Missing out on the Supporters' Shield as MLS Regular Season champions by mere goal difference in 2015, big things are expected of FC Dallas this year. Their approach to building a roster has been sound and steady since former player Oscar Pareja stepped into the head coach's role in 2014: Build the team primarily through one of the best MLS academies (and actually play those players in meaningful games) and scout Latin American leagues for impact players. Despite the team being pretty young overall, there is a sense that this is a key year for this club.
Adding MLS Cup winner Maxi Urruti and experienced internationals like Maynor Figueroa and Carlos Gruezo in the offseason, on paper Dallas only looks stronger in 2016. And if the newcomers make a big impact, Dallas could be the class of what's expected to be a tough Western Conference, and in line for a trophy or two.
2015 record 18-10-6, 60 points, 1st place in Western Conference
2015 Playoffs Western Conference finals
Key additions Maximilano Urruti, Carlos Gruezo, Carlos Lizarazo, Mauro Rosales, Juan Esteban Ortiz, Maynor Figueroa
Key losses Blas Perez, Michel, David Texeira, Dan Kennedy, Je-Vaughn Watson
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1) Jesse Gonzalez; Zach Loyd, Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges, Atiba Harris; Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo; Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Michael Barrios; Maxi Urruti
Coach Oscar Pareja has molded FC Dallas into the most exciting young squad in the league. The team is full of young stars like Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo to go along with the slew of Homegrown Players brought up from the FCD Academy system like Kellyn Acosta and Jesse Gonzalez. New fans will love the passion and energy this team brings to the pitch each time out.
The success of Diaz and Castillo. Diaz makes the hearts of those who love defense-splitting passes flutter, while Castillo's individual skills on the ball leads to dropped jaws (and broken ankles) on a regular basis. As long as these two continue to improve their form and production (they led the team in goals and assists last year), FCD should have no issue staying at the top of the Western Conference again in 2016.
Most assists in a season -- Diaz. Currently the club record for assists is 15, set by Jason Kreis back in 1999. Injuries and attendant fitness concerns have plagued him at times in the past, but Diaz's skill in unlocking defenses and setting up teammates is potentially the best in the league. It may be a big jump for Diaz to improve on his 10 assists from a year ago but if the club wants to compete for Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup, Diaz will have to come close to leading the league in assists.
Injuries. FCD had a large number of hamstring injuries in 2014, so to respond to that they hired strength and conditioning coach Fabian Bazan. This addition to the staff lowered the number of injuries in 2015 as he brought in a new fitness model that cut the rate of hamstring injuries nearly in half. All that said, this year FCD has more games to deal with in the Open Cup and especially the CONCACAF Champions League, so keeping the injuries down will be vital to the success of the team.