An arduous preseason schedule took FC Dallas on a 10-day trip to Argentina, during which it played seven games, so the players should be well prepared for Panamanian club Arabe Unido. There are plenty of new faces, as every position except goalkeeper has been bolstered by at least two international players plus draft picks and Homegrown signings.
Opening day …
Projected XI – Seitz; Chala, Hedges, Zimmerman, Grana, Gruezo, Acosta, Barrios, Lamah, Colman, Urruti.
Head coach Oscar Pareja has a lot to sort out. After opening its CCL series at home Thursday, FCD plays three straight away games: the return leg in Panama, and then at the Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City.
One issue to resolve is how much time he gives Javier Morales, who turned 37 last month and didn’t get a lot of minutes in preseason. Morales will certainly play a fair amount this season as Mauro Diaz completes his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, but Pareja will be mindful that setbacks are not uncommon with such injuries. And should Morales be injured or need rest, he’ll need Plan C (as in newcomer Carlos Cermeno?).
Cristian Colman and Max Urruti were paired up at times in preseason and while Pareja in the past has favored a 4-2-3-1 formation that would probably exclude one of them, he’s also counting on Roland Lamah and Michael Barrios to get goals from the flanks and for a fleet of new outside backs to get into the attack as well.
“Maxi can play anywhere with the heart that he has,” said Pareja after a 3-3 tie with San Lorenzo in a preseason game. “The generosity and the desire and the intelligence that he has in the game – it just gives him a great tool to go anywhere and he’s working well with Cristian.”
The odd man out might be Tesho Akindele. The 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year has scored 11 goals in the past two seasons while starting about one-half (29 of 59) of his appearances.
Atiba Harris, who has played forward, midfield and outside back during his MLS career, took a few stints at centerback in preseason as Pareja tinkered with a three-man back line. With Walker Zimmerman gaining his first U.S. cap earlier this month, Pareja is obviously looking at every option in case Bruce Arena calls up Zimmerman and/or Matt Hedges. Rookie Walker Hume, who scored eight goals during his junior and senior years at North Carolina and is a true menace at 6-foot-5, bagged a goal against River Plate’s reserves.
At the other end of the age spectrum from Harris (32) and Morales are regulars Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Gruezo (both 21), as well as additions Colman (22), Cermeno (21) and Anibal Chala (20). The FCD philosophy of unearthing and developing young talent extends beyond its academy program and Homegrown Players, of which there are nine (!) on the first-team roster.
“Hopefully, we keep growing with this and attracting young players,” said technical director Fernando Clavijo. “Colman is 22 years old. Chala, Gruezo, Kellyn, we’re talking about a really young team for a long time and hopefully the idea is two or three years and then the process again begins and at the end of the day we all benefit.”
Who’s in …
GOALKEEPERS: None. DEFENDERS: Reggie Cannon (UCLA, Homegrown), Anibal Chala (El Nacional/ECU, free agent), Herman Grana (Newell’s Old Boys/ARG, loan), Walker Hume (Univ. of North Carolina, SuperDraft). MIDFIELDERS: Carlos Cermeno (Deportivo Tachira/VEN, loan), Jacori Hayes (Wake Forest, SuperDraft), Roland Lamah (Ferencvaros/HUN), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake, MLS free agent), Paxton Pomykal (Homegrown). FORWARDS: Cristian Colman (Nacional Asuncion/PAR, transfer), Jesus Ferreira (Homegrown), Adonijah Reid (ANB Futbol Academy, SuperDraft), Bryan Reynolds (Homegrown).
Who’s out …
GOALKEEPERS: Ryan Herman (Miami FC, free agent). DEFENDERS: Moises Hernandez (Communicaciones/GUA, free agent), Zach Loyd (Atlanta United, Expansion Draft), Aubrey David, Norberto Paparrato, Jose Salvatierra. MIDFIELDERS: Mauro Rosales, Carlos Lizarazo (Alianza Petrolera/COL, Free Agent), Juan Esteban Ortiz (Rionegro/COL, Free Agent). FORWARDS: Colin Bonner (Retired), Getterson (O J. Malucelli/BRA, Free Agent), Timo Pitter (Retired), Carlos Ruiz.