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Big D Soccer Staff Predictions for 2021

Our crew looks ahead to the end of the year with our annual predictions that are sure to go very wrong.

Just as we do every season, our staff has come together to make some bold, or rather wild predictions ahead of the new season. We have plenty of FC Dallas predictions to make, followed by a couple of key MLS ones.

Here we go!

What excites you most about the upcoming FC Dallas season?

Drew - A new season is always exciting, but on the heels of a weird pandemic year, this one feels like it has some special meaning. Maybe a return to normalcy or just the fact that FC Dallas looks like a team that make some serious noise.

Ben - Freddy Vargas looks really slick, Jader Obrian looks really fast, and Andres Ricaurte is smooth like butter.

Jeff - A normal season. At least more normal than we’ve had in over a year. I’m excited to see the team, at least more of a team that Luchi and the front office staff have envisioned.

Ryan - Being able to go and watch FC Dallas! Being able to and support the team we care so much about is definitely going to be a fun time.

Frits - My naive brain looks at the preseason results and sees FC Dallas scoring three or more goals in every game but one (in which they probably should have had one or two bar some keystone kops activity around the box) and gets really excited by the prospect of actually having an explosive offense. What if both Obrian and Vargas are hits (like they seem to be in preseason)? And Ricaurte levels up after joining the team mid-year in 2020? And one of Jara or Ferreira or Pepi gets hot (like we know they can)? Could we finally have a fluid, dominant attack? Probably not, but gosh darn I think we might.

Joseph - The story is about the characters - and what makes the story of a season is how the characters grow and change. I want to see our kids level up. I want to see if the newbies can make an impact.

Andrew - The potential for a very good to great attack. The pieces added this off-season appear to be the best looking in years. It would be so much fun to see this team in the top 5 in goals scored for once.

Nathan - I’m excited about the new faces on this team, especially Vargas and Obrian, as well as the potential for youngsters to take their next steps in their growth. Will we see another sale or two as the season unfolds? Will this team compete for hardware? There is real possibility for FC Dallas to take a nice step as a whole this season with improved play.

What worries you the most going into the FC Dallas season?

Drew - Health of the players is always a concern but primarily that Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreria won’t find their 2019 form. That Franco Jara will continue to not look like a solid DP striker. And that the newcomers won’t pan out any more than guys like Santiago Mosquera and Cristian Colman did before them.

Ben - Franco Jara becoming an albatross if he isn’t scoring.

Jeff - Team unity and cohesion. I worry about the team’s ability to gel quickly, though the preseason has assured me quite a bit. Defensive cohesion comes with time, attacking cohesion comes with trust and intuition generally, so if the attacking side comes then it will come quicker than defensively in my personal opinion.

Ryan - I mean, there‘a COVID concerns. Hoping most of the team and most of the attendees have the vaccine by the first game. That way we don’t have to be rescheduling or moving games around, aside from the hope that no one gets seriously ill of course.

Frits - My overall review of Luchi after two years is that he seems like a very good man-manager who (1) is a below-average teacher of concepts and (2) gets too conservative with his personnel selections. Thus, the team gets too tentative at times. I think there’s a real chance that, considering all the turnover, FCD looks disjointed and short on ideas and chemistry, and that Luchi tries to fix that by relying on limited players and rotating less than he should given the depth of the squad (I’m especially concerned that’s going to happen at the fullback positions and in midfield).

Joseph - Staying with players who earn $$$ rather than playing the kids who deserve the minutes

Andrew - The potential to have a mediocre or worse defense. With new pieces being integrated, and maybe not quite the same talent level at RB and GK, it wouldn’t be shocking to see this team struggle with keeping goals out of the net for the first few months. Good thing the attack appears to possibly be able to paper over that this year.

Nathan - Goals. Last year, the team needed more goal scoring, and the question will be can Franco Jara consistently get into positions and find spaces to score. We know he is capable, but we also know Jesus Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi are taking their next steps. Will we see a rotation up top? How can FC Dallas get consistent goal scoring and give their defense more help in 2021?

MLS: Cup Conference Semifinals-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be FCD’s Golden Boot winner in 2021? Also how many will they score?

