2014 FC Dallas Preview: Will Oscar Pareja's return light the spark in Big D? | Armchair Analyst
The new king: David Ferreira will probably go down as one of the great playmakers in MLS history (and if it wasn't for that 2011 injury, I'd spare you the adverb). But it was time to cut him loose after 2013, a decision for which FCD were clearly prepared, what with having signed Mauro Díaz in the middle of last season. It's Díaz's team now, and he has to have a Ferreira-like impact.
Please stay healthy: This could be the last dance for George John, who at one time looked like he had every bit as bright a future as the likes of Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron. A series of injuries – everything from his feet to his head – has robbed him of some of his best years. If he can shake the bug, he's an All-Star back there. But it's a big "if," especially since he's missed most of preseason already.
100 percent Blas: For the first time in forever, Blas Pérez isn't going to have to play a dozen (or more) games for Panama this season. FCD will have him fulltime, which means this team's attack will always, always have a fulcrum to work around. He's one of the best No. 9s in the league, and when he was out the last two years, Dallas struggled.
Star Attraction: Fabián Castillo
See, this is the problem with Dallas right now. You look at the roster, and it's actually deep and balanced. But if you try to come up with a list of difference makers, it's all guys who should be difference makers, not have been difference makers. And that's a huge gap in a brutal Western Conference.
No one is a better example of this than Castillo, who has as much raw talent as any winger in the league. But he's still, after several years in Texas, raw. He'll make plays like the one above-right, where he makes a smart early run into space and then hits an even smarter cross to the third man (and what a volley from Díaz, right?), but then he'll go missing for weeks at a time.
It can't happen like that again in 2014. Oscar Pareja's first, and probably most important job, is to make sure that Castillo becomes the star his talent demands.
Probable Formation: 4-3-3
Major Acquisition: Hendry Thomas
All due respect to new attackers Andrés Escobar and David Texeira, who's a DP and will be expected to produce like one, but it's Thomas who will make the biggest difference for FCD in 2014. He was a borderline Best XI player for the Rapids last season, and since he's still in his prime, there's every reason for Dallas fans to hope he will be again.
And that's exactly what they've needed the past two years, the post-Daniel Hernandez era. FCD never really figured out how to shield the backline properly once Hernandez was shown the door, and now they've got a one-man solution for that spot.
In MLS, if you have a good d-mid, then you have a good shot at making the playoffs.
SEE MORE: Transaction page
What He Said
We are still working to try and complete the roster, which hopefully we have another move. If not, I’m OK, we can still always have a spot that’s open for what the summer window will bring. We addressed serious issues that we had with the team for this year, and we’re extremely happy with the way it is right now.
Fantasy Pick: Fabián Castillo ($7.0m / selected by 2.4 percent of teams) – He's been very good in preseason and looks primed for a breakout campaign. Ranked No. 15 in last year's 24 Under 24 and, at just 21 years old, he has the potential to improve upon that in 2014. Great price for a midfielder whose primary focus is to attack the goal. Solid upside here.
Players to watch: Andrés Escobar, Mauro Díaz, Zach Loyd
Best-case for FCD is winning the West and going into the 2014 playoffs as something close to favorites. They have that much talent on the roster, and good depth in almost every spot.
But as I mentioned above, a lot of it is "on paper" talent rather than "on the field" talent (for now, at least). Castillo hasn't delived like he should. Texeira, for all his hype, was considered something of a washout in the Eredivisie. Escobar played one game for Dynamo Kiev after moving from Deportivo Cali on a five-year deal – one which is ongoing, as he's in Frisco on loan. Díaz looked like the real deal in spurts last season, but the best No. 10s are out there putting the fear of God into the defense in more than spurts.
If all those guys step up, and John stays healthy and Pérez and Thomas play like they always play, this is a team with eyes on hardware. But what if only one or two of the youngsters steps up? What if none do?
Then it looks very much like the second half of 2013. And the playoffs will have to wait for another year.