There is a fresh positivity around FC Dallas in what they themselves have branded a new era. Fans should be stocked as there is much to be excited about in all phases of the franchise.
But, as it has been beaten in the ground, on the field it’s a process. Yes, the team looks better than last year and if everything goes right Los Toros might be pretty good.
But there are some areas of concern.
How these five factors play out will determine just how good the FC Dallas season is.
Jesus at the 9
There is plenty of scoring and assisting quality on this team from the wings. Paul Arriola (’22 6/4), Jader Obrian, (’22 9/4), and (probably) Alan Velasco (’21 1/5). Even Frano Jara (’22 7/2) off the bench does what he is supposed to do.
But there is a big question at the 9 after the sale of Ricardo Pepi and the club needs to replace his 13 goals. Jesus Ferreira is certainly a quality player (’21 8/9 as a 10), worthy of the DP contract, and a good finisher.
He even put up some solid numbers playing mostly as a 9 in 2019 (’19 8/6) so I’m feeling confident.
If The Jesus can produce, things will be good. If he doesn’t, it could be a long season.
We all know The Sundance Kid can play. But the last few years for Paxton Pomykal have been a horror show of injuries. Yes, he came through 2021 mostly unscathed but he wasn’t back to peak form.
This year he should be back on top and he certainly looks the part in spring training.
In his last good season, 2019 when he broke through, Pomykal had 2 goals and 5 assists. He needs at least that number in 2022.
Hopefully, we’ll see even more in his return to the Kevin De Bruyne role as the “free-8” in Coach Nico Estevez’s system.
Look, health always matters. But we’re talking about the greatest defender in club history here and Matt Hedges will be 32 in April.
Hedges has been remarkably healthy over his career but had just 16 starts in 2021. That’s less than half the games last season and it’s the fewest of his career. Yes, even the Covid shorted 2020 and his rookie year he had more starts.
And as we’ve seen last year and in the spring this season, when Hedges is not in there the defense is usually a mess.
Having Hedges healthy this year will go a long way to fixing last year’s terrible defense. Lose him again and it’s likely to be wheels-off.
In 2020, Jimmy Maurer had one of the top keeper performances in MLS with a save percentage of 80.6% and a 0.84 GAA.
2021? Not so good with a save percentage of 67.3% and a 1.56 GAA. Phelipe was even worse with a save pct of 66.7% and a 1.84 GAA. Neither performance was nearly good enough.
So for 2022, Phelipe was sent back to Gremio and FCD brought in a new keeper, Maarten Paes (23 yo), to work alongside and challenge Maurer (33 yo).
Whichever player wins the job, or even if it’s a share, the team needs a solid performance in goal. At least a GAA in the neighborhood of 1.00 to 1.20 and a combined save percentage in the mid 70s. That would be plenty good enough.
Another year of 67% and 1.5 GAA and it’s going to be rough.
Improvement at 6
I’ve long espoused that the 6 is the most important position in the side when building for long-term franchise and squad health and performance. And simply put, the 6 wasn’t good enough in 2021.
Facundo Quignon put in a series of performances I would call “serviceable” but not up to his just under $800k base salary. Edwin Cerrillo, we think, has the makings of an outstanding holding mid… eventually. But he isn’t there yet despite winning the starting job at the end of 2021 and again this spring.
Facu admittedly was banged up most of last year and playing through some discomfort. So perhaps he will improve.
Cerrillo has improved every year and we fully expect him to take the next step in 2022. This could be the first season of a long run as the man at the pivot for FCD.
But E’s not the man yet. How quickly he progresses – and you can frankly include Pomykal and Brandon Servania in this as well – will have a massive impact on the Dallas fortunes in 2022.
FC Dallas kicks off its 2022 season against Toronto FC this Saturday, Feb. 26 at 4:30 pm CT at Toyota Stadium.