Drew - Franco Jara - I think (and hope) he’ll net 14 this year.

Ben - Jader Obrian- 12

Jeff - Jesus Ferreira - 15 goals (and 10 assists)

Ryan - Jara with 17

Frits - Franco Jara is going to lead the team in goals with 9, but Obrian is going to lead the team in non-penalty goals with 8. Ferreira, Pepi, and Vargas are all going to get more than five goals apiece.

Joseph - Jesus Ferreira - 12 goals

Andrew - Franco Jara with 12 goals

Nathan - Freddy Vargas with 11 goals.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be FCD’s best player (under 22) in 2021?

Drew - Jesus Ferreira - He has already shown he is ready to take the spotlight this year.

Ben - Tanner Tessmann. This is partly due to playing time, but he looks more than ready to take the next step.

Jeff - Paxton Pomykal - he’s (hopefully) healthy again and ready to prove his worth to the team. I expect him to have a fantastic season and then be sold in the Winter.

Ryan - Tanner Tessman is going to show out. Dude is poised for a break out season, i think he’s gonna be a boss in the midfield and will be a crucial cog in the midfield.

Frits - Paxton Pomykal remains the best player under 22 on the squad, but Jesus Ferreira will be the U22 that contributes the most to the first team this year.

Joseph - Jesus Ferreira. Because I want it to be Ferreira. And I believe that his choice to take the #9 jersey is a statement of intent.

Andrew - Paxton Pomykal - because...duh. As long as he’s healthy, he can play multiple positions and be productive at all of them.

Nathan - Tanner Tessmann is going to lock down a permanent starting spot before the end of the season with his influential midfield play and then probably get sold in at the beginning of 2022.

Who will be FCD’s break out player in 2021?

Drew - Freddy Vargas - I try not to put a ton of stock into what happens in the preseason but I did like what I saw out of him.

Ben - Freddy Vargas. If he stays healthy, he’s going to edge Obrian out for Newcomer of the Year based on overall production. FC Dallas will exercise his option and then who knows?

Jeff - Tanner Tessman - assuming he didn’t “break out” last season. I think he’s going to be a critical part of the team’s success this year. His athleticism, size, and toughness will lend him an upper hand in this achievement over the many other great players.

Ryan - Tanner Tessman, he is going to be an important piece of this midfield. I think we’re going to really see him grow up this year.

Frits - Excluding new arrivals like Martinez or Vargas, I think Eddie Munjoma is going to be the one to make the biggest jump year-on-year in his role and contributions. He sure looks like the next-man-up at both fullback spots - injuries or rotations could put him in line for a ton of minutes.

Joseph - Freddy Vargas - he’ll score goals and surprise a lot of fans who have never heard of him

Andrew - There are far too many young, good players to give any real clarification on this. I would list them all, but that’s just impractical. I think Freddy Vargas makes the biggest impact, but is it a breakout from a new player? Eddie Munjoma would also be a name to watch. I may need more clarification from our Editor.

Nathan - Freddy Vargas will lead the team in scoring and be the most impactful player.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be FCD’s top defender in 2021?

Drew - Matt Hedges - He’s a GOAT for a reason.

Ben - Death, taxes, Matt Hedges. He’s shown little to suggest that he’s about to regress.

Jeff - Jose Antonio Martinez - he and Hedges will form an aggressive and positive partnership that will do more than defend, it will kick-start the team’s attack time and again.

Ryan - I think Matt Hedges reclaims his top spot this year, in his prime and one of the mainstays for years. Living. Legend.

Frits - Jose Antonio Martinez looks very much like a Hedges-level contributor, and he’ll win this award over the GOAT because the shadowy electorate likes the new, bright, and shiny thing. Seriously, both of FCD’s open play goals against Austin we keyed by some fabulous play by Martinez on the ball, and he set up Hedges twice on set pieces.

Joseph - Martinez - not because I think he’ll be better than Hedges but because he’s younger. I remember being 28 and I remember being 31. My body felt better at 28. That’s more games played and an extra step in a game or two.

