FC Dallas: 2007 Season Preview

(As you can guess, I'm getting excited about images and such.)

MLSnet.com: 2006 Season Wrap
MLSnet.com: Big Questions after '06
My Thoughts on FC Dallas' '06 (Know my biases)

2006-07 Off-Season Changes
New England Soccer News’ Roster Updates for most roster changes

FC Dallas roster from MLSnet.com

And now, the Future...

Key Men
Kenny Cooper - While he’s not alone, Cooper counts as “the other threat.” It’s crucial that he has a good second year in order to keep defenses from piling on Ruiz. He’ll have help here - Roberto Mina, Dominic Oduro, Arturo Alvarez, and perhaps even new-guy Carlos Toja - but he even helps them improve. The point is, two big-threat options are always better than one.

Ramon Nunez - He griped about being yanked from the deciding game against the Rapids last season. This year, he’s being given more responsibility than ever for running Dallas’ offense. It’s not yet clear what this means, but there’s some potential for a situation in which Dallas’ fortunes match those of Nunez.

Dario Sala - It’s amazing this grizzled veteran (don't mind his bio photo; he is grizzled) signed on for another season of getting shelled behind one of the greenest defenses in the league. Sala managed some remarkably athletic saves last year and he's not nearly old as he looks, so is a repeat possible?

Carlos Ruiz - He’s kind of automatic here. I can’t think of a better forward in MLS. Seriously.

Additional Assets
Subs That Count - Say what you will about departed coach Colin Clarke, but he did assemble one of the league’s more varied attacks. Dallas can give a lot of looks, from dribblers like Alvarez, Nunez, and Mina, to a darting speedster like Oduro, to a big slab like Cooper. That they can dramatically change their attacking approach mid-game counts for something.

Green team.... - Look at that roster again and check out who has the longest tenure on the team: yep, Bobby Rhine. And he almost doesn’t count because he spent, oh, six of his eight years in MLS at another position. Ruiz comes in next with five years’ experience, a couple fourth-year players follow (Alvarez, Chris Gbandi), but from there you’ve got a lot of twos, ones, and not a few zeros. Since not a lot of these guys are imported “pseudo-rookies” (there’s Sala, Serioux; I wouldn’t count Cooper) you’re looking at a serious dearth of professional experience. Ouch.

...Even Greener Defense - In his fourth-year, Chris Gbandi stands out as the wise, old head of Dallas’ field defense. He’ll be leading a line of very green guys - Drew Moor, Clarence “Lucky” Goodson, Alex Yi (who, I think, rates highest in this bunch), and the converted Rhine - which makes one think that the tradition of surrendering untimely goals established in 2006 will continue into the new season.

The Past - Face it: the words “Dallas” and “winners” don’t often come in the same sentence unless the latter word refers to someone else. The long history of flattering to deceive, of general mediocrity, will take some doing to overcome. The amazing thing: 2006 was the best year in club history. Why doesn’t it feel that way?

What They Gave Away - Ronnie O'Brien, Simo Valakari, Greg Vanney, and Richard Mulrooney: two of those guys were no great shakes, but, take them all together and that's the spine of a decent, if aging, team. I don't know much about radical spinal surgery, but suspect it's a complicated procedure.

Toja and ? - As noted elsewhere, new signing Juan Carlos Toja scored in a preseason warm-up against the Rochester Raging; if you’re a Dallas fan, you’ve got to hope that’s a sign of things to come. A week-old (and quite informative) article from the Dallas Morning News mentions another midfield player, Pablo Ricchetti. What will these guys bring to the team? Don’t know. Makes one wonder, though, why they aren’t out looking for defenders.

Prospects - Using Gambling Analogies
That FC Dallas posted the best season in team history in 2006 suggests there’s something in play beyond my knee-jerk opinion. But there’s just something telling me to trust that jerking knee, so, here it is:

These guys are bluffing; the years when they sucked so bad no one could miss it aside, they have always bluffed, or, in less theme-relevant terms, Dallas has tended to flatter to deceive (me anyway*). And what happens when you bluff on every hand? The other players know the score and start calling the bluff. Colorado has managed this twice in as many years. For the reasons above and, out of frustration at getting burned year after year*, I've already put these guys on my "pay no mind" list. I think they’re going to miss the playoffs and that it’s their defense and general lack of experience that does them in.

* BIG CAVEAT: I'm bitter about this team. I've called them to make the Cup more times than I can count and they've failed me every time. If you're a Dallas fan, you should find the harshness of this call highly reassuring.

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