As part of our wrap up of the 2019 season, we asked several members of the FC Dallas media to join us for a 6-part roundtable series.
Joining us for part five of the roundtable will be Dan Crooke and Buzz Carrick from 3rd Degree, Peter Welpton from The Kickaround, Dustin Nation from the Dallas Soccer Show, Nico Mendez, who is joining 3rd Degree as a writer, and John Lenard who is already with us at 3rd Degree.
Our sixth and final topic for discussion is “Club Season Grade.”
Dan Crooke – Writer 3rd Degree & MLSSoccer.com
Just like the coaching grade. We expected FC Dallas to fall around 6/7th in the west in a transition year. We didn’t expect a playoff run, and probably got a better fight against the eventual champions that we could have hoped for. It’s fair to have expected more from the US Open Cup than losing to a lower division side (albeit a really good one) at home.
Going into specifics, the Carlos Gruezo deal was a great price for FCD but now we need to see if that money goes back into new players next year. Their mid-season recruiting was a disaster, and the preseason buys were slow to get going. There were some great surprises in youth development in Cerillo and Reynolds, but maybe we didn’t see quite as much from Roberts and Ferreira as you’d hope, and that’s without the likes of Badji and Mosquera struggling. Dallas had too many Jekyll and Hyde moments on the road. Unfortunately for each performance like in Seattle or Atlanta you had to settle for being humiliated by an Orlando or Chicago.
Overall it was good, but not world-beating, and the expectations rise in 2020 with the year of experience Luchi and the team have gained.
Dustin Nation – Co-Host, Dallas Soccer Show
Making the playoffs in the first year under a rookie coach who’s implementing a new playing style with one of the youngest rosters in the league and some obvious “positional challenges” is an accomplishment. The opportunities for improvement are there for everyone to see, but so are the improvements already in place. Do we all wish they’d have done better? Yes. Could the season have gone worse, given the circumstances? Absolutely.
Peter Welpton – Co-Host, The Kickaround
To use a Dan Crooke phrase, 2019 was “bang-average” and grading this club on a curve only encourages the Hunts to do more of the same. I make my case, here.
Buzz Carrick – Founder and Editor, 3rd Degree
When we look big picture, we have to actually look big picture. For me, that means overall standings and the overall place of FC Dallas in the bigger MLS picture. When I do that, I come back with a C.
Since 2014, when Oscar Pareja took over, FC Dallas is 5th in MLS in average points and 3rd in total points. This has been a strong organization on the field in recent times mostly due to the coaching staff. By that measure 2019 is not very good as 48 points is the 2nd lowest total since 2014, beaten by the record collapse of 2017 by a paltry 2 points.
Is FC Dallas starting a new cycle? Yes. Are they going with the Academy build system? Yes. That’s why this grade isn’t worse. A+ for the kids, F for the in-season sale of Gruezo and buy of Gyasi.
Performance matters. You have to win games and FCD was too poor on the road, had too many lopsided losses, and finished a mediocre 7th in the West. 1.41 points per game in 2019 is the 13th best season in franchise history, right in the middle of the pack. Yup, C.
Nico Mendez – Writer, 3rd Degree and Dallas Sports Nation
The fans and media alike didn’t begin the 2019 season with many expectations given FC Dallas having a new head coach in Luchi Gonzalez. Many felt that making the playoffs would qualify as a good season and that 2019 was meant for Luchi Gonzalez to get his footing in MLS and implement a system for his players. What many wanted from the beginning was a team that could compete and fight in the league. Some dismissed and labeled 2019 as “rebuild year” setting up success for 2020.
Luchi Gonzalez has stated before that making the playoffs was one of their goals and once playoff qualification was secured, MLS Cup was their next goal. FC Dallas adopted the mantra of “why not us?” Why not the youngest team in the league with the youngest coach in MLS? Why not the team that was in the top 4 of the Western Conference for times during the season? Why not the team that was in control of its future and not at the whim of other teams?
FC Dallas, under Luchi Gonzalez, not only played with a new style but demonstrated that they can compete with any team in the league. One of the most notable games was the 2-1 against Atlanta United in Atlanta. There were also lows such as the 0-4 loss to a struggling Chicago Fire. The underlying theme with FC Dallas in 2019 was they were in control of their game plan and their future. Some of the dropped points felt that they were a result of the mistakes and shortcomings of FC Dallas rather than the success of their opposition.
These are some of the many positives for this young team that featured “the kids” where Luchi Gonzalez broke the franchise record for most MLS homegrown minutes and came second in the league to Real Salt Lake. The change in style resulted in the term “Luchi Ball” highlighting the value of possession, buildup play from the back, and making different combinations of passes through the pitch. The biggest success of the 2019 season is Coach Gonzalez establishing a style and culture in his first year. With time, the play-style will become better as Luchi Gonzalez will get “his guys” into the team to help build a more complete squad as he still currently has “Papi’s players” on this team (It took Oscar Pareja 2 season before building the successful 2016 team). The potential is abundant with this team under Luchi Gonazelez and the young players fighting to make it onto the pitch.
John Lenard – Writer, 3rd Degree and SocTakes
To really give the season a letter grade is kinda difficult. Starting off, I, along with many others, had FC Dallas generally sitting on the playoff bubble, finding out its fate late in the season, and maybe sneaking into the playoffs come decision day. That’s exactly what they did, so clearly their grade can’t be failing, but it’s not stellar.
There’s also the whole “losing to a USLC team in the Open Cup” mess, a few high-profile flops on signings, and some questionable decision-making from the coaching staff. All more evidence that while it’s a passing grade, it’s not much higher.
With all that said, I’m giving them something like a C+/B-, in that 78-80/100 range. Passing, decent, but lots of room for reflection and improvement. If the powers that sign make the most of the offseason to bring in some new faces, promote from North Texas, and maybe even roll the dice with the draft, Luchi will have a squad that increasingly fits his vision for how he wants to play. And with that, hopefully, he’ll be able to achieve more in the 2020 season.
On that point, right now I don’t think it’s a tall ask to expect Luchi to finish around 4th in the West and make a run at the Open Cup. These are things that weren’t far out of reach this year, and there’s a rather tangible road map from here to there. But for 2019, it went about as we all expected, and that’s fine, I guess, but we were all being cynical anyway.
you enjoyed this round table, check out Part One – Coaching Staff Grades – Part Two – Offensive MVP – and Part Three – Breakout Player, Part Four – Defensive MVP – and Part Five – Room for Improvement.
And as always, tell us who you picked for Breakout Player down below!