First Kick is upon us and your Montreal Impact go deep in Texas territory and opens its 2014 MLS season against FC Dallas. No need to read what I might say about Dallas and its preseason preparations. I present to you an expert witness, Brian Wachholz of Big D Soccer , as he share his thoughts and expert opinion on FC Dallas and its busy off-season.
1) With 8 players in and 9 players out, will this be a season of transition for FC Dallas? How does the club transitions from Schellas Hyndman to Oscar Pareja?
There will be an adjustment period sure, just as any team with new players must go through; however, Oscar has significant history with this club, serving in different roles since 1998. He was a player, assistant coach to the first team, and director of youth development in the FCD Academy.
The advantage OP has over every other candidate that FCD interviewed for the head coach job is that he has worked with many of the players, and he knows the local kids who are coming up in the Academy or who have already been signed to Home Grown contracts. He has been a mentor to Fabian Castillo since joining the league, and I hope that that will continue and fully unlock Castillo's potential.
This is OP's third year as a head coach. His first year in Colorado had the bumps and bruises that you'd expect. He improved greatly in his second year, leading the Rapids' youthful team to a playoff spot. I expect in his third year, with a new but familiar team, Pareja will have similar results as last year. Watch out, though. I see silver in the future for this club as Oscar establishes himself and his style.
2) What can you tell us about the Colombian flavor that FC Dallas took with the new signings? How big is this for the Dallas community?
We have 3 Colombians on the team this year, but a full third of the senior team is of Latin origin or family heritage. The Latin flair is a great thing for our location and market. DFW has a massive Hispanic market, and the club has a huge opportunity to engage that fan-base with Spanish speaking leadership. Oscar Pareja is Colombian, and our technical director, Fernando Clavijo, is from Uruguay.
Andres Escobar (Colombian) is coming in to the team while we lost another Colombian in David Ferreira. David Texeira (Uruguan) is joining the team as well this year. Maybe Oscar and Fernando each got to pick one foreign player, ha ha!
All that being said, FC Dallas is a melting pot much like the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. We have people from all over the world on and off the pitch. I think the mixture is fairly representative of our region. The team has made great strides the past couple of years to ensure that the team can gel together, offering up Spanish and English lessons for those who don't speak both already.
3) Is the defense still the strong point of FC Dallas? Would you rate as a top defensive line in MLS?
Yes and no. If our defense can remain healthy and get consistent minutes playing together, I would expect FCD to have one of the top lines in MLS. However, our boys have been plagued with nagging injuries and issues. George John won't make the opening day starting XI which is a huge blow. CB partner, Matt Hedges, will be there though, and he is now in his third year on the back line for FCD. Our goalkeeper stable is one of the best in MLS. It will be to the club's advantage that Raul Fernandez is not traveling for international duty with his native Peru. Seitz and Sanchez will be challenging him for the #1 job every day.
The defensive roster is strong and deep, but consistent minutes and 100% health will be the difference maker. If we see 10 different back lines in the first 10 games, we're also going to see problems with communication and familiarity. It will be up to the players to keep the defense strong. George John has long been our vocal leader. With him out, that duty will fall to Hedges if Dallas is to keep a clean sheet.