In just a few hours, FC Dallas will take to Toyota Stadium for their first taste of competitive soccer since November. During the offseason, they have gone through tremendous changes... Young, star striker Ricardo Pepi has moved overseas to play for FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga. Fan-favorite and longtime player Ryan Hollingshead was traded to L.A FC for up and coming Marco Farfan. Nico Estevez, an assistant coach to Greg Berhalter, has been named as Dallas’ newest head coach. USMNT regular Paul Arriola was brought in for two million from D.C United. Lastly, they’ve added young Alan Velasco of Independiente for a club record fee.
Dallas already looks different and better than they did last year. On paper they’re a strong side. With Jesus Ferreira up top with Arriola and Velasco on the wings, a midfield trio of Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, and Edwin Cerrillo, a defense with fullbacks Farfan and Nanu, veteran centerbacks Matt Hedges and Jose Martinez and finally Jimmy Maurer behind in goal. This looks like it could be a competitive and fun team to watch.
With the series of changes made, what should fans of Dallas and MLS expect for the Toros this season? Should fans be ready to watch their club lift the MLS Cup for the first time in their 27 year old history? Should they prepare for another mediocre year, filled with frustration? It's a long season and anything can happen between now and the end of the regular season in October. Let's look at FC Dallas and what they have going on for this season.
A New Head Coach-
Image: FC Dallas via Twitter
Nico Estevez was named the latest head of FC Dallas back in early December. Unlike previous head coaches, Estevez was not an "in-house" hire or someone who was familiar with the Hunt family. His hiring was a surprise to many, it was expected that someone along the lines of Eric Quill, who was the head coach of the second division team North Texas Soccer Club at the time, would lead the team.
Although he hasn't been a head coach in MLS before, he comes to the organization with more experience than the previous manager Luchi Gonzalez did. He began his coaching career in Spain. He spent time with Valencia CF., where he began in their youth side and moved up to the point that he became the interim manager for the first team, where he had one win (A Copa del Ray match against Gimnastic de Tarragona) and one loss (in La Liga against Real Madrid). He returned to their second team briefly before moving onto MLS side Columbus Crew as an assistant coach under Greg Berhalter and moved with him to the USMNT, where he continued to be one of Berhalter's assistants. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nico_Est%C3%A9vez)
Estevez is already familiar with some of Dallas' players which should help the club get acclimated to his coaching style and the system he wishes to use in Frisco. Arriola, Ferreira, Farfan, and Pomykal have all been called up the senior USMNT roster at least under Berhalter, so they should have worked with Estevez during camp. It'll be interesting to see how Dallas does under Estevez, on paper it looks to be a good match though.
Image: FC Dallas via Twitter
FC Dallas acquired a few players who look like they'll be key pieces this season and for the future. Usually they're known for bringing in unknown players, usually from South America. Sometimes these players are "diamonds in the rough" like Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, and Thiago Santos to name a few, other times these players don't pan out. This offseason saw a change from the norm, however, as they brought in some players that are known, such as Arriola and Farfan, who both have caps for the senior USMNT, they also brought in one of the top prospects in Argentina. Both the offense and the defense saw major changes during the offseason.
The offense didn't see too much change compared to the defense. They acquired USMNT regular, Paul Arriola from D.C United for about $2 million in GAM, the most Dallas has paid for an in-league player. At 27 he's considered to be at his peak, which is a welcomed change as Dallas usually invest in young players or bring in late veterans. Through the national team, he's already played with Jesus Ferreira, who looks to be the face of the Dallas offense now. The other offensive piece they brought in was wonderkid Alan Velasco, who they brought in for a club record of $7 million. (https://3rddegree.net/report-fc-dallas-buys-alan-velasco)
Unlike Arriola, Velasco at the beginning of his career. He's an exciting prospect to watch but at 19 and moving to a different country for the first time in his life, his contributions probably won't come until year two or three.
Image: FC Dallas via Twitter
On the defensive side, they traded Ryan Hollingshead for Marco Farfan, who plays the same position as Hollingshead but is younger and more defensive-minded. They brought in FC Porto right-back Nanu via loan to challenge Ema Twumasi for the starting right-back spot. Both fullbacks look to be challenging for a starting position now, rather than being used for depth or development pieces.
Recently Dallas has been linked with Joshue Quinonez, a young centerback from Barcelona SC in Ecuador. Although Dallas hasn't reported anything official, Barcelona SC held a press conference early on the 25th of February, announcing that Quinonez would join Dallas on a year long loan with a buy option.
Unlike Farfan and Nanu, Quinonez would probably be a depth or development piece. He's only 20 right now and with the current centerbacks Dallas has, he shouldn't be a key piece this year.
