It's definitely award season in MLS and as we await the official MLS awards(#VoteForTesho), we thought it'd be fun here at FCDallas.com for those of us who bring you content throughout the year to give you each of our picks for FC Dallas awards in 2014. We've got seven awards and we're going to split them into two parts.
Here are your esteemed panelists(Scott & Aaron not featured in the photo):
Olivia Brestal - Graphic Design Coordinator: Olivia is responsible for all those fancy GIFs you see on Twitter. She was also the brains behind those #VoteForTesho graphics and this.
Scott Brown - Managing Editor of Digital Properties: One half of your Toyota Keys to the Match crew, Scott has been keeping his watchful eye over the team this season from high above in the Toyota Stadium press box. And he has a NWO-style Hollywood Hulk Hogan bobblehead at his desk. Respect.
Robert Casner - Marketing Manager: Formerly known as @FCDallasBeatGuy, Robert is one of the puppeteers behind the game