2024 FC Dallas season preview
What's new, what's changed and can FC Dallas take the next step forward under Nico Estevez?
It is that time of the year, folks! FC Dallas and the rest of Major League Soccer are getting ready to take the field again for the start of the regular season.
As we’ve done every year on this site, we have broken down the club in a quick format that is our season preview!
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Can we rewind a bit to 2023?
2023 season: 46 points (11-10-13), 7th in the Western Conference
The 2023 season began with a ton of promise following a solid playoff run in 2022 for Nico Estevez. But injuries, poor form and, well, more injuries played a massive part in seeing the club dip a bit in production offensively and in the standings.
FC Dallas ended up as one of the top defensive teams in MLS, but the attack struggled to find their footing in most games. Once Estevez’s side got out from under the fog of injuries in the summer, the team put together a solid run to reach the playoffs. Unfortunately, the playoff dream didn’t last long after losing in a Round One series to the Seattle Sounders.
Who is in and who is out from the offseason
Petar Musa - Hard not to start this list with Musa. The club spent a record fee to obtain him from Benfica earlier this month. He is an ‘in his prime striker’ who could be a massive upgrade from previous strikers the club has had over the years.
Omar Gonzalez - The Oak Cliff native returns home for what will probably be his final professional season(s) in MLS.
Enes Sali - The latest U-22 signing from the club. Sali is the youngest Romanian national team player to debut for his club. So that is something.
Logan Farrington - FC Dallas traded up in the December SuperDraft to snag him 3rd overall. The Oregon State striker has shown well so far in the preseason with his hold-up play in the attack and scored a pair of goals while the team was in Spain.
The rest of the bunch: Alejandro Urzua (Homegrown), Tomas Pondeca (North Texas SC), Malik Henry-Scott (Homegrown), Jimmy Maurer (re-signed), Amet Korca (re-signed) and Patrickson Delgado (loan from Independiente del Valle).
Jose Martinez - The veteran saw his playing time and role diminish as the season went on. His option to return was not picked up, as it would have cost the club around $800k to have him on the books for one more year.
Facundo Quignon - Similar to Martinez, his role was greatly reduced once the club brought in Liam Fraser and Asier Illarramendi in the summer. And like Martinez, his option was not picked up due to the high cost.
Jesus Jimenez - Speaking of high cost, Jimenez would have been a DP-level salary cap hit for the club. His zero goals in 2023 proved that he was not the right fit for Estevez’s system.
Jader Obiran - While he began playing some of his best soccer in a Dallas uniform over the final three months of the season, his option was not picked up and he ended up landing with rivals Austin through a Re-Entry Draft selection.
The rest of the bunch: Colin Smith (Homegrown, option decided).
Who is the key player?
You’d think it would be Musa, given the amount of money the club spent to get him this winter. But it will always come down to Jesus Ferreira. As Ferreira goes, so will FC Dallas. The Dallas Homegrown has scored 30 goals over the course of two seasons with Estevez in charge. If FC Dallas wants to return to the playoffs and have a shot at advancing deep into it, they need another big season out of Ferreira. We’re talking 15-20 goals big.
The bigger question at the moment may be whether or not he’ll still be around all season. Clubs are clearly interested, and after a failed move to Russia this winter, it appears Ferreira is okay leaving as well.
Who is the unsung hero of this team?
Hands down, it has to be Aiser Illarramendi. The veteran midfielder brings a calming and controlled look to the midfield despite not being someone who you’ll see end up on the scoresheet in each game. When he is able to dictate the pace of a game, good things tend to happen for FC Dallas.
But also, let’s shout out keeper Maarten Paes as well here. Without him in goal, FC Dallas is a drastically different team defensively.
Who needs a big year more than anyone else?
We may be cheating here on this one, but it has to be a tie between Paul Arriola and Sebastian Lletget. Both players were brought into Dallas on some heavy deals to help boost the team under Nico Estevez. Each did very well in their first season in Dallas but struggled in 2023. Injuries were the name of the game last year for both, and they’ll each need to prove that they’re past that and are ready to show why the club put so much faith in them in the first place.
Why 2024 will be a success
Because Nico Estevez finally found the system that dominates MLS.
If it all goes well, it means things clicked at the right time across the board for this team.
FC Dallas is built to ‘win now’ with the players returning from last year and those that they brought in this winter. This means that the new formation (more on that in a second) hits on all cylinders, Jesus Ferreira has an MVP-level year, Musa comes out as the league’s best new addition, and the defense continues their dominance from 2023, when they were third-best in terms of goals given up in a game, and the injury bug doesn’t cause key players to miss anything more than a game or two at a time (and especially not all at once).
Why 2024 won’t be a success
Because Nico Estevez tinkered a bit too much. Or Injuries, again.
There are some who follow the club out there that likely believe Estevez tinkers a bit too much with things and that is why we’re seeing a brand new formation for year three of his time with the club. Their worry is not wrong either. With Alan Velasco, the team’s best playmaker, out until at least July, or maybe August if we’re lucky, the team still lacks someone who can facilitate things in the attack and provide the outlets that Musa and Ferreira need to be their best. Not to mention, playing a guy like Kamungo out of position could really harm his growth.
Aside from that, the real worry will always be injuries. If 2023 taught fans anything, it is likely to expect the team to deal with long stretches of key players being out. Heck, they have to with Velasco and Geovane Jesus out for the start of the season. There is also a question as to how healthy Ferreira or Pomykal will be out of the gate to start the year as well.
Who should we expect to see start? What is this new formation we’re hearing so much about?
We’ve dived into this new 3-4-3 or 5-2-2-1 look a bit already on the blog. Here is our latest depth chart that shows who could be at each spot.
If everyone is healthy, I believe this is how they’ll look:
Of course, this isn’t set in stone1. The preseason injuries to Ferreira and Pomykal could dictate a few changes. Not to mention, we haven’t seen Arriola line up on the wings yet like this in any match. That has been Kamungo.
Seriously, do not take this that seriously. It is a projection based on the preseason and a few thoughts of my own. I won’t pretend to know exactly what Nico Estevez has going on in his mind with regard to his weekly lineup selection.