Andrew - Matt Hedges - easy. He’s the most senior player on the roster playing one of the most important positions. If he plays well, the biggest concern about defense is a non-issue. If time starts to catch up to him - look out.

Nathan - Matt Hedges will once again show why he is one of the greatest of all time in MLS and for FC Dallas and help smooth over Martinez’ transition into the team.

MLS: FC Dallas at Minnesota United FC David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be FCD’s Team MVP in 2021?

Drew - Andres Ricarute - For FCD to lift some serious hardware, they need him to be a MVP-level player.

Ben - Vargas. A playmaker who scores and defends? The hype train has no brakes.

Jeff - Jesus Ferreira - directly contributing to 25 goals for the team, the #3 team in the Western Conference mind you, will place him just ahead of Ricuarte and Pomykal.

Ryan - Andrés Ricaurte, the dude is going to be pulling the strings all day in the midfield. Dude is in his prime, arguably the most creative force on this team, just gotta keep him healthy.

Frits - Martinez and Hedges will split the defensive vote, so they won’t win despite FC Dallas having a near-league-topping defensive record. Vargas and Obrian will split the offensive vote. So give me Andres Ricaurte, who I’m sure will play an almost literal ton of minutes and do his usual box score magic.

Joseph - Matt Hedges - everything we do is predicated upon being solid in the back and Hedges is the rock upon which this church is built

Andrew - Andres Ricaurte. I tried to find a way to bring him up earlier, but it just didn’t make sense. But if there was ever an heir apparent to Mauro, Ricaurte is it. He’s wonderfully creative and can shoot as well as he passes. If he can take hold of the 10 spot, this team can and will go far.

Nathan - Andres Ricaurte is going to finish acclimating to MLS and serve as the engine and passing threat the team needs, serving up assists to guys like Jara, Vargas, Pepi, Ferreira, and Obrian. I predict multiple players will end up with 5 or more goals this season.

Biggest story (non-FCD related) you’re following.

Drew - For now, it is still COVID-19. The league did what they could, as best as they could in 2020 but a new year with variants out there and vaccines getting distributed do make for an interesting time in front of us. Outside of that, what happens to the 30th expansion slot is going to be super intriguing as well (my gut tells me we’re going to see a team in Vegas before long!).

Ben - Seattle. The wheels are rattling in the Pacific Northwest. I hope they miss out on the last playoff spot to San Jose.

Jeff - Rebrands are rather interesting, and whether or not any of the teams that rebranded will matter in any of the conference races is a pretty interesting topic (my guess is no). But really, the biggest story for me is the fall of Seattle. I think Seattle is due for a poor season and they will struggle mightily all season, rather than only half the year.

Ryan - Óscar Pareja, i want to see how he handles losing Dike who is definitely leaving. Plus the soft spot for Papi.

Frits - I’m praying for a break from the Portland/Seattle duopoly on top of the West. It’s been seven years since one of those two teams weren’t in MLS Cup. Surely one of LAFC or SKC or Minnesota or Colorado or Dallas can make it happen?

Joseph - Sadly, LA Galaxy and Inter Miam... the train wrecks that I can’t look away from.

Andrew - I’m watching the continued, umm, “sellerization” of the league. More teams selling good young players and buying/promoting more young talents with potential. This is a good move forward for the league I believe.

Nathan - I’m following Austin FC’s entrance into the league and whether or not they are immediately better than the Houston Dynamo. I predict better.

Who will win the 2021 Supporters’ Shield?

Drew - Atlanta United

Ben - FC Dallas

Jeff - Columbus Crew SC

Ryan - LAFC, I say this knowing Morris is out, and Philly sold off a couple of pieces.

Frits - LAFC

Joseph - Columbus Crew SC

Andrew - This feels strange, but Minnesota United

Nathan - FC Dallas

Who will win the 2021 MLS Cup?

Drew - LAFC

Ben - FC Dallas- we’re going big this year!

Jeff - LAFC

Ryan - LAFC, this is finally their year.

Frits - New England Revolution

Joseph - LAFC

Andrew - C’mon Son - FC Dallas

Nathan - FC Dallas