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2018 FC Dallas season preview: What to expect and how far they can go

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A new season, a new look, and back to being under dogs.

MLS: FC Dallas at Sporting KC Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations were high for FC Dallas in 2017 as they entered the season with coming off a domestic double the season before by winning the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup.

Dallas did well at the beginning of the year, as they nearly got to a CONCACAF Champions League final before losing in Mexico to Pachuca. The team still remained strong despite missing their main offensive leader in Mauro Diaz who was still recovering from an Achilles injury.

But what happened was a summer swoon that crept into the fall and the team crashed out of the playoff race.

Now FC Dallas enters 2018 with fewer expectations, plenty of questions and a roster that became even younger than it was before with the addition of more Homegrown talent, and a Young Designated Player that has folks buzzing about his potential.

Really how bad was that finish in 2017?

Before July 22 the team was 9-3-7. They had only given up 19 goals.

After July 22 they went 2-7-6 to finish the season. Also during this stretch they gave up 29 goals.

Any time you go from first place to seventh place over the course of three months is never a good thing.

Three big questions surrounding FCD in 2018:

1. Can they erase what happened in 2017?

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

That summer swoon was rough. The team won just two of its last 15 matches but fell short of a playoff berth only after losing the first tiebreaker (number of wins) to the San Jose Earthquakes.

But what was even tough to watch was the locker room chemistry dying around Pareja. As close-nit as the group was in 2015 and 2016, the team didn’t seem to have the same edge to them as they once did.

As bad as the summer winless streak was for the club, the early offseason may have been a good thing for some of the core players. Guys like Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa and Kellyn Acosta played a lot of minutes with the club and their respective national teams. Maxi Urruti welcomed a new baby to his family and seemed to recommit his stay in Dallas after being upset over a transfer that fell apart in the summer. And most importantly, Mauro Diaz appeared to finally get back to 100%.

2. Did the defense get rebuilt properly?

One thing that happened at the end of 2017 was a large number of goals were being given up by the defense. A group that was once the best in the league became one of the easiest to score against.

FCD president came out immediately after the season ended and proclaimed how the team would build through the back in the offseason. FCD technical director Fernando Clavijo did just that as he brought in a slew of new defensive players, including two TAM-level signings in Reto Ziegler and Anton Nedyalkov. Both players had plenty of good European experience under their belts. Along with them were two more Homegrown players in Kris Reaves and Jordan Cano.

Time will tell if the rebuild was a success but seeing younger players be brought in to replace older backs like Hernan Grana and Atiba Harris is a positive thing.

3. Will Mauro Diaz be healthy enough to guide the team to a top finish?

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

That is the million dollar question. If he is healthy and engaged for the full season (something we’ve really yet to see since his arrival in Dallas), this team can go pretty far. But injuries have always been his issue as he is often one of the most fouled players in MLS.

But if there is any saving grace it is what he was able to do in preseason play. For the first time since his Achilles injury in late-2016, he looks like his old self. He was active in the attack during the preseason by setting up chances in front of the goal and he genuinely seems happy again off the field (if you don’t follow him and Maxi Urruti on Instagram you are missing out).

When do we play our rivals?

FCD’s will get three matches against their in-state rival the Houston Dynamo this season. All three will come in the summer as Dallas won’t get their first battle with the Orange until late July.

When can I see FC Dallas on national TV?

You better have access to some Spanish channels:

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers - Saturday, March 24, at 2:30 p.m. CT on Univision
FC Dallas at LAFC - Saturday, May 5, at 3 p.m. CT on Univision
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, May 12, at 2:30 p.m. CT on Unimas
FC Dallas at New York Red Bulls - Saturday, June 23, at 5 p.m. CT on Unimas
FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders - Saturday, August 12, at 7 p.m. CT on FS1
FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo - Thursday, August 23, at 8 p.m. CT on Unimas
FC Dallas at D.C. United - Saturday, October 13, at 2:30 p.m. CT on Univision

What are the best road trips in 2018 for me to take?

MLS: LAFC Groundbreaking Ceremony Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to see some new stadiums in 2018, then head to DC in mid-October for one of the best games at Audi Field. Or if you can’t wait until the fall, go to LA in May for one of the first games at Banc of California Stadium against expansion side LAFC.

Great, so where will they finish in the standings?

Given how many questions surround the teams in the West, FCD has a good chance to play the underdog role to their advantage and make the playoffs again. The reasonable expectations for this club should be no less than a playoff spot with the potential to be anywhere from 3rd to 6th in the final Western Conference standings.