How does one explain FC Dallas’s (FCD) 2017 season. I certainly can’t and many who cover the team on a daily basis seem mystified and dumbstruck by the whole thing too.
At the beginning of the year, FC Dallas was one of the elite journalist and “punters” (sorry I get a kick out of that England phrase) choices to win MLS Cup. Why not? The team won the 2016 Supporters Shield and likely would have been a top choice to win MLS Cup without the crushing late season injury to game changing creative midfielder Mauro Diaz. Entering the 2017 season the team reloaded with some expensive attacking additions to provide desperately needed assistance to Maxi Urruti up top. They also brought back what was thought to be the best young centerback pairing in the league.
The season got off to a bright start. The team advanced through the quarterfinal round of the CONCACAF Champions League and went toe-to-toe with eventual champion Pachuca in the semifinals (see link to #8 in the link below for further details). They also avoided the difficult start to regular season play that seems to effect virtually all MLS sides when they are inevitably knocked out of the CCL. The team was unbeaten in the first nine matches. Not surprisingly, the multiple early season games then seemed to catch up with them, but they generally held it together in this stretch, going 1-3-3 over the next seven. Things appeared to be sorted out though when they won the next three matches which carried them to the end of July, including an impressive home win against eventual 2017 MLS Cup winners Toronto FC. And by the way Mauro Diaz was back and appeared to be working himself into form to be the game changing piece that would raise them to the top. By that time the season was more than half-way over and the oddsmakers gave FCD a 97% chance to make the playoffs and also established them as one of a handful of clubs they expected to win MLS Cup.
Then the wheels fell off. In retrospect, the start of the decline can be attributed to a shocking and disastrous July 29th home 4-0 shellacking by Vancouver. That loss started a ten game stretch where FCD went 0-6-4, including two comprehensive road losses to the two new expansion teams. By that time they were in a scramble to make the playoffs and a stretch of middling results put them in a position where they didn’t control their destiny on the final weekend. Despite a final weekend home victory by FCD over last place LA Galaxy, a late San Jose goal in their match with Minnesota ended FC Dallas playoff hopes. After the September 23rd FCD loss at Minnesota United, a close observer of the league, mlssoccer.com writer Matt Doyle, said this: “This is unprecedented – I’ve never seen anything like it in my 21 years of watching MLS.” As good a description as any about how confusing this story had unfolded over the second half of the year.
So what happened? A separate post would be needed to try and explain this and I suppose anybody (including me) who wasn’t in the FC Dallas clubhouse on a daily basis is unqualified to do anything but speculate on the reasons. There were some excellent posts on the FCD sites like 3rd Degree and BigDSoccer and podcasts like the Dallas Soccer Show that tried to explain what happened immediately after the season ended. I won’t even try to speculate myself anymore because FC Dallas’s season ended a couple of months ago and the team has begun to take steps to fix things for next year. My feeling is that the team is too good to repeat 2017 next season, if for no other reason than the law of reversion to the mean.
A season to remember and not in a good way. Nevertheless one of the top soccer stories of the year.
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