Can FC Dallas Turn it Around?
To say that FC Dallas has struggled of late would be an understatement. The team, which currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference of the MLS, has scored just one goal in its last four games, after scoring ten in the previous four. FC Dallas has managed two draws during that span of games, but getting just two points in four games is not going to help this team finish in the top six in their division and make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
So, what has gone wrong for this team?
To start, national team call ups have depleted this roster that strongly relies on its depth. The Gold Cup, Euro Qualifiers, and International friendlies are all taking place in the next couple of months, and, to this point, four of the top players for FC Dallas have earned a spot on their national teams, which has left quite a void for the team. Losing forward Tesho Akindele and midfielder Rolando Escobar were big losses, but the standout 19-year-old midfielder Kellyn Acosta and leading goal scorer Blas Perez have been too much to overcome. FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja called the National Team call ups a “great scenario” because of the high level of competition at the international level. However, midfielder Ryan Hollingshead refuted this claim because of the void it leaves within the team. Hollingshead told mlssoccer.com, “A lot of [the losing] has just been the changes going on. Anytime you’re switching up the front four, you lose some of that connection.”
International duty has played a big part in the recent struggles of FC Dallas, but it does not account for everything. Even before players were being called to play for their country, the team was having trouble putting the ball in the back of the next. Of course, they had the previously mentioned string of 10 goals in four fixtures, but they have just 18 total on the season which puts them in 11th place out of 20 for goals scored. Furthermore, last season, when they finished fourth in the Western Conference, they had a +10 goal differential. This season, FC Dallas has a -1 goal differential, which puts them tied for 6th worst in the MLS. The team seems to have a lack of playmakers, and just two players have scored more than three goals on the season, Perez (5) and forward Fabian Castillo (4). Castillo is also a point of concern for the team as he has struggled recently with a nagging hamstring injury.
To lose Castillo would be detrimental to a team that already has issues putting the ball into the net, but injuries to the backline have caused defensive issues all season for FC Dallas. Their defensive players have seemed to have issues staying healthy all season, highlighted by their game on May 9 when they had just one healthy center back. Matt Hedges and Moises Hernandez have led the defensemen with 12 games played, but no other defender has played more than 10 this season. This inconsistency and constant group changing has been a major point of dysfunction for FC Dallas all season long.
The outfield players are not the only ones who have been changed this season. Neither FC Dallas goalkeeper has been able to solidify himself as a consistent rock in goal this season. Chris Seitz started the first 7 games in goal this season, but his 1.43 goals against average (GAA), which ranks 19th in the MLS, quickly led to his departure to the bench. Dan Kennedy, who the team acquired from Chivas USA after their dismemberment as a team last season, has not been much better. Kennedy has started in FC Dallas’ other 7 games this season and has a 1.29 GAA, which ranks 14th in the MLS. These below average GAAs are not going to cut it for a team that has so much difficulty scoring on the other end.
The main hope for FC Dallas is that once their key players return from International duty, and others regain their health, they can start sticking to a more consistent lineup of players that will help build chemistry and trust. FC Dallas will also have to find a way to play a more aggressive style of soccer that can lead to more goals and fewer counter attacks on the other end. At such an early part of the season, FC Dallas definitely still has more than enough time to turn things around, but teams like the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo, who are directly behind FC Dallas in the standings, are starting to play better soccer of late. If FC Dallas doesn’t pick up their own play they could easily be sitting at 9th in the division instead of 5th within a couple of weeks.
FC Dallas next plays on Saturday, June 13, in an away matchup against the first place Seattle Sounders. FC Dallas will also play in a US Open Cup match against the Oklahoma City Energy FC on Tuesday, June 16, at TCU (Garvey-Rosenthal Soccer Complex) in Fort Worth.