Let’s rehash an old point: What happened in Frisco last season was absolutely unprecedented in MLS history. As of July 22, FC Dallas were top of the West, having ripped off four wins in seven and five unbeaten. They’d just gotten Mauro Diaz back and he was producing at least a little bit.
They were getting goals and not giving many up. They were coming off of a double-winning season (Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup), and had followed that up by playing Pachuca right to the brink in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals without Diaz.
They had international caliber players everywhere, and proven performers everywhere, and hungry, talented kids coming through the ranks. They had become the first team in MLS history to post back-to-back 60-point seasons, and looked a good bet to make it three straight. When they were on, they were irresistible, as they showed in a 3-1 win over Toronto FC on July 1. They followed that up with two more wins through the middle of July.
It would be two months before they won again. Dallas dropped from first to seventh in the West as they forgot how to score, forgot how to defend – forgot how to soccer, basically. They went 2-7-6 over the last three-and-a-half months and watched the playoffs from home. In MLS history there’s never been a team so completely good that became so completely bad seemingly overnight.
I still can’t find the right words to describe what happened to Dallas in 2017.
But hey, 2018’s a new year. And Los Toros Tejanos have a chance to bury the immediate past and start building for the future by getting back to their winning ways. A lot of that will simply be a question of buy-in from the roster (there was not a ton of that in 2017), and a lot of that will be a question of how fit Diaz really is. He’s been sterling in preseason, and everybody knows that when he’s healthy and locked in there’s not a more inventive passer of the ball in the entire league.
Most of it, though, will be a question of “Can this team play a full season at an acceptable intensity level?” Diaz had an excuse – he was hurt last year. But guys like Maxi Urriti, Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges and Carlos Gruezo all took the second half of 2017 off, and FCD paid for it.
That shouldn’t happen in 2018. And what’s more: If it does, Oscar Pareja now has enough depth on hand to replace any of them in either the XI or the gameday 18. Dallas have quietly had a promising offseason on the international trade market, were aggressive in the SuperDraft and seem readier than they were last year to play their own Homegrown Players.
Anyone who slumps is gonna find the way to the bench. “Busca la forma” is officially the club motto for more than one reason.