MLS 2018: FC Dallas starts climb out of the 2017 rubble in Panama

For FC Dallas, the mysterious collapse of 2017 is consigned to the past, yet it did cast a few dark clouds over its future.

Its plummet from conference champion to also-ran opened up a path for a team as mediocre as San Jose to sneak into playoffs with the same number of points (46) and a minus-21 goal difference. On the basis of more wins, 13 to 11, the Quakes took sixth. (FCD won 17 games in 2016 and 18 the year before as Western Conference champion both years.)

Looking forward to the 2018 season that starts Wednesday with a Concacaf Champions League round-of-16 series against Tauro FC of Panama, head coach Oscar Pareja has a revamped squad that jettisoned three players who started at last one-half of the games last season: defenders Hernan Grana and Walker Zimmerman, and versatile veteran Atiba Harris.

All were deemed expendable in the FCD makeover that brought in foreign defenders Anton Nedyalkov and Reto Zeigler and playmaker Santiago Mosquera. The first two will shore up a disjointed back line and Mosquera is a clear signal to Mauro Diaz, bitten again by the injury bug in 2017 and limited to 19 games (13 starts), that he’s not the only string-puller on the roster.

“There are positions we needed to address, without a doubt,” said technical director Fernando Clavijo in a video posted on the team’s Web site this week. “We struggled defensively, something that had never been an issue before. For 15 games, we were probably the best defense in the league, and something happened.”

Clavijo cites controversy over transfer bids for midfielder Michael Barrios and Max Urruti as distractions that upset team unity midway through the season, as well as defenders playing out of position. In preseason, Homegrown Player Reggie Cannon saw a lot of time at right back, and on Saturday in the final tuneup game against Portland Urruti scored both goals in a 2-1 victory.

Last week FCD played a 1-1 tie with another CCL participant, Santa Tecla of El Salvador, which hosts Seattle on Thursday. Pareja has covered a lot of ground to prepare FCD for the series against Tauro FC, which kicks off Wednesday (8 p.m., UnivisionDeportes.com) at Estadio Rommel Fernandez.

Pareja's excellent record (76-30-43, W-L-T) since taking over FCD prior to the 2014 season suggests a strong bounce-back is likely. The CCL opening series will provide some hints as to how much more work needs to be done.

 “We have been preparing this team for the last four weeks and we’re excited looking forward just to starting competing,” said Pareja prior to the team’s trip to Panama. “We aimed last year for a good participation in CONCACAF and we have that opportunity back.”
 
FC Dallas:
IN: Jimmy Maurer (New York Cosmos, free), Anton Nedyalkov (CSKA Sofia transfer), Reto Ziegler (FC Luzern, free), Brandon Servania (Wake Forest Univ., Homegrown signing), Kris Reaves (Univ. of Portland, Homegrown signing), Jordan Cano (SMU, Homegrown signing), Francis Atuahene (Univ. of Michigan, SuperDraft), Ema Twumasi (Wake Forest Univ., SuperDraft), Santiago Mosquera (Millonarios/COL, transfer).
OUT:
Chris Seitz (Houston Dynamo, MLS free agent), Carlos Cermeno (Tachira/VEN, loan expired), Hernan Grana (All Boys/ARG, loan expired), Eduardo Cortes, Luis Gonzalez, Aaron Guillen, Atiba Harris (Murcielagos/MEX), Walker Hume, Javier Morales, Coy Craft, Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC, trade), Anibal Chala (LDU Quito/ECU, loan).
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2018 Roster:
Goalkeepers:
Jesse Gonzalez, Jimmy Maurer.
Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Jordan Cano, Maynor Figueroa, Matt Hedges, Anton Nedyalkov, Kris Reaves, Reto Ziegler.
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, Carlos Gruezo, Jacori Hayes, Ryan Hollingshead, Roland Lamah, Santiago Mosquera, Paxton Pomykal, Brandon Servania, Victor Ulloa.
Forwards: Tesho Akindele, Francis Atuahene, Cristian Colman, Jesus Ferreira, Bryan Reynolds, Adonijah Reid, Ema Twumasi, Maxi Urruti.
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