2019 flew by and we didn’t get the chance to go over some of the things we learned from the 2019 season.
Let’s take a look at the 8 things we learned after the 2019 FC Dallas season.
FC Dallas is Loaded with International-Level Talent
This really showed up last year, especially in June, when several players went to national team camp. Even this week, Reggie Cannon, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferriera are participating in camp with the United States Men’s National Team. This is Ferriera’s first call up to the senior team. This past year was a big one for Ferriera. Not only did he get a lot of minutes playing for the senior FC Dallas team, but he also signed a contract extension with the club, became a United States citizen and turned 19 years old (Oh. My. Goodness. He’s still so young).
As an 18-year-old, Ferriera won the Golden Boot last season as the team’s top goalscorer with 8 goals. When I was 18 years old, I had just graduated from high school and didn’t know whether I was going to be an accountant or something called a “cartographer.”
Five younger players (Edwin Cerrillo, Ricardo Pepi, Bryan Reynolds, Thomas Roberts, and David Rodriguez) spent part of the offseason training with FC Dallas partner Bayern Munich’s U-19s and U-23s.
Bryan Acosta (Honduras) and Zdenek Ondrasek (Czech Republic), who also play for their national teams. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez also spent some time in camp with the United States team last season. And center back Reto Ziegler played for the Swiss national team, including two World Cups. This team is loaded with talent.
Young Players are Fun to Watch
FC Dallas is jammed full of young talent from the academy to the first team. And they are fun to watch. Soccer is different from other sports because of the academies and the various ways that MLS teams can acquire talent. I still don’t understand all the Superdraft, Supplemental Draft, Regular MLS draft, transfer windows, and all that, but I’m learning. It appears that FC Dallas’ Academy regularly ranks among the best in the league. And it shows on the field. In a perfect world, some of these guys would be on the team until they retire and move on to the Hall of Fame. But, alas, this isn’t a perfect world. One day soon, several of them will earn boatloads of cash and play on European pitches. Let’s enjoy them while we can.
Young Players Need the Grizzled Veterans
Youth is amazing. But the team also needs some players who have been around the pitch a time or two. Right now the team has a nice mix. Last year, the team was the youngest in the league with an average age of 24.12 years. Seattle had the oldest team at 27.16. But guess what Seattle did? You are correct, they won the MLS cup (only after an overtime win over FC Dallas in the first round of the playoffs).
Those young guys learn a lot by playing and getting experience, but they need those more experienced guys teaching them, pushing them, showing them the small things that game day activities don’t. They need to learn how to practice, how to eat, how to prepare for a game on the road, and enjoy life while staying in top form. Again, I think Dallas does a good job with the mix, so it will be fun to see how that extra year of experience will look in 2020.
Soccer Players are in Great Shape
I’m tired just from typing this article. I cannot imagine running around a soccer pitch for 90-plus minutes. Soccer players run about seven miles every game – some run up to 9.5 miles a game. Compare that with basketball (2.72 miles), football (1.25 miles for receivers and defensive backs) and the sport that is more my style, baseball (less than half a mile). It really makes you appreciate what these guys are able to do on the pitch each and every week, especially with the mid-week games due to the condensed MLS schedule. It’s not an easy game.
Exciting New Signings Don’t Always Pan Out
In the last couple of offseasons, the team signed four new players, who all energized the fan base: Pablo Aranguiz, Bryan Acosta, Zdenek “Corbra” Ondrasek and Bressan.
Acosta was an important midfielder piece after losing Victor Ulloa and Carlos Gruezo. Cobra was a nice addition to the front line for FC Dallas and had some amazing highlights at his previous clubs. Bressan was a highly anticipated Brazilian defender that added to the club’s depth on the back four. Acosta, Cobra, and Bressan each played a part in the past season. Big parts, especially Cobra and Acosta.
Aranguiz was signed in 2018 to much fanfare. He was signed in July and made his debut in August. In his first game in the FC Dallas red and blue, Aranguiz had three shots (two shots on goal). But he never quite panned out in Frisco. After a few injuries and some lackluster play, Aranguiz was eventually loaned out to the Chilean Primera division side Union Espanola. This year he will play at Universidad de Chile on a year-long loan. He finished at FC Dallas appearing 20 times with no goals or assists. He was such a fun player to watch too. Nobody can say for sure why it didn’t work for Aranguiz. The only ones who know what it takes to play at the professional level are those who do or at least try. All I know for sure is that Pablo played in 20 more FC Dallas games than me.
Don’t give up a guy too soon
Having said all of that, now let’s turn to a guy FC Dallas almost forgot: Zdenek “The Cobra” Ondrasek. After only playing 192 minutes in the first five months of the season with no goals and only six shots, it looked like FC Dallas was ready to move on from the Czech striker. There were whisperings that FC Dallas told him to start looking for a transfer partner. Then August rolled around and Cobra caught fire.
Ondrasek came on as a second-half sub for FC Dallas on August 17 against Montreal. Montreal was leading 3-0 when Cobra scored his first goal of the season helping FC Dallas roar back for a 3-3 draw. He went on to score a total of seven goals (one behind Ferriera for the team lead) and two assists in the final eight games. He added two more goals in international play to help the Czech Republic side beat England. Oh, exciting times. Cobra works hard on the pitch and seems like an all-around good dude. I’m excited to watch him play in 2020.
Soccer is growing
The MLS has been steadily growing since 2014 (even though some numbers were down slightly last season). The average attendance last year was 21,310, slightly lower than the 2018 numbers. Part of the increase is the fascination with Atlanta United, which lead the league with 52,510 last year. FC Dallas attendance numbers fell about 4 percent last year, but the sport as a whole is growing. All you have to do is walk around town on any given Saturday in the fall and see all the kids in soccer uniforms stopping by for some post-game chicken nuggets. These days kids start playing soccer almost as soon as they can walk. Surely, it will only grow in the years to come.
Rowdy Fans Can Make All the Difference
Of the 14 teams that made the playoffs last season, eight teams were in the top 10 for MLS attendance. Now, some of that may have to do with good teams tend to draw fans. But I believe that large, boisterous crowds can push a team to play at an even higher level.
According to a story on Bleacher Report from a few years ago, MLS teams win rate of around 50 percent at home versus 26 percent on the road. Home teams have the advantage of knowing their own field, sleeping in their own beds the night before and not having to travel. But some of that percentage has to be the crowd. Plus it’s just a lot more fun to attend a game when the crowd is really into it and making noise.
Training camp opens in just under two weeks. Let’s go, FC Dallas!