Season Preview - FC Dallas

In some ways, the history of FC Dallas is a microcosm for all of Major League Soccer. They first came into existence in 1996 as the Dallas Burn, with hideous uniforms and a giant football stadium as their home. This existence was very shaky in the late 90s and early 2000's, as they actually played in a high school football stadium one season to save money. But eventually, they moved into their own shiny soccer stadium, rebranded with a less ridiculous name and uniforms, and acquired a local rival in Houston. Since then, the future has been bright.

On the pitch, however, the recent past has been ugly for Dallas. Finishing out of the playoffs last year, the hoops went through an extremely turbulent season involving a coaching change. They finished the year under the guidance of Schellas Hyndman, but still stumbled to the finish. FCD had talent on the team, and one of the leagues best overall players in forward Kenny Cooper, but they never seemed to gel and come together, especially in midfield. At times, the defense was shaky as well, with the sluggish Duilio Davino doing little more than taking up space on the pitch and the salary cap.

A full season under Hyndman - and especially, a full pre-season for the team to come together - sound help this team achieve their full potential. Or at least something close to it. If Cooper doesn't jet to Europe and stays around all season to partner with a rejuvinated Jeff Cunningham, the forwards will be very dangerous. The midfield looks to be much more settled now, with a true attacking midfielder in new Colombian signee David Fereirra filling what had been FC Dallas's biggest hole. Dallas also acquired Dave Van den Bergh, one of the very best left wingers in MLS. Andre Rocha on the other wing showed great promise and could have a breakout season this year. Not a lot has been done to better the defense, and that could be a weak point, though the addition by subtraction of Davino should help. And Dario Sala, my single least favorite player in the league, is nonetheless competant in goal. The team, to me, looks solid.

The biggest worries for FC Dallas may in fact be off the pitch. The franchise has long struggled to draw fans wherever they play. Every time I've watched their home games on tv, the gaping swaths of empty seats that fill Pizza Hut Park are very noticeable. And very recently have come reports that FCD have sold just 5000 tickets for their season opener (INCLUDING season tickets), a high-profile matchup against Cuahtemoc Blanco and the Chicago Fire. My reaction is somewhere between embarassed and saddened. Numbers like that, regardless of which team, are no good for the league.

I really do think that Dallas could make some noise this year, and gun to my head, I'd say they make the playoffs. Even as they have problems off the pitch, they have shored up most of their major weaknesses and look to be improving on it. And their attack looks balanced and powerful. FC Dallas are a club that should be putting on some entertaining displays of soccer under the Texas sun. The only question is if anyone will be there to watch them.

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