The 2024 season is just days away for FC Dallas as they get set to host the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium to kick off the new season. This week, let’s look at five players whose performances will define FCD’s 2024 season and determine how far and how high they can go.


Petar Musa

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first here. Obviously, FC Dallas’ transfer record breaking new striker is going to be a huge part of the team in 2024 and his ability to adapt to the team and to MLS quickly will be a key part of FCD’s success this season. In FCD’s new 3-4-2-1 system, the hold up play from the striker will be key to bring the rest of the team into play and Musa should get plenty of opportunities on balls into the box, giving his 6’4″ frame a chance to get on the end of crosses.

Early on, Musa’s absence will also define the season. He reportedly got married on February 17th and is expecting a child, which may extend the visa process and cause a delay in him getting into the country and subsequently making his FCD debut. In the interim, the task will fall to rookie Logan Farrington and Ghanaian veteran Eugene Ansah to deputize at striker in the 3-4-2-1 with it looking like Farrington getting the first crack at starting. Both Farrington and Ansah will play roles over the course of the season but a hot start from one or both of them would be huge for Dallas to get off to a strong start out of the gates.

Jesus Ferreira

The 2024 season feels like a huge moment in Jesus Ferreira’s career. After spending the first few seasons of his professional career being shuffled around positionally, starting as a center forward, then being moved back to play as more of a 10 before once again becoming a center forward who often liked to drift back into midfield, Ferreira had a career year in 2022 that he was unable to really follow up on in 2023. Despite winning the Golden Boot at the Gold Cup in the summer, Ferreira’s production for FCD dropped off a cliff and he battled nagging injuries and missed FCD’s crucial game 3 against Seattle in the playoffs. He then had a big money move to Spartak Moscow blocked by MLS in the winter. It has been a disappointing last few months for Ferreira and that’s not to mention the injury that has kept him out of almost the entire preseason.

Despite that, the team still feels very focused around Ferreira and his unique skill set. The shift to a 3-4-2-1 almost feels like it is meant to accommodate Ferreira specifically as it allows him a freer role behind the striker, allowing him to drop into midfield and also make attacking runs in and around the 18 yard box, something that he wants to do regardless of where he’s placed on the field. The very little we’ve seen of this so far yielded positive results, with Ferreira scoring the opening and decisive goal in FCD’s first preseason match against Inter Miami.

If he can get over his injury and stay healthy, everything feels set up for Ferreira to succeed. If he can have a big 2024 season, not only will that bode well for FC Dallas but it might finally get Ferreira his move to Europe.

Asier Illarramendi

Although the 3-4-2-1 seems set up to benefit players like Jesus Ferreira and Petar Musa, there is perhaps no player more important to actually making it work than FCD’s classy veteran midfielder Asier Illarramendi. This was evident in preseason in particular. When Illarramendi was on the field, Dallas was able to build out from the back, deal with pressure and make their way up the pitch to get into the final third and create opportunities. With Illarra off the field, it was much more of a struggle, as Dallas often had to revert to just booting the ball up the field. This is less about the quality of FCD’s other midfielders and more about Illarra’s immense talent. Put simply, there is a reason he was signed by Real Madrid and played over 10 seasons in the Spanish top flight.

In addition to his quality on the ball, Illarra will play a key role defensively in his almost supernatural ability to read the game and see things before they happen. Illarra is elite in these qualities and makes up for a lack of raw speed with his game reading and ability to intercept passes and cut out danger before it even gets a chance to be particularly dangerous. Unfortunately, his ideal midfield partner, Paxton Pomykal, has missed the entirety of preseason, so the best version of the midfield in the 3-4-2-1 has really yet to be seen but Liam Fraser seems to be first up to deputize to start the year. If FCD can keep Illarra healthy and fresh over the grueling season, he may end up being one of the best midfielders in the entire league.

Dante Sealy

If there was one breakout player in the Burn’s preseason trip to Spain, it was Dante Sealy (shout out to Herbert Endeley as well, who has also had a fantastic preseason). Sealy has perhaps been the biggest beneficiary of the formation switch, taking advantage of a big opportunity at the left wing back spot. In Spain he tallied a whopping 4 goals (2 on free kicks!) and added another 2 assists and looks to have won the starting spot over Marco Farfan, which is something I can’t imagine anyone who follows the team would have predicted a month and a half ago. Sealy has been a bit of an enigma thus far in his career, appearing to want to get out of Frisco as soon as possible but failing to really impress on his two year long loan at PSV’s second team. Apparently the coaching staff had a heart to heart with him ahead of the season because he has looked like a player reborn and rejuvenated. A big season from Sealy would be huge for Dallas and for Sealy’s aspirations to play in Europe.

Maarten Paes

The Dutch goalkeeper is entering his third season with FCD after standout seasons in his opening two years with the club. Paes has proven to be not just a good shotstopper with a strong command of his box, but a matchwinner. It is hard to keep track of the number of huge saves Paes has made in his two seasons with the Burn but, especially in 2023, it felt like just about every game where Paes was coming up with a huge moment to keep Dallas either in the lead or in the game, perhaps none more stunning than his back to back penalty saves against Sporting Kansas City. Even more impressive is that Paes does not see a huge volume of shots with FCD among the lowest in the league in shots and shots on target conceded. But he has proven to be always ready when that time does come. There is still work to be done in his distribution, something that will be vital in FCD’s new formation, but having a proper target man in Petar Musa should be a great help for his longer distribution as well. With the trajectory of his career, Paes may be getting interest from back in Europe sooner rather than later, so Dallas needs to take advantage of having a keeper of his quality while they have him in town.


What are your thoughts on FC Dallas with the season opener right around the corner? Let me know in the comments below!


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