FC Dallas kicked off its 25th season this week when practice opened on Monday.
The squad finished last season in seventh place in the Western Conference and exited the playoffs in the first round after an overtime loss to the eventual champions, Seattle.
It was a tough loss, but looking back, the team had a lot to be happy about. And this year should be an exciting year with the core of the team back for another round and a full house of young players who have another year of MLS experience under their belts.
But what will it take to win an MLS Cup this season? That is the 100 million dollar question. But the answer may not be as easy as we think.
Let’s take a look at what it might take to win an MLS Cup
There is a school of thought that says “defense wins championships.” That is still true to some degree. Last season, the Dallas defense started the season on fire. In the first three months of the season, FC Dallas only surrendered 2 goals five times in 14 games and one of those was in a 4-2 win over Real Salt Lake. But defense only tells part of the story.
Toronto FC and Seattle, the two teams that played for the cup last season, finished in the middle of the MLS defensively. Both teams gave up more goals than Dallas, 52 for Tornonto and 49 for Seattle, while FC Dallas had 46 goals against. FC Dallas had eight clean sheets, two behind Seattle and five more than Toronto. Outside of a four-game stretch in August, where the FC Dallas defense gave up 10 goals, the team played well defensively. Obviously, they can compete with the top clubs defensively.
Last season Jesus Ferreira led the team in goals with eight. Zdenek Ondrasek finished right behind him with seven goals, all scored in the last two months of the season. But do they have to have a striker who leads the league in scoring? Jozy Altidore (Toronto) and Raul Ruidiaz (Seattle) both scored 11 goals from the center forward position last season. A dynamic goal scorer up top is fun to watch but not imperative. If FC Dallas improves striker play this season, it wouldn’t hurt their chances for a MLS Cup.
A good defense is only as good as the offense some times. This might be the one area where FC Dallas has to improve. Eleven times last season, FC Dallas’ offense went scoreless. That’s almost a third of the matches. Compare that to Seattle’s seven and Toronto’s six scoreless matches. Good teams do seem to keep dry spells to a minimum.
This is an intangible each championship team must have. Balls have to bounce the right way (remember Seattle’s lucky bounce to Jordan Morris that ended Dallas’ season last October?).
Players have to stay healthy. Good players have to limit the amount of time they spend in a slump. And when players are slumping, the rest of the team has to pick up the slack. But what makes luck? Who knows. If somebody could bottle luck, they could retire early and every day would be Taco Tuesday.
What is the exact formula for winning a championship? Nobody knows for sure. Soccer is a funny game. And the MLS is loaded with teams that could win each season. Every week is a battle for points. But with a few tweaks and some balls bouncing the right way for FC Dallas, this season could mean an exciting October and November.
And it all starts on February 29.
What do you think? What does a team have to do to win a championship?