FC Dallas locked and loaded

The offseason for FC Dallas and their fans has been like a dream come true. The wheeling and dealing by club management opened many an eye, capped by the addition of Carlos Ruiz prior to the start of the season.

It was no secret that the team had to make changes to the bolster the roster after a lackluster season in 2004, again finishing in the Western Conference cellar and failing to reach the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Center back Cory Gibbs departed the team to play in Holland; his replacement, Greg Vanney, a true scholar and organizer of the defense. Vanney will have the job of keeping the defense on the same page with the goalkeeper and keeping the opposing team honest by using offside traps and controlling the defense.

"It's not rocket science, it's a back four, flat four system," said Vanney.

Another key addition, midfielder Richard Mulrooney (who came from the San Jose Earthquakes) will team up with club captain Simo Valakari and perhaps Oscar Pareja in the center of the park. Head coach Colin Clarke is looking for that partnership to ensure possession of the ball for the team and -- with the new strike force -- definitely create chances.

Team cohesiveness might have been a problem a year ago, but Mulrooney says there is no problem in that department this year.

"I see us coming together, I think within the past couple of years -- without being here obviously -- I think they had a problem of maybe not gelling together, or maybe not being a unit," said Mulrooney. "I don't see that problem this year. I see us all being on the same page.

Flank midfielders Ramon Nunez and Ronnie O'Brien have looked sharp in preseason. Nunez displayed his new attitude and attention to detail by scoring a goal in a recent preseason game against Southern Methodist University. O'Brien has continually impressed the coaching staff during preseason.

Bobby Rhine has proved his versatility by not only playing forward but fullback as well, which will open the door of opportunity for himself and give the coaching staff more options.

Dallas has two great goalkeepers in Scott Garlick and Jeff Cassar. The two are equally talented and ensure security in the goal in the event of injuries.

The capstone of the club's offseason moves -- the acquisition of Ruiz -- should make scoring virtually inevitable, when paired with Eddie Johnson. Ruiz has led the league in goalscoring two of the last three years, with Johnson tying for the league lead in the third. Ruiz will make life easier for Johnson by keeping defenders honest and taking away the possibility of only marking Johnson.

The coaching staff is all about business as the club begins the new season in the Cotton Bowl for six games at home while awaiting the completion of the new Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Complex stadium. In an ever-changing world, FC Dallas has also changed the club's name, colors, uniforms and players but one thing has not changed: the pursuit and desire for a MLS championship.

Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


To report a comment, mouseover or touch the comment and then click/touch the flag icon (Flag).