Now that the SuperDraft is out of the way, there is only a few days left standing in the way before new manager Nico Estevez welcomes his FC Dallas players into preseason camp together.
The players will begin reporting this weekend and will begin training on Tuesday before they head to Florida later this month.
Are there more reinforcements on the way this winter? Or are we waiting until summer?
As of this writing, FC Dallas got rid of eight players from last year and has only filled two of those spots with Nanu and Generation adidas player Isaiah Parker. I know there are five other draft picks that could be slotted in those spots, but technically none of them are signed players just yet. They’ll have to earn that in preseason camp as we’ve seen in years past with draft picks.
Even if two of those other five sign with the first team, that is still a lot of roster space to fill before the end of February. More than likely we’re going to see a pair of Homegrown players signed, something the club loves to do around this time of the year. Given the club’s holes at goalkeeper, I’d expect one HGP to be in that department with maybe another attacking player added.
Given how poorly the team played in 2021, not seeing any major signings just yet is a bit discouraging but there is still some time on the clock to make things happen. There is also the summer window, one that clubs like Seattle have done well at identifying talent to come in and make an immediate impact before the final stretch run of the season.
But yes, a lot of work is still needed here. A lot.
Will leaving Texas for part of preseason help or hurt?
Preseason is important, there is no question about that. I do think last year’s pandemic-stricken preseason that kept the team in the State of Texas was something that hurt the club in the long run (not to mention the other Texan teams who also failed to reach the playoffs). Anytime you are able to leave your normal environment, even if it is just for a week or two can be a big deal and FCD was only able to go as far south as Austin and San Antonio. That’s not good enough to develop those bonds and relationships that players need ahead of a long, grueling season.
FC Dallas is heading to Florida shortly after their preseason camp starts, and I am all for that as a way for this team to rekindle their bond as a group under a new manager. We already know things will be different in 2022 under Estevez, so hopefully, this trip helps get this group ready in ways past preseason trips to Florida have.
Will the defense return to a form we’re happy with?
For years, it was the Dallas defense that led the team to the playoffs, even if it were just the last seed available. The veteran core of this team is still locked in place in this group from keeper Jimmy Maurer, to club legends Matt Hedges and Ryan Hollingshead. Also, don’t sleep on Jose Martinez being a bit more vital this season as well as he rotates minutes with Nkosi Tafari and Hedges.
But to get them back to that place we’re comfortable with, the one that would see them give up maybe 40 goals tops in a season and not the one that gave up 56 goals. That is going to be a big ask probably more of the younger players like Tafari, Ema Twumasi, Eddie Munjoma, and potentially someone like Colin Smith (that is if the club feels he is ready to move up from North Texas SC). The defensive group in front of them in the midfield also needs to step up more in 2022 but that can be a topic for another day.
Will Estevez get the most out of Franco Jara?
Outside of the roster enhancements that need to still happen for this season, I think the biggest question I may have going into this year is how Estevez will do with Jara. We saw in portions of 2021 that the veteran striker was actually fairly serviceable off the bench as a super-sub. Down the stretch, when he was a starter again for some games, he actually had some decent moments that made you forget his massive $3 million salary for just a few seconds (that late winner against Austin was nice).
I know there are other players that are more important to the actual success of this team but I kind of have the feeling that FCD will go as far in 2022 as Jara can take them. Yeah, that may be a bold, if not an absolutely ridiculous statement, but that is where my head is at when I hear Estevez talk about Jara.
Let’s look at it another way too, Jara is in a contract year with the club. Most athletes tend to go off in a contract year. At least that is what we need to hope for here with Jara. His age is against him there, unfortunately. However, if he can be a leader in the locker room, devoid of ego, and help guide the young roster back into the playoffs, I think that may be a nice way for him to leave a positive mark on this team.
Will it actually happen? One can dream, right?