Today, Don Garber and Major League Soccer announced their proposed schedule for the 2021 season, even though we can expect some fluctuation and adjustment based on the state of the pandemic and country over the next couple of months.
But for now, this is a good template for teams to begin to plan and put pieces in place for training camp and a successful campaign.
A late start does mean that, like in 2020, Major League Soccer will feature a number of two game weeks, which will test squad depth and fitness. However, it won’t nearly be as congested as 2020.
A late start also increases the chance that many stadiums will allow fans sooner rather than later. Some states where the virus is especially wrecking havoc might wait to allow fans closer toward the summer, while others could be ready on opening day. I imagine MLS will adjust the league schedule with some of that in mind.
Finally, MLS Cup will be played all the way in mid-December. That’s late, but with everything that is still up in the air, the December championship match gives the league plenty of room to adjust the schedule to include makeup games or other unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind - one of the unforeseen circumstances is a lockout.
What does this mean for FC Dallas? Here are a few thoughts.
A late start is good for FC Dallas.
Whereas in Colorado opposing teams have to deal with altitude, Dallas has a great home field advantage due to the blistering Texas heat during the summer months. With a bulk of games from that May to September window, Frisco will be a hard place to visit for a lot of teams, especially if they have heavy legs or experience any further outbreaks of COVID-19. This could be a great schedule for a potential Supporter’s Shield run.
Ideally, a congested schedule would give ample opportunities for young players to make a run in the first team and take a next step, including Dante Sealy, Ema Twumasi, Ricardo Pepi, and Jesus Ferreira (pictured). However, we really didn’t see this in 2020 as FC Dallas struggled with a run of games where it was clear their tactics just didn’t click. A lot will depend on just how successful of a training camp it is this year and how comfortable Luchi is rotating guys in and out.
The other benefit of a late start, aside from the financial aspects of fans buying corn dogs and cheap beer in Toyota Stadium, is that players should be able to more easily get minutes with North Texas SC as the season progresses, getting crucial minutes as they recover from injuries or simply get into form. Both teams really missed that last year, as COVID-19 protocols limited the ability for players to switch between teams as needed.
A late start gives Dan Hunt and company time to make further signings.
While FC Dallas’ roster is mostly done, Bryan Reynolds’ transfer to Italy looms. With his departure, at least one more roster spot is open, and a possibility remains to loan a young player or two like Justin Che to North Texas SC for the full season. Could an intriguing domestic player be available via trade to add some veteran depth along the back line or as a super sub on the wings? Is there another homegrown ready to take the next step? Dallas has time to look for that missing piece before camp begins.
A late start might mean a great start.
Last year, Dallas had the roughest restart among MLS teams, losing at home to expansion side Nashville SC in one of the more glum matches in recent history. It wasn’t great. A later start, hopefully without the disruption of COVID-19 outbreaks, could get this team in the right frame of mind to begin their campaign. Mentally, more than anything else, this squad of guys needs to gel and figure things out. Time is (hopefully) on their side.
A late start means more time for Paxton Pomykal to heal.
If FC Dallas is going to compete for hardware, our chances might run through Paxton’s health and availability. Paxton by all accounts is on the mend after season ending surgery, but you don’t mind having the extra time over the next couple of months for his doctors to be certain he is ready to go. He doesn’t have to rush back, risking a setback. Time is, again, on his side.
A late start means December 11 would be a great time to host MLS Cup in Frisco.
An MLS Cup in Toronto in December or even New York doesn’t sound particularly appealing. On the other hand, Frisco has the potential to be perfect weather in mid-December. Maybe the stars will align for once on this one. Maybe it’s a match made in heaven or at least under the stars of Texas.
What other benefits do you think a late start to the season can bring for FC Dallas? Post your replies below.