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Lessons from the 2020 Season

COVID couldn’t keep the kids down.

MLS: Cup Conference Semifinals-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After a hard fought playoff campaign, the season has come to a close for FC Dallas. With all the peculiarities of this year, that Dallas should go out against familiar foes in the Seattle Sounders feels comforting—not that much has changed. That being said...

The kids are getting better

Word on the street is that Bryan Reynolds and Tanner Tessman may be off to join Reggie in Europe this winter. That means in the last two seasons, Dallas have developed five major prospects in Reggie Cannon, Reynolds, Tessman, Paxton Pomykal, and Ricardo Pepi. They’re all either in a top European league already or they’re headed there. If we assume Weston McKennie is an outlier, then Dallas’ previous crop of best youth prospects have found themselves with productive careers in MLS (Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Victor Ulloa) or in mid-tier leagues internationally (Fabian Castillo, Alejandro Zendejas). This current generation is prepared to smash that ceiling.

But let’s be clear, a homegrown XI probably doesn’t win the MLS Cup. It’s going to require strategic reinvestment of the profits from youth sales to make this team formidable. Dallas have the youth development part down, but, as has been the case for years, they struggle scouting and signing impact players. It’s possible that eventually Dallas are breaking the MLS transfer record on a regular basis (Ricardo Pepi to FC Barcelona for $25m) and can take the guesswork out of their transfer strategy by bringing in known commodities, but that’s a lot to bank on.

Get used to Luchi

He’s had his ups and downs, his head-scratchers, and whatnots, but he’s not going anywhere. Not only is the front office not willing to part with him: they shouldn’t. Holistically, Luchi has been solid. The upset against Portland was a big deal. Dallas went the farthest they’ve gone in the playoffs since 2016 and that was the year they won the Supporters’ Shield. Maybe you want to put an asterisk next to this season and I understand that. Regardless, 2016 is undeniably part of FCD’s Golden Age. So why is it that this season feels underwhelming?

Quality of play has something to do with it. The 2016 squad knew their strengths and how to win games with them. I’m still not sure how good this 2020 side is. Perhaps no players symbolize this confusion better than Franco Jara and Andres Ricaurte. These are the two that we’re going to battle over whether or not to keep this offseason because it’s hard to pin down how good they are. Both have (or perhaps better put in Jara’s case as had) high ceilings. But are they reaching that level enough to justify taking away time from youth (Jara and Pepi or Ricaurte and Pomykal) and to justify the tactical tweaks to accommodate their play style? Not knowing how good two of Dallas’ best players are make it very difficult to condemn Luchi as long as the ship isn’t sicking. He’s always been a guy who is there to keep the team afloat and he did so admirably in the midst of this year’s chaos.

What you can do this offseason

Don’t pop a blood vessel and be nice to people in the comments. Whether or not this team re-signs Fafa Picault is not going to be the difference between Dallas winning the MLS Cup or the Wooden Spoon. FC Dallas as a franchise is what it is. Not to be overly fatalistic, but we’ll marginally improve as a team over the offseason then perform about as well as we did last year.

In the meantime, try to be thankful you don’t cheer for Houston.