the privilege of seeing what is going on behind the scenes at the training grounds or in the front office, but I think the inability to change and trust youth/change in key moments led to the ultimate downfall for Dallas in 2018.

Jose Carmona - Too many missing pieces

I'm not saying anything new here, as we all know that in the end FCD did not start a true box-to-box midfielder, a #9, or a #10.

It is no wonder that the team failed to create any goals from open play, when it mattered the most. The team managed to reach the playoffs despite not having answers at each of those positions for at least half the season. Let's not forget that FCD had at least 2 of the missing pieces on the roster at one point (Diaz, Acosta), so their wounds were self inflicted.

Ben Lyon - Two Words

Credit: WAY too many FCD fans

“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” That was FC Dallas’s season after Mauro Diaz was sold to a petrostate’s pro soccer league...well, except for the part where the Dread Pirate Roberts killed us at home on Halloween. You’re not supposed to get killed in the fairy tale.

Too many fans, pundits, and noted body language experts were ready to run Mauro Diaz out of town despite being the talisman for FC Dallas’s greatest season in their history. Mauro finished 2nd in assists this year despite playing his last game in early JUNE, and he was prime for a Valderrama-esque season. People pointed to weak competition and Mauro being a shadow of himself, but his underlying stats (particularly key passes and successful dribbles) were actually higher than they were in 2015 and 2016.

When Mauro left, a few of us agreed that we’d finish around 52-54 points and exit in the first round. Obviously, we missed on the first part, but we weren’t too far off on how the season ended up. Diaz was one of the top players in the league while he was here. It’s understandable that a player wants to maximize his earnings during his days as a professional, but I’m left wandering whether the club should have tried to match the sheik’s offer sheet.

Reportedly, Diaz left for the Gulf to make 3 million a year. Mauro made less than a million before he left. Would he have given a ‘hometown discount’ of 2.5 million a year to the club in order to stay? I have little doubt he would have been worth it.

Drew Epperley - Too predictable in the end

As much credit as Oscar Pareja deserves, this team became super easy to figure out towards the end of the season. You knew they would sit back and take on pressure given the solid defense they had in the back with two defensive-minded midfielders sitting on top of them in Victor Ulloa and Carlos Gruezo. You know that they’d take their chances with counter attacks on the wings. And you knew finishing was always a question.

Pareja rotated his lineups a lot this year, way more so than he did in 2017 but the product felt similar each time out. By going away from using guys like Jacori Hayes and even Brandon Servania in the midfield to help relieve Ulloa and Gruezo in the final months, the team had little shape in the middle of the park.

Being predictable in MLS isn’t a terrible thing, most teams are known for what they are but FC Dallas’s predictability this year ended up killing the spark that we saw out of them in the spring and summer.

Jared Tilley - Not enough top end talent

A lot of fans will point to some sort of ‘end of season collapse’ similar to last years. For me though, this is just kind of who this team is. They are a team (without Mauro) that has struggled to score goals, but in the end is able to grind out results, one way or another, especially in the early to middle part of the season. Unfortunately, as the season starts moving towards the playoffs, opposing teams start to play a lot more conservatively, leaving teams struggling to score in an even worst position.

It’s no coincidence that FC Dallas has a tougher time getting results when results matter the most. To be fair, this is more or less the case with most teams. The biggest difference is that with the handful of teams that are close to the top of the league, come the end of the season, have big time play makers that can save their teams games/seasons. Dallas just doesn’t have that player right now.

Until FC Dallas gets that player (he might already be on the roster for all we know) we are going to struggle to advance in the playoffs. Honestly, even if they have those key play makers, they still might struggle. Seattle has Ledeiro, DCU has Rooney, NYCFC has Villa and all those teams are at home. Nothing is guaranteed, but one or two top end talents would certainly help.

Actually, all of the above is trash. We really know what really went wrong with FCD in 2018:

FC Dallas is 0-3 since letting Imagine Dragons play at Toyota Stadium.