Just a little over a year from the substitute scandal that swept over Major League Soccer, Orlando City and FC Dallas meet again. Hopefully in the 2018 match Michael Barrios — or any other player for that matter — enters the match under legal parameters and there isn’t any controversy after the final whistle.
The Hoops of FC Dallas are once again competing for trophies in the Western Conference and are currently on a four-match unbeaten run and the side has lost just once in the friendly confines of Toyota Stadium in league play this year. To give us an update on Oscar Pareja’s side, Big D Soccer Managing Editor Drew Epperley has returned to tell us what to expect from the 2018 version of FCD and you can read my answers to his questions over at their place.
Dallas is once again competing at the top of the West after missing out on the playoffs last year. What’s different from 2017?
Drew Epperley: A lot changed between this year’s group and last year’s that stumbled through the summer and failed to reach the postseason. I think the biggest change is the attitude in the locker room. FC Dallas has shown this year that it is willing to let important players go if they are unhappy or want out. The club did so by transferring guys like Anton Nedyalkov and Mauro Diaz, while trading a Homegrown star in Kellyn Acosta.
Aside from that, the team got rebuilt in a defensive way by bringing in guys like Reto Ziegler and Marquinhos Pedroso. Also, the emergence of Reggie Cannon has been a nice boost as the team hasn’t had to rely on rotating a lot of players at right back.
Lastly, I would say that Oscar Pareja has learned from his mistakes in 2017 that saw him run out the same look and group time and time again. He was probably too trusting of certain players last season and that eventually led to some poor play. This season, he has had depth at nearly every position and it has shown well when guys like Ziegler pick up a red card or when a guy like Roland Lamah picks up an injury. He’s more trusting of his depth, which is leading to better competitions in training for starting spots and leading to good results on the field.
Oscar Pareja’s name has recently popped up as a candidate for the vacant USMNT position. What would his leaving mean for the club?
DE: It would be a huge blow. There is no dancing around the idea that it wouldn’t be anything but that. Thankfully, there are coaches within the system that could easily get promoted to head coach and continue on with his legacy. I see a guy like academy director Luchi Gonzalez as a prime target for the front office to go after as the next manager if Pareja gets scooped away by the national team.
FC Dallas has been bouncing back and forth with Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the West. What can the Hoops improve on to guarantee they end up with the No. 1 seed?
DE: Right now, it is all about getting results and taking care of business. They had a couple disappointing games in the summer, particularly those two against San Jose, but everything else has been going according to plan. They picked up four big points on the road in their last two games and have been really tough to beat at home this season. I think the schedule also stacks up well for FC Dallas to at least pick up one of the top two seeds in the West too. Dallas has four winnable games in my mind, even if two are on the road, and it should get at least seven points out of this month.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
DE: There aren’t any big injuries right now to discuss with this team or suspensions. I would expect a similar lineup to last week in Portland, maybe with one change:
Jesse Gonzalez, Marquinhos Pedroso, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, Reggie Cannon, Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo, Roland Lamah, Maxi Urruti, Michael Barrios, Cristian Colman. [Editor’s note: Drew’s responses came before it was discovered that FC Dallas forward Cristian Colman has since torn his ACL and will be out for the remainder of the season.]
Thanks again to Drew for stopping by and giving some insight.