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Quick Burns: What is the biggest “What If” in FC Dallas history?

This club is defined by a lot of “what if” moments over the years.

MLS: MLS Cup Playoffs-Round One-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It is “What If” Week here at SB Nation and FC Dallas is no stranger to the lingering questions of “What if?”

Our staff has plenty of their own biggest questions in the “what if” lore. Let us know what you think is the biggest “what if” in club history below in our comment section.


Jason Poon - What if we won the 2010 MLS Cup?

I’m sure others will rightfully bring up Mauro Diaz and 2016, but my mind keeps going to 2010 and that ill-fated cup final. How would it have changed the perception, the aura, the attraction to FC Dallas had they lifted the cup? That’s the final major domestic trophy that has eluded this club, and still the one that feels hardest to achieve for Dallas.

Nathan Hill - What if Mauro Diaz hadn’t gotten hurt, and what if he stayed with FC Dallas?

One of those benefits of this pandemic time and lack of soccer is how clubs have gone back to replay some classics from the league and Open Cup. In particular, reliving a few of the games when our former attacking wizard, Mauro Diaz, donned the FC Dallas kit was sublime. It’s too easy to dwell on the criticism about body language and what not. Maybe he wasn’t quite the talisman of David Ferreira, but Mauro was incredible. In some ways, he was let down by a lack of decent offensive options around him, like Fabian Castillo who really wasn’t as good as everyone thought he was, a maturing Michael Barrios, a journeyman rotation at striker, and other sets of cast offs. What could he have done with a decent striker up top, not a past his prime Blas Perez? What if FC Dallas had locked him down and kept him in Dallas as a Designated Player contract? Diaz may not be as good as he once was, but he can still do things that this team needs.

Drew Epperley - What if the Hunts never bought the club?

Back in the early 2000s, the league was in a desperate state for owners. The Hunts were one of three groups stepping up to save the league really and they had to make a choice between Dallas and Tampa Bay. Had they opted for the Florida side instead of the North Texas side, so many questions loom in my brain from that. Would Dallas have gotten an expansion team down the road? The easy answer is yes, I know MLS would have wanted this market back in the fold at some point. It is too big of a media market not to be included. Would that new investor have found a downtown stadium solution? God, that would have been something. Would they be called something other than FC Dallas or Dallas Burn? Given how teams are named in MLS through expansion, anything is possible here.

Jeff Loftin - What if Papi didn’t go with 3 in the back in Seattle in 2016?

Short answer - this team could have won a treble. Having already won the Open Cup and SS, the team was primed for success. Yes, Mauro was injured and out for the playoffs and that hurt. Even knowing that though, the change to a system not run the entire season seemed strange and it cost the Hoops as they lost 3-0 and were unable to overcome that deficit in the return leg at home. If we’re honest, Mauro’s injury is what really shot the season but the system change before a big playoff game was what took the team out behind the shed Old Yeller style. I will never not believe that the team could have won the Cup had that change not happened. It was an overreaction to an injury and perhaps it was intended to surprise the Sounders. Spoiler Alert: they weren’t surprised.

El Chico - What if the 2017 Collapse was avoided?

FCD was coming off back to back 60 point seasons, had made a run in the Scotiabank CCL, started 2017 undefeated, and reached the quarterfinals of the USOC. Then after the 1st of July, the team just fell apart.

The 2017 Collapse all but signaled the end of the Papi era, and began the slow dismantling of the 2016 FCD team. It also ushered the full embrace of the Play the Kids era.

You have to wonder if Papi would still be in Frisco today, had the team managed to salvage a playoff spot in 2017? Would the team have parted with Diaz and Urruti? What could Papi had done with a USL League 1 team at his disposal (with Luchi as that team’s manager)? We'll never know. And in truth, there's a part of me that wishes the 2017 collapse had never happened.

Ben Lyon - What if Bruce Arena didn’t take over the USMNT in 2017?

Very online people were cliché to critique how lousy of a year 2018 and 2019 were before even getting a whiff of how bad this year would be, but all you had to do was pay attention to history to know that something awful in November 2016 would be a catalyst for extended misery.

I’m speaking of course of a loud mouthed, nativist chattering, five boroughs guy taking the helm of the US when I had someone different in mind. Yeah, I knew it was an awful idea at the time, and that there would be a significant general regression as a result, but even my insightful crystal ball wasn’t imaginative enough to perceive the extent or specificity of the disaster.

When Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges were named to the Gold Cup team in late June of 2017, FC Dallas was on pace to win the Western Conference and were on top of the Western Conference the game before Acosta and Hedges came back and only needing wins in games in hand to match Toronto FC’s shield-winning pace. This was the state of the league on July 22nd of that year.

Acosta and Hedges came back the following week, and FC Dallas was soundly thrashed 0-4 at home by by a resurgent Vancouver Whitecaps team, and Dallas would go another 10 games (2 months!) without recording another win. Acosta and Hedges were both playing lights out before they left for the Gold Cup, but they came back from the Cup winning USMNT in noticeably diminished form and would fail to advance to the next tournament much like Arena’s team failed to do two weeks prior.

That said, FC Dallas had already bottomed out before the end of that season and picked up 8 points in their last 5 matches. They had turned the corner, but a late injury time goal in San Jose doomed Dallas to be the first (and I think only) club to miss out on the playoffs because MLS goofily uses ‘Total Wins’ as the first tiebreaker unlike most every other league in the world who uses goal difference (FC Dallas had a 21 goal advantage in the latter...hmmm).

Would FC Dallas have cruised to a high seed and a first MLS Cup championship without Bruce Arena getting hired to manage the US? Yes. Yes they would have, and Oscar Pareja would have taken the Nats to the knockout rounds in Russia. Bruce Arena can eat my butt forever. I hope New England struggles until they can his ass into oblivion once and for all.

Bonus: This guy wants you to know he isn’t responsible.

Bonus 2: Possibly the best embed I posted in one of my blogs that no one clicked through to.