FRISCO, Texas — As FC Dallas begin to evaluate the successes and failures of 2018, the narrative may be as much a field of two halves as it is a season of two halves.
A record-setting start to the season propelled FCD to first place in the Western Conference, a position they maintained with just two games remaining. But four consecutive defeats meant a premature end to the season for Oscar Pareja's side behind a stuttering offense that only scored twice in that span.
With the midseason departures of Mauro Diaz and Kellyn Acosta, Dallas lost a great deal of creativity in the middle of the field. Where wingers thrived – Michael Barrios, Santiago Mosquera and Roland Lamah combined for 20 goals and 17 assists – strikers did not.
The last goal scored by a striker came back in August as Dominique Badji bagged the tying goal in what would be a 4-3 loss to San Jose. Maxi Urruti did score from the attacking midfield spot in the Decision Day presented by AT&T defeat against Colorado, as one of only two open play goals in the final seven games for Dallas.
"We know in order to win you have to score," said Barrios. "It's been hard, it's been a difficult thing trying to win. We practice that every week and talk to the coaches. It's just difficult if you can't find that during the games, to be able to finish."
The arrival of Badji in exchange for Acosta was hoped to add a true high-line striker to the FC Dallas attacking group, but the former Rapids forward has struggled to gel since his July arrival at Toyota Stadium.
"That's just practice," said Badji. "Get reps in. That builds chemistry when people know where you're going to be in the box. I think that's something we started working on the last couple of weeks but I think going forward, once we get that in to our game it's going to be a lot of easy goals."
One player the midseason changes have had a major effect on is Urruti. The Argentine striker has been dropped back into Mauro Diaz's vacated spot as what Oscar Pareja likes to call a “9.5.” The former Timbers goalscorer has excelled from dead-ball situations but there has been a clear disconnect in open play.
"I think he and I's chemistry wasn't where we wanted it to be," explained Badji. "Going forward it's definitely something we are going to work on because he brings a lot to the table. Once me and him link up, we're going to be able to create a lot of chances."
Looking forward, FC Dallas have a few young prospects waiting in the wings. Pablo Aranguiz was brought in as Diaz's heir apparent but has had to settle for a limited role, and a late scratch from the 18-man roster for Dallas' 2-1 Knockout Round loss to Portland in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Paxton Pomykal, who was expected to be Diaz's regular replacement late in games, played only 125 minutes this season. Jesus Ferreira and Adonijah Reid are both strikers that seem to have a future on the flank, with both securing spots on the USL 20 Under 20 list this year.
"I think we got a glimpse from time to time since I've been here of what this team is capable of," said Badji. "Once we get that solidified ,I think this is going to be a very dangerous group. You have players that can contribute coming of the bench like Aranguiz, Ferreira, that are going to have a really great year next year for sure."