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Quick Burns: What was the biggest regular season surprise for FC Dallas?

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2020 has been a year, to say the least. What has surprised us the most though?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This year may go down as one of the wildest years in MLS history for a number of seasons. For FC Dallas, it certainly has been one to remember. Between the COVID-19 situation that kept them out of the MLS is Back tournament, to departures of key players, to newcomers stepping up. It has indeed been a year to remember.

But what has been the biggest surprise this year? Our staff has plenty of thoughts about that and offer up our takes. Feel free to include yours below in the comments.

Jason Poon - “Weird” Departures

FC Dallas has generally been a fairly stable club but 2020 sure did throw some unexpected departures from the team; from Jessie Gonzalez’ domestic abuse case, to the very rapid transfer of Zdenek Ondrasek to the incredibly painful and awkward farewell to the beloved Reggie Cannon and the bizarre narrative around Cannon’s sale. 2020’s been weird as hell, and these storylines certainly fit the 2020 theme.

Drew Epperley - Homegrown player trends

This one kind of goes both ways for me, good and bad. On the good side, we got to see a ton of Ricardo Pepi as a starter with this team. He not only contributed some goals at the highest level, but he looked the part as he continued to grow. Same can be said for Bryan Reynolds, who took over for Reggie Cannon when he left. Tanner Tessmann and Brandon Servania both had good moments. On the flip side, we still haven’t seen a ton of Thomas Roberts in a Dallas uniform (he did get plenty of good time with North Texas SC again), and the same might be said for Edwin Cerrillo, who seems more like a USL player these days than a MLS one.

Ben Lyon - Andres Ricaurte

We’ve seen big names like Gonzalo Higuain and Chicharito struggle to acclimate to the league this season, but the lesser known Ricaurte has settled in quickly with FC Dallas and, in many regards, is the club’s most important player going into the playoffs. There was certainly a buzz about his playmaking abilities, but he’s settled into a deeper roll that’s helped unlock portions of the field for FC Dallas, and he’s also provided some surprising defensive chops to accompany his more obvious passing and on the ball talent. For a slightly under the radar signing, that’s been a nice surprise and promises to be a real boon for the club going forward.

Jose Carmona - Players taking a step backwards

The biggest surprise for me, was several key players taking a step backwards compared to last season’s performances. Michael Barrios is the biggest name that comes to mind, as he’s struggled all season, and as he is a big part of the FCD attack, it is no surprise that the FCD attack has struggled all season as well.

Some of those struggles on the attacking side of the ball, could have been alleviated had Jesus Ferreira also not taken a step backwards himself. A player that many of us expected to take a big step forward this season, Jesus has struggled to find his place on the team. It hasn’t helped Jesus that Luchi kept moving him around and only recently settling on a spot for Jesus.

The final player taking a step backwards is Reto Ziegler, although in his case, its as simple as father time catching up to him, as it eventually does for all players at a certain age. Reto for his part, has continued to produce at a high level, although it has become obviously clear to us all that he is on the downslope of his career.

Nathan Hill - Jesse Is Gone

I don’t think any of us predicted at the beginning of the season that we would face a turnover at our GK position. Jesse Gonzalez was our franchise long term starter at that position, and while he may have fretted over attacking, midfield, and even defensive positions (especially with Reggie’s rumored departure), goalkeeper was one position none of us thought would be going through change. And then, Jesse got released by Major League Soccer and FC Dallas when legitimate domestic violence allegations were made known.

Ultimately, FC Dallas and Major League Soccer did the right thing. They gathered information and then cut ties with the keeper. Jimmy Maurer, to his credit, has stepped in capably into the starting spot. It’s been a long and weird season, and this was just one of those moments that have reminded us that anything can happen.

Jeff Loftin - Lackluster Attack

I never expected FC Dallas to have an outstanding attack, but I expected the team to score goals more easily than they have thus far. Yes, pieces have come and gone and that certainly played a role, but several players have struggled mightily this season to gain any kind of consistency and that is somewhat concerning. It may well spell the end for some players on the team as their time here may be up. I look on with fondness at players like Barrios but his play this season has been average at best, and wildly inconsistent. Jesus Ferreira has been mostly absent this season and I’m not sure if that’s down to his inability to lock down a specific position or something else entirely but he seems to be a player without confidence (and frankly he reminds me of Kellyn Acosta just before he was traded). Paxton being injured certainly threw a wrench in things, but that’s one player and we have many others.

Fafa has been good at time, but also completely absent at times too. Ricuarte is good, but what is he? Is he a mobile 10 or a playmaking 8? He helps the team, that much is certain but at what cost come next season? Overall, the lack of consistent attack has been concerning and surprising to me. I expected the defense to struggle because that has been an issue and I didn’t see anything to change my mind in the preseason & transfers. That will need to be addressed in the offseason and I am hoping that cohesiveness will grow from the front to the back because we really need something to tie this team together.