2020 was a long year.
It’s almost over.
Even as I write this short blog post highlighting a few moments that stand out and help define what was an up and down season, I want to express my love and appreciation to healthcare and frontline workers who continue to do so much to save lives and help us manage through a pandemic that still has months to go. And for all of those families who are grieving and suffering, my heart breaks. Soccer really pales in comparison to what you are going through.
So, let’s take a pause and look back at a few moments that highlighted the uncertain year that was 2020.
Beating the Eventual Supporter Shield Champions at Home
February was a lifetime ago, right? Before the pandemic continued its rampant spread, claiming to this point over 300,000 American lives, we still imagined a full season for FC Dallas and the rest of Major League Soccer. Back then, the season was a canvas waiting for its masterpiece, and it seemed to begin that way with Zdenek Ondrasek, Paxton Pomykal, and squad crushing the Philadelphia Union 2-0 in their home opener.
Keep in mind what followed suit - Paxton unable to get over a nagging injury, leading to season ending surgery and Zdenek Ondrasek ultimately requesting a transfer. Ondrasek’s presence would be missed down the stretch.
Dallas Bows Out of the MLS Is Back Tournament
Welcome to Orlando's hottest club... pic.twitter.com/qIAa1H7Ink— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) June 29, 2020
Due to a number of COVID-19 positive cases, FC Dallas were forced to withdraw from the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando. In a lot of ways, this began the downward trajectory for the squad and previewed many of its struggles as they lost meaningful practice and fitness time. The league as a whole missed out on what was likely going to be one of the more entertaining and personable teams in the league as Reto Ziegler and Zdenek Ondrasek reveal from bits of their incredible social media presence that week.
You can’t ask for much more of a debut than a world class goal from Andres Ricaurte after joining the squad in the summer. Especially against a rival. Especially a hit like that.
At least in that moment, FC Dallas fans felt really good about a new signing, when in the past, summer signings have taken time to gel or failed to make their mark at all. This was no legendary Clavijo special. Ricaurte was bringing well-scouted quality right out of the gate. Will we get more of the same in 2021?
Reggie Cannon Calls Out Fans
In a powerful, honest, unscripted moment from the season, Reggie Cannon spoke of the tensions between (a few?) fans and the players’ act of solidarity for black lives at home against Nashville. Reportedly, at least one or two fans threw something on to the field as players kneeled during the national anthem, and then a number of other fans booed the players’ visible witness. In lots of cases, players in this situation, especially players of color, might feel pressure to hold back or say less, but Reggie was direct and unafraid to call out what that experience was like for him to perform in front of fans who apparently disagreed with his and other players’ calls for equality for black people. Reggie’s words for me key us in on the often unexplored tensions between fans and athletes of color in professional sports. Are the players on the field products? Is their role simply to perform and refrain from making us uncomfortable? Or are they allowed to speak candidly about their experiences and expectations from fans too? If we enjoy their products, shouldn’t we fight alongside them and their families for a better country and world for all of us?
Thank you, Reggie, for using your platform and sharing your voice.
Reggie Cannon Is Sold to Boavista
The other angle to this story was that within weeks, Reggie Cannon joined Boavista in a sale that marked FC Dallas’ continued emergence in the global market as a developer and seller of talent. Reggie was ready for a change of scenery and an opportunity to showcase his talents on a larger level. The sale and Reggie’s subsequent solid performance for Boavista quickly led to the rumblings of more imminent transfers, which brings us to...
Say Hello (And Goodbye) to Bryan Reynolds
We were initially told that Bryan Reynolds needed a little more time to adjust and adapt to the starting right back role, but then he claimed the spot and never looked back. The Reynolds to Hollingshead combo looked for a moment like it might rival Jordan/Pippen in its scoring potential. Rumblings began right away that Juventus of all teams was going to make a strong play for the promising attacking right back, with Roma and Brugge getting in the mix per latest reports. Who could have envisioned this storyline though? Now Reynolds is poised to leave FC Dallas imminently on a deal that will make Reggie’s look pedestrian. Who will be right back in 2021, and how much will they get sold for?
Shootout in Portland
This game had it all - strong play, heroics, grit. FC Dallas, intent to wash away the bad taste from previous disappointment in the Pacific Northwest, began their MLS Cup playoff campaign with a defensive approach to a potent Portland Timbers side. At first, it looked like a repeat serving of doom and gloom until Ricardo Pepi scored a delightful, poacher’s effort via a Matt Hedges ball to bring the game level. You can’t ask for more from the young striker.
Then, during the shootout, Jimmy Maurer and company stood tall. FC Dallas’ players, confident and dialed in, converted every single PK. The intensity and professionalism on display had to be a result of the hard work the squad put in this year. For once, the coin flip went their way or the bounce of the ball or whatever. FC Dallas advanced, achieving one of their team goals after the loss against the Seattle Sounders in 2019.
Do they wish they could have done a little more against Seattle? Will they be looking to take another step in 2020? Sure. But for now, you mark it as one of the nice moments to dwell on before 2021 kicks off in the coming weeks.
What moments did I miss that stand out to you? Particular goals, plays, or social media fun? Share below.