Dallas added two goalkeepers, Marteen Paes from FC Ultrecht in the Netherlands, and Antonio Carrera, from Dallas' own academy. Carrera is the third choice goalie at the moment but at just 17, he has time to grow and become Dallas' top goalkeeper in the future. Due to an injury to Jimmy Maurer, Paes has been Dallas' starting goalkeeper in preseason. He's on a short term loan with an option to buy that ends in July, giving him little time to earn a permanent spot on the roster. He has the opportunity right now to become Estevez's first choice. (https://www.fcdallas.com/news/fc-dallas-acquires-goalkeeper-maarten-paes-on-loan-from-fc-utrecht)
Image: FC Dallas
In addition to players above they also signed three players from the 2022 MLS Superdraft, Isaiah Parker, Lucas Bartlett, and Tsiki Ntsabeleng. Parker is the youngest of the three at 19 years old. It's assumed that he'll be converted to leftback, a move that former Dallas rightback Bryan Reynolds made after spending time as a winger in the academy. There isn't a rush to see Parker as the starting leftback, especially if he's converting to a new position. At the moment he's a development piece and depth but he's young enough that that isn't a bad thing. (https://www.fcdallas.com/news/superdraft-pick-isaiah-parker-i-think-fc-dallas-is-a-great-fit-for-me)
Tsiki and Bartlett have less time to prove they belong. Both are 24 years old and both have been signed to one year contracts with club option years following. Bartlett is a centerback, a position that needed depth. Between Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez, and Nkosi Tafari, Bartlett probably won't see much MLS action, unless there's an injury.
Tsiki is a forward, another position that Dallas needed to get depth for. The departure of Ricardo Pepi saw the position grow thin. At the moment Jesus Ferreira looks to be Dallas' starting forward with Franco Jara as the backup. It's unknown when Jara's contract but since he signed back in 2020 and will turn 34 in the middle of the season, it's possible that he could only have a year or two left on his contract. Tsiki will probably be fighting for the spot as Jara's replacement as Ferreira's backup, that is if Jara leaves after this season.
Key Returning Players-
Image: FC Dallas via Twitter
FC Dallas has quite a few returning players. Two of their key returning players are Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal. They started slowing flashes of their brilliance in 2019, unfortunately due to injuries they both faded in 2020. Last year saw Ferreira return to great form. Despite missing the beginning of the season, Ferreira ended 2021 with 8 goals and 9 assists in 27 games and was considered to be the strongest piece of Dallas' attack. (https://www.fcdallas.com/players/jesus-ferreira/stats/)
He earned a new Designated Player contract, making him possibly the second highest paid player on the team. With the new contract and his play last year, there's more to expect of him.
Image: FC Dallas
Pomykal, after dealing with injuries for several seasons now, will look to become a key asset to the club again. He made a name for himself in 2019, where he scored 2 goals and had 5 assists in 25 games, earning him a spot in the MLS All-Stars and his first call-up to the senior USMNT. (https://www.mlssoccer.com/players/paxton-pomykal/stats/) His last recorded injury, according to Transfermarkt was in August of 2021, where he was out for 15 days and missed 3 games. He should be well rested for the new season. (https://www.transfermarkt.us/paxton-pomykal/verletzungen/spieler/455978)
2021 was a recovery year. 2022 is the comeback year. A new coach and a possible return to his natural center-midfield position, could help Pomykal surpass his 2019 form. Estevez has already said that he wants Pomykal to set the pace of play. Like Ferreira, Pomykal enters 2022 with more expectations. (https://www.fcdallas.com/news/paxton-pomykal-on-his-position-and-goals-for-2022)
What to Expect for 2022-
FC Dallas is in their first year of a rebuild. They probably won't lift the MLS Cup or even the US Open Cup this year, but they should be competitive and exciting to watch this year. To be optimistic, I'm going to place them as finishing fourth in the Western Conference and losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Possible Starting 11 on Opening Day-
Image: Toros95 via Lineup11
Based on other reports from Dallas' training and their preseason matches, this looks to be the most likely starting lineup on opening day. There's no difference between this potential starting eleven and the one Estevez used in their last preseason match.
Three Dallas Players to Consider in MLS Fantasy-
For anyone playing MLS fantasy, here's three players to consider adding to your team, Jader Obrian, Paxton Pomykal, and Marco Farfan. Obrian has a knack for scoring goals, so that's an easy pick. Given his new contract and the hype surrounding him, Ferreira will probably be Toronto's main focus, which would open up space for Pomykal to attack. Lastly, Farfan is a cheap option at 4.5, the Dallas defense seems to have improved, if they can get the cleansheet, Farfan can help earn points for a low price.