Though it ended in forgettable fashion with a loss in the Wild Card round, the 2011 season was a memorable one for FC Dallas. The team found unprecedented success early in the year, but faltered in key games down the stretch, squandering any hope of hoisting a trophy and making a return to MLS Cup too tall an ask.
David Ferreira was lost for the season, dealing the team an early-season blow. But Brek Shea, a Best XI member and MVP finalist, had a breakout year, scoring 11 goals and becoming the face of the franchise.
Best Moment of the Year
When FC Dallas escaped Mexico City with a 1-0 win over Pumas UNAM in CONCACAF Champions League Play on Aug. 17, the club became the first MLS squad ever to win on Mexican soil. Midfielder Marvin Chávez’s goal in the 65th minute stunned the Mexican side and marked the club’s third consecutive shutout victory in CCL play.
Worst Moment of the Year
Ferreira’s injury hurt the team tactically, but the shocking death of Bobby Rhine on Sept. 5 to a heart attack will have a lasting impact on FC Dallas for years to come. The franchise icon spent more than a decade with the organization as both a player and a member of the front office and broadcast booth following his retirement in 2008. The club paid tribute to Rhine in a Sept. 17 home match against New York, wearing black armbands and observing a moment of silence. The players pressed on with heavy hearts as they dedicated the remainder of their season to his memory.
Though meaningless in a 4-1 defeat to visiting Sporting Kansas City on June 12, Shea provided the goal of the year for FC Dallas. The Texan native took possession just inside midfield and quickly turned towards goal, sprinted at the Sporting defense and split two defenders before sidestepping a sliding third. He then cut back towards goal to beat a fourth defender before slotting a low shot past ‘keeper Eric Kronberg.
In stoppage time of a 2-2 game at Philadelphia on Aug. 13, the Union were pressuring the Dallas defense hard in search of a winner. Sébastien Le Toux played a corner kick to an unmarked Keon Daniel, who put a powerful header towards goal. The ball took a deflection off of defender Ugo Ihemelu, changing its trajectory. But Kevin Hartman, with his momentum going left, managed to reverse direction, dove and got his right hand on it, preserving the draw.
Team MVP: Brek Shea
Hartman was spectacular in 2011, but Shea was simply irreplaceable. After Ferreira went down with his injury, the team was without a legitimate scoring threat. In stepped the US international, who transitioned from the backline to a dynamic scoring threat on the left flank. In 31 games, Shea registered 11 goals, five of which were game-winners. He also added four assists, two of which proved decisive. Despite the loss of last season’s MVP, Shea carried the team to the MLS Cup Playoffs on the strength of his left foot.
Best newcomer: Andrew Jacobson
Had Fabián Castillo not missed two months with the Colombian national team, perhaps he would be the choice here. But Jacobson was instrumental to the team’s success. After coming over from Philadelphia via trade in the offseason, he earned a starting position in the midfield and led the team with five assists. He also played well at center back during the George John transfer saga. The 25-year-old played through a knee injury in the latter stages of the season but already underwent surgery this offseason and expects to return to training camp at 100 percent.
1. Avoid the transfer market: It’s no secret that Shea and John have been the subject of transfer rumors throughout the season. John was in the final stages of a transfer to Blackburn FC in August before the deal fell through. International interest in Shea has grown exponentially with his impressive performances with the USMNT. But the departure of either player would create a devastating hole for the team. Outside of Hartman, John logged the most minutes (2,781), most games started (31) and finished the season as the eighth-rated player in the MLS Castrol Index. Shea led the team with 11 goals, five game-winning goals, and chipped in with four assists.
2. Find a striker: A number of forwards had the chance to seize the role in Dallas, but none delivered on a consistent basis. Milton Rodríguez started the season as the lone striker, but was released in July. Maicon Santos was brought in midseason to help, but is now available in the Re-Entry Draft. And Jackson, who started the season at right back, was elevated to the forward position for the final stretch. Is the answer currently on the roster? Possibly. Former FCD Academy player Ruben Luna showed a knack for scoring in the Reserve League, netting 10 goals in 10 games.
3. Build depth or develop the kids: FC Dallas take pride in their Academy, which was recently rated as tops in the country by US Soccer. Six Academy players currently sit on their roster, the highest number in MLS. But the Home Grown talent provided little in terms of production in 2011. Moises Hernandez, Bryan Leyva, Ruben Luna, Richard Sanchez, Jonathan Top and Victor Ulloa all held roster spots, yet only Luna (407 min, one goal and one assist) and Ulloa (nine minutes played) saw the pitch in MLS play. The club must make a decision: Release the youngsters or let them play. Either way, FC Dallas will surely be looking for serviceable backup options outside of the organization.
WATCH: FC Dallas' 2011 Goals