Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 9-13-12 (39 points); 42 GF / 47 GA (-5 GD)
David Ferreira was set. He’d nursed his broken ankle back to health, and was finally ready to take the field again.
And there he was, tearing up Sweden’s BK Hacken for 90 minutes, followed by 45 minutes against Orlando City in preseason action. He didn’t look great, but he did look good – to the point that Orlando’s best hope of stopping him was to kick chunks out of him whenever they got anywhere near the little playmaker.
So that’s what they did, and Ferreira walked away from the game with an Achilles’ injury and a broken foot. He wouldn’t be back until July.
That’s the difference between a playoff team and an also-ran.
FC Dallas were 6-4-7 with Ferreira in the lineup in 2012. Not great, but prorate that for the entire season, and it’d be enough to pip Vancouver for the fifth playoff spot in the Western Conference. And it wasn’t any placebo effect, either: In terms of chances created from the run of play per 90 minutes, Ferreira was second in the league to LA’s Landon Donovan. Despite turning 33 and spending more than a year rehabbing two significant injuries, he was still probably the best pure No. 10 MLS had on offer.
So it’s no surprise that without him, Dallas were plain bad. They went 3-10-4 to start the season, with an epic 13-game winless streak that stretched from mid-April to mid-July (and ended, not coincidentally, with a 2-1 win at Colorado in Ferreira’s second post-recovery start). The guys they had expected to generate offense in Ferreira’s absence – Brek Shea, Blas Pérez and Ricardo Villar – all either came up short or were felled by injuries of their own, leaving Dallas in a hole they never quite climbed out of.
GOAL: Ferreira stuns Rio Tinto
Shea was a particular disappointment, eventually giving into his frustration by flicking a ball into an assistant ref to earn a suspension. After his breakout year in 2011, he just never got untracked in 2012 and was eventually shut down with injury issues of his own.
In retrospect, it’s remarkable FCD came as close to qualifying for the playoffs as they did.
For that they can thank not only Ferreira’s genius, but something of a breakout performance by winger Fabián Castillo and central defender Matt Hedges. Castillo’s got the best first step in the league and, with Ferreira back, finally seemed to figure out how to create and finish a few chances. Hedges stepped in as a rookie and, with the exception of one nightmare at the Home Depot Center, played like a veteran.
The other big contributor was Julian de Guzman, who took over for Hernandez as the starting defensive midfielder. His comfort on the ball and ability to distribute in and out of traffic fit in well with Ferreira and Castillo, and while he never really justified his DP contract, he was a damn sight better in Big D than he’d ever been in Toronto.
Will he be back, though? He’s in the Re-Entry Draft this Friday, which suggests up front that he and Dallas never really agreed on a number. And Peter Luccin - who's played just seven games in the last three years because of injuries, it must be said - plays de Guzman's spot and just put pen to paper. That’s a crucial role in Hyndman’s 4-1-4-1.
Regardless, don’t expect much tactical deviation for 2013. Don’t expect much depth, either. Once again, FCD will go as far as Ferreira, Shea, Pérez and the rest of the top 14 or 15 players can take them. Even if that's only to the trainer's table.