As we head into March and the season is just two weeks away, FC Dallas has done an excellent job of improving their team from last season. Make no mistake: the team has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and are looking to vindicate themselves in 2005. With a new stadium to play in, a new practice field to train on and a new identity, FC Dallas has a chance to do just that.
With all the positive movement surrounding FC Dallas this offseason, President and General Manager Greg Elliott and head coach Colin Clarke have built a team that looks to be consistent and tough to play against all season long.
Up front, Eddie Johnson will return after having a phenomenal 2004 season for both Dallas and the United States. Johnson will look to build upon that momentum created last year and believes that it starts right here with FC Dallas. In December of 2004, Johnson trained with Manchester United and believes that the experience he had there will only benefit his club team here in Dallas.
"I noticed several things on the field that they do that affected me and I feel like I can bring back to Dallas," said Johnson. "Not just on the field though, but off the field and how they workout every day influenced me. I saw how much those guys love the game, even in training you could see their love for the game.
"Being over there and playing with those guys makes you a smarter player."
One trade FC Dallas made on draft day was to acquire Cornell Glen from the MetroStars. Glen gives FC Dallas another striker who has proven he can score in this league and the team looks for him to improve from last season where he ranked fourth on the MetroStars in goals, points, shots and shots on goal.
"Cornell is a full international with a lot of exciting talent to him," said FC Dallas Head Coach Colin Clarke. "It should be fun to watch him and Eddie (Johnson) running around up top together.
"He's a player that can turn the game for you and has the strength and the size that we are looking for."
In the middle of the park, the team had a major upgrade in acquiring two-time All-Star Richard Mulrooney from the San Jose Earthquakes. Mulrooney and 2004 team MVP Simo Valakari will make it a daunting task for opponents to penetrate the middle of the field against FC Dallas. This move also frees up 2004 MLS Comeback Player of the Year nominee Ronnie O'Brien to become more offensive and create more chances for his teammates. Eric Quill and Arturo Alvarez (who came over from San Jose in the Mulrooney deal) will be two others that will compete for that important left midfield position for FC Dallas. Clarke sees this as an opportunity for somebody to come forward and make a splash with the team.
"There is someone out there that we're looking at and we also still have Eric Quill with us," said Clarke. "Quill and Alvarez, who just came in, I'm sure will be competing for a spot. It was a position last year that caused us some problems and we're still searching to improve it."
On the back end, the team lost U.S. national team defender Cory Gibbs to Feyenoord of Holland, but they bolstered their defense by winning Alex Yi in a lottery and drafting Drew Moor at the SuperDraft. Yi was a nominee for both the Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. Player of the Year Award in 2001 after his sophomore season at UCLA. After two seasons playing in Belgium, Yi was excited to return to the United States. Dallas native Moor was regarded as one of the top defenders in the country, as he helped lead Indiana University to NCAA Championships in both of his seasons with the Hoosiers. Add Steve Jolley, Carey Talley, Clarence Goodson and a few others to the defender list and the team looks to have a strong depth heading into the season at that position.
When it comes to goalkeepers, FC Dallas has a few very good ones to choose from next year. Scott Garlick and Jeff Cassar will return from last year's club, and 2005 draft pick Chris Gomez has looked good during spring training. Clarke has publicly talked about the goalkeeper position being the toughest decision for him to name a starter, but a little competition never hurt anyone.
The great thing about FC Dallas in 2005 is that they look to have several options and will be a much deeper team then they were in 2004. Ramon Nuñez, David Wagenfuhr, Philip Salyer and Bobby Rhine will also be searching and fighting for minutes in this squad. As the season quickly approaches, it will be the responsibility of Colin Clarke to decide which piece of the puzzle goes where.