Three games into the new season, FC Dallas is beginning to show the promise that was anticipated after the final piece of the puzzle -- Carlos Ruiz -- was added to the squad.
But while the big names have certainly played their part, it's more than just the club's international stars that have the Hoops undefeated, in first place in the Western Conference and with the best record in MLS.
The attacking weapons FCD has on offer set off warning alarms throughout the league on Saturday night against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center. The first of the three goals on the night came from a stunning bending shot in the top left corner from some 35 yards by Ronnie O'Brien, who has proven his hard work during the offseason and training camp is paying off, as he picked up where he left last year with his nomination for comeback player of the year.
The entire team has made changes to accommodate the new players and style of play.
"There is a difference in personnel, Carey Talley from offense to defense," said O'Brien. "It has taken a couple of games to get on the same page. We have good players that can turn the game around with their individual skills." The scoring ended with U.S. international Eddie Johnson using his speed to get in open space and the vision and accuracy of O'Brien to get the ball to Johnson, as he knocked the ball in the net past the onrushing Chivas goalkeeper Guzan. Ruiz seems to be settling into his own, as the team relies as much on his flick-on headers as they do for his powerful and accurate shots. He's already given the team a great return on investment with one goal and assist in two games, but more than that providing decoys and distractions, and creating space for other players on the squad.
The rebuilt FC Dallas back four has also been doing its job, having allowed two goals in the three games thus far. New center back Greg Vanney needs no introduction, but second-year players Clarence Goodson and David Wagenfuhr have held their own as the team is starting to settle into the new-look 4-3-3 formation.
For Goodson, the move to the next level is just an extension from college where he is basically playing the same position. What has changed, however, is the competitiveness and speed of the game. His growing relationship with Vanney is also helping.
"Greg and I didn't have a preseason to play together," Goodson said. "[We've had] a chance to gel, [I've learned] what he likes to do, where to put the ball and how high to play defensively."
While the new tactics have certainly helped in the fast start, the FC Dallas players know it will take more than just a new formation if they are to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
"When I arrived the team was different," O'Brien said. "On paper we look good, but that doesn't win any games."
Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.