Six factors that will determine FC Dallas’ fate in 2024

As usual around these parts, questions abound as the season approaches. But some questions are more important than others. The answers to the latter will determine FCD’s destiny this season.

Let’s drill down on the six biggest questions that will determine FC Dallas’ fate in 2024.

Is Petar Musa for Real?

We all know Los Toros were a great defensive team in 2023, but their offense stank with just 41 goals scored. That’s the 10th worst in MLS.  On top of that, FCD parted ways with their 2nd leading goal scorer Jader Obrian, and his 6 goals plus 5 assists.   

This season, FCD needs to add goals, 15 goals – give or take – maybe 20 after losing Obrian.

Enter Petar Musa.

Elite goal scorers in MLS get 15+ goals. The 11 biggest scoring teams hit for a combined 51+ goals each. 

So FCD needs Musa to be in that conversation of 15-plus goals. Sure, 10 plus would be ok – “that’s fine,” as my wife would say – as FCD’s defense should still be good.  But “fine” and “ok” aren’t going to get the Burn in contention.

And an MLS club doesn’t pay $10+ million expecting “just” 10 goals.  To justify that money, Musa needs to bag 15 or more.

No pressure, eh?

Petar Musa is introduced for FC Dallas. (Courtesy FC Dallas)
Petar Musa is introduced for FC Dallas. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Can the Midfield Stay Healthy?

Man, I love me some Asier Illarramendi.  He’s already in the conversation for most talented players to ever come through the club. But he’ll be 34 in March.  And while we don’t hear of a track record for injuries, at that age you do have to be cognizant of it.

Then there is the notable regularity of injuries to guys like Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira.  Plus the troubles last year for Sebastian Lletget and Paul Arriola. Not to mention the missing for 80% of the season Alan Velasco.

Cause after that it’s unproven players like Tsiki Ntsabeleng or Tomas Pondeca. Or kids like Nolan Norris, Ale Urzua, or Patrickson Delgado.

Needless to say, the midfield – if healthy – could be a strength of this team. 

If the midfield is not healthy… great googly moogly.  

I’m suddenly thankful for workhorse Liam Fraser.

Liam Fraser outjumps everyone against Seattle Sounders during the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs First Round, Game Two, at Toyota Stadium, November 4, 2023. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Will Left Center Back Hold Up?

I like Sam Junqua as a soccer player. I love his versatility and reliability.  I’m perfectly ok with him as the starting left center back.

But, to be fair, he’s not an elite, marquee left center back.

Would I be ok with some starts of Omar Gonzalez in the middle and Nkosi Tafari on the left? Of course.

But not all the starts.

So what happens if Junqua goes down? Or if he’s not as good as we expect? Does Gonzalez then start 30 games? The dude is 35!  Does 5’10” on a good day Marco Farfan become a left center back?

And at that point, Amet Korca is the only backup left on the roster and he is unproven at best.

That’s not a good situation.

Let’s just say that depth at center back – on the left in particular – is razor thin and that’s a big concern. Even bigger in a formation that requires three of them.

Sam Junqua looks to cross against Inter Miami at the Cotton Bowl, January 22, 2024. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Is the Depth There?

One of the stated goals of the technical staff this winter was improving the reliability of depth in the team to better handle rotations and workload in the congested schedule.

So the club dumped some overpaid veterans and got multiple players to take “club-friendly” contracts. (that means supplemental roster contracts, just FYI.)  Omar Gonzalez, Jimmy Maurer, and Amet Korca all did the club a solid to keep playing in MLS.

FCD also brought in a young Ecuadorian 6 in Patrickson Delgado, a college Homegrown in Malik Henry-Scott (who is with North Texas SC right now), a high draft pick in Logan Farrington, a recalled-loanee in Isaiah Parker (who the coach clearly isn’t a fan of), a homegrown in Alejandro Urzua, and a former trialist from North Texas SC in Tomas Pondeca.

So did they accomplish the objective of solid contributing depth?

I have no clue.

And that’s the point.  All those players are unproven

If they turn out to be good players, then great. But if not…. well…

Omar Gonzalez takes on Inter Miami at the Cotton Bowl, January 22, 2024. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Will 10s be 10s?

For the FCD 3-4-2-1 to function, the 10s have to be 10s and play underneath the striker. Or perhaps slides up into a two-man front with a single 10 underneath. That’s a variation that makes it a 3-5-2.

The point is that the front three needs to be narrow.  The width has to come from the wingbacks.

Barring injury, the two first-choice 10s are, it seems, Paul Arriolla and Jesus Ferreira. Arriola has been a wing and a wide player for a long time.  And Ferreira, we all know how he likes to go walkabout. 

Promising young rising talent Bernie Kamungo is a wider player too and has not been a central underneath player.  He’s not a great fit in the 2-1 style front.

So in the first half of the season certainly, the main choices might struggle to stay narrow.

On the other hand, Sebastien Lletget, Alan Velasco, Enes Sali, and Tomas Pondeca are tailor-made for this role. 

If the 10s break the shape, the 3-4-2-1 will be a disaster just like it was last year.  The wingbacks get turned one-dimensional and the team will be outnumbered in midfield 3 to 2 (or even worse 4 to 2 vs Philly).

Not good, Bob.

FC Dallas launched its Afterburner kit worn by Jesus Ferreira in a True Brvnd hat. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Can Coach Nico’s Side Play Attacking Soccer?

And lastly, creating more offense is not just about adding a single player like Petar Musa.  The entire team needs to be more adventurous in getting forward to create more scoring opportunities.

We know FCD is a good finishing team, but a low chance-creating team.  In theory, if they increase the number of quality chances the goals should go up.

Yet Coach Nico Estevez loves him some defensive positional responsibility.  So he likely needs to relax that fixation and allow some freedom in attack.

Can a tiger change its stripes?

We’ll see.

Coach Nico Estevez in 2023. (Courtesy FC Dallas)


  1. Totally off-topic but…
    Yesterday MLS published their 2024 Roster Rules. There were two changes that I could see versus the 2023 rules and I think both were implemented to help Inter Miami become roster compliant.

    The first rule was a change in the International Status designation for players. Last year you had to have your green card or have performed your visa interview prior to the start of the season in order to not count as an International. This year you can delay your visa Interview until July 18 (Secondary Window) and still not count as an International – so you are getting a 5 month grace period. Given how many internationals Miami has brought in since last summer this clearly seems like a rule implemented to allow them to play their new signings immediately while buying time for some of them to initiate the green card process.

    The second rule change was regarding the sale of a DP player. Last year if you sold a DP you could not convert any of the sale into GAM, but this year you can as long as the DP does not make more than the TAM buydown amount ($1.6M). Gregore was a DP for Inter Miami last year and he was just sold to Botafogo. I’m not sure how much they got for him but they can use up to $1.2M of his fee as GAM to help them buy down salaries – which they probably needed to do.

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