BY DARRELL LOVELL
FC Dallas had a 2012 the club would rather forget. Injuries and a lack of consistent form made for a challenging campaign that left the club with more questions than answers.
Making matters worse was a strong run at the end that fell just short of the last spot in the playoffs once stars like David Ferreria and Blas Perez made their way into the starting XI. What the run did was show the club what could have been in 2012 if fortune had turned their way.
Heading into 2013, the club is looking to take the next step and get back to its winning ways. To do that, they have some questions to answer.
Can the club’s big stars stay healthy?
Can the trio of Perez, Eric Hassli and Kenny Cooper, in some combination, provide the punch?
Is Chris Seitz ready to take the reins?
Will Fabian Castillo take the next step and put Brek Shea in the rearview mirror?
All of these questions, and more, contribute to a 2013 season that could be the rebirth of FC Dallas or the possible final straw.
“Every manager and every team is always looking for success,” head coach Schellas Hyndman told SBI. “When you don’t have it you work awfully hard to find it. It can be a good thing, but the other part of it is it puts you under a lot more stress and there’s not a lot of room for error.”
“You look at not getting the results you want affects the energy and team chemistry. Last year we were under so much pressure to try to find success and the more injuries we had it disrupted the chemistry and right now it’s pretty good.”
Here is a closer look at Dallas ahead of the 2013 season:
FC DALLAS SEASON PREVIEW
2012 FINISH: 9-13-12, 39 points (sixth in Western Conference)
KEY ACQUISITIONS: M Peter Luccin, D Stephen Keel, F/M Bradlee Baladez, D London Woodberry, GK Raul Fernandez, D Walker Zimmerman, F Eric Hassli, F Kenny Cooper, M Je-Vaughn Watson, D Michel, M Ramon Nunez
KEY LOSSES: M Bryan Leyva, M Bruno Guarda, F Ruben Luna, F Matias Jara, GK Kevin Hartman, M Julian de Guzman, F Scott Sealy, D Moises Hernandez, M Ricardo Villar, M James Marcelin, M Brek Shea,
NEWCOMER TO WATCH: Kenny Cooper. Is Cooper a newcomer? Technically, yes and that is good enough for me. Cooper is coming off an 18-goal season that resurrected his career. Now the forward has returned to his career launching pad and the club and its faithful is hoping that, with the service of David Ferreira, can provide the same production.
PRESSURE IS ON: Fabian Castillo. Brek Shea and his mercurial ways are now at the Brittannia with Stoke City and with him come a large hole in Dallas’ attack. All eyes will be on the Colombian youngster to see if his potential and skill can make everyone look forward rather than looking back.
Looking at the roster Schellas Hyndman has put together there is no question that the club can compete.
After struggling to find consistency and production on the forward line the trio of Perez, Hassli and Cooper should provide more than enough firepower. Cooper and Perez combined for 27 goals in 2012, a number unmatched in MLS. Toss in the potential of a healthy Hassli and this group has the scoring pedigree to make Dallas a contender.
It is not all positive. Perez and Hassli battled injuries in 2012 and international duty could keep Perez out of a Dallas uniform for some time this season. If left to carry the load by him, there will be an immense amount of pressure on Cooper to replicate his 2012 production.
Health is not only a concern at the forward line. Dallas’ machine only runs as well as Ferreira plays, and last season he did not play nearly enough to keep the Hoops successful.
“He’s working hard and he’s our team captain,” Hyndman said. “He’s picked a lot of leadership qualities that we’re really excited and we’re really excited to see a good performance from him as well as a healthy performance.”
The Colombian has all the skills to be the top serviceman in MLS and with the weapons in front of him and on his flanks, Castillo and Jackson, the stage is set….. if everyone stays on the field. Castillo may be the player that has the most eyes on him. With Shea out of the way, Castillo seems the obvious candidate to fill in where Shea left off.
“Anytime you lose a good player like a Brek Shea its two things. It’s an opportunity for people to step up and it’s an opportunity to make your mark and it’s a chance for the team to step up with new players around them,” Hyndman said.
“[Castillo’s] been in the league a couple years now but he came in the league very young … I think he’s having a very good preseason,” the Dallas boss continued. “I expect to see him to become a little more consistent in his play. If he does that he’ll be a good player this year.”
While the attack is stocked with talent, questions abound in the back. Gone is MLS Sandman Kevin Hartman and in his place is Chris Seitz, a player that has yet to turn the corner and is finally ready to take a starting spot by the horns.
The good news is that Dallas’ back line has a chance to be one of the best in MLS. The quartet of Jair Benitez, George John, Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd can certainly get the job done. The question is will they be put on an island alone?
While the roster has talent, the questions surrounding Dallas are numerous. Can Hyndman’s crew respond and pass the test? If so, they will be in the thick of things in 2013. If not, there will surely be more pressure added in Frisco.