The new season is so close folks, we can taste it. April 17 isn’t tomorrow but as preseason kickoffs today for FC Dallas, it is a good time to hit the reset button on where things are at with the team, where they could go, and what to expect in this new season.
Head coach Luchi Gonzalez brings back an experienced, yet still pretty young roster, that is expected to compete for a MLS Cup title in 2021. Gonzalez and FC Dallas have climbed the ladder in the last two years, especially in 2020 with a playoff win in Portland before exiting the playoffs for the second year in a row against the Seattle Sounders.
2021 FC Dallas roster (as of March 1, 2021)
Goalkeepers (3): Jimmy Maurer, Phelipe Megiolaro, Kyle Zobeck
Defenders (7): Bressan, Nkosi Burgess, Matt Hedges, Ryan Hollingshead, José Martínez, Eddie Munjoma, Johnny Nelson
Midfielders (10): Bryan Acosta, Edwin Cerrillo, Kalil ElMedkhar, Paxton Pomykal, Andrés Ricaurte, Thomas Roberts, Thiago Santos, Tanner Tessmann, Ema Twumasi, Freddy Vargas
Forwards (5): Jesús Ferreira, Franco Jara, Jáder Obrian, Ricardo Pepi, Dante Sealy
On loan (2): Justin Che (FC Bayern Munich), Brandon Servania (SKN St. Pölten)
Draft picks: Nicky Hernandez, Colin Shutler and Thibaut Jacquel will join the team for preseason training while Mark Salas and Giovanni Montesdeoca will continue to compete for University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before reporting to the club in late May.
Several new faces join the fray
Instead of spending time in who left over the winter, we need to spend time looking at who came and and who is going to be coming in later this year.
Jose Martinez - The veteran center back may be the one piece I’m excited about here going into the season. Martinez has the kind of experience that should translate well in MLS as a center back. If he and Matt Hedges can form a good partnership early on, we could end up saying at the end of the season that this was one of the better moves going into the year.
Kalil ElMedkhar - While FC Dallas has been known for their Homegrown development over the last ten years or so, this is a new step for the team in purchasing a HGP from another club (Philadelphia Union). The thought in this move is that FC Dallas believes he is MLS-ready enough to pull the trigger on brining him in following a successful college career at Kentucky.
Freddy Vargas - Is he another Fabian Castillo or is he another Santiago Mosquera? There are probably more questions than answers with this move.
Jader Obrain - We said here on this space that FC Dallas went out and found a young and faster Michael Barrios with this move. If Obrain can replicate even half of what Barrios did over the last couple of seasons in his first year in MLS, I think we’ll be happy with this move.
What is left open to fill?
If you look at the count above, you’ll notice that right now there are five open roster slots, two of which are taken up by guys out on loan until the summer. There are also talks of the league expanding the rosters a bit to account for players on loan too. Time will tell if that comes true or not but the fact remains, FC Dallas has some open spots to fill and just a limited time to do so.
For starters, we know that there is an open Designated Player slot to fill with Acosta and Jara taking the other two. The other thing we know is that there aren’t any open international roster slots available at the moment, so if a DP is signed this summer, either they’ll need to trade for another slot, see a current international player leave, or sign an American DP.
More than likely, we’re going to see a draft pick or two fill a couple of those spots. That, and, another Homegrown player or two signed if the DP thing doesn’t work out (remember there is a U-22 initiative set to happen as well that will help with that).
But just based on what is there on the roster, I would love to see the depth in the defense filled out a bit more with another center back (maybe that is Justin Che when/if he returns from Germany) and at least one more versatile full back (one that can be played on either side of the pitch).
Who needs a big 2021 camp?
Phelipe - We know Jimmy Maurer will likely be the starter on day one but the hype around the young Brazilian is still very intriguing to me. FC Dallas brought him back on loan for another year with an option to buy out his contract. He needs some games though, especially if FC Dallas wants to make some money on this deal with him.
Munjoma - No Reggie Cannon, no Bryan Reynolds. Now FC Dallas has put the #2 on young Eddie here and it appears, at least for now, that they could be in trusting him as their next right back prospect for 2021. A big camp, similar to what we saw out of Reynolds last year at this time will go a long way in determining if he is the right guy to take over for those guys that left in 2020, or if we’re going to be searching for someone else to fill that void.
Roberts - I’ve been a Thomas Roberts fan since he signed his Homegrown contract a few years go. He’s done well at North Texas SC these last couple of years and his limited time on the field with FC Dallas was really impressive as well. But we need more. His career needs more at this point or else he could end up going down in the list of failed Homegrown players. That’s not something I want to see for him.
Jara - With the young starts behind him, this veteran needs to step up in a big way early on to prove that he is worth the DP slot and hype. Last year we got a decent glimpse of what he can do (that stretch of four goals in five games was a nice boost) but we also saw that things can go south real quick if he isn’t pulling his weight.
When a returning player feels like a new addition
It would be difficult to discuss the FC Dallas roster going into the new season and not talk about Homegrown midfielder Paxton Pomykal. We all know the last year and a half has been pretty disappointing for the young guy. Between multiple injuries and surgeries, can 2021 finally be his year? We certainly hope so.
If anything, Pomykal’s return should feel like a new player coming into the roster. He can provide that kind of boost on the field when he is healthy that no one else on this roster has at the moment too in my mind.
Will Andres Ricaurte continue to shine in year two?
I loved what Ricaurte brought to the field last year. The goal against Houston can be played on a loop for all I care. But towards the end of the season, that initial spark seemed to fade a bit as teams figured out the Colombian.
We now enter a full preseason camp with him and the rest of the team. He’s a little more comfortable in MLS and with Dallas, which should lead to bigger and better things. We need him to be like a David Ferreira of 2010 or Mauro Diaz of 2016 and less like, say a Pablo Aranguiz of 2018. FC Dallas needs him to dominate games, spark the offense on a consistent basis and find ways to elevate the young players around him.
State of FC Dallas’ top rivalries
Will Austin FC reignite help boost the Texas Derby?
Let’s be honest for a moment, the Texas Derby has lost a ton of steam and heat over the last few years. Maybe it was due to FC Dallas enjoying some success over the Houston Dynamo or that the environments surrounding the games between the two teams isn’t nearly as heated as it once was when the rivalry was first born.
Enter Austin FC. The new kids in town will want to immediately insert themselves into the rivalry with the other two Texan teams and with the bright shiny new stadium to boot, they should be able to compete well. If anything, their addition should be a spark that could help elevate the Texas Derby into something like what we see out of the Casacdia Cup in the Pacific Northwest.
Or should it be it’s own rivalry/derby?
I also go back and forth on this in my mind. On one hand, having a Texas Cup similar to the Cascadia Cup is super intriguing. But what if the rivalry just doesn’t take off between Dallas and Austin like we want it to? Or the same with Houston and Austin?
So maybe the rivalry with Austin should just be it’s own thing for Dallas fans. But we’ll certainly need a catchy name before MLS markets something super lame.
If anything, the rivalry with Sporting Kansas City is doing well. I’d love to see the heat get turned up a few more degrees on it. The old Brimstone Cup rivalry with Chicago feels more dead with each passing year. Is there still a rivalry with Columbus? The Pioneer Cup was a thing for a minute but that too feels lame and dead.
What about with Colorado? Or Portland and Seattle? Do we still care about beating LA like we used to? Hopefully some of those answers will be given to us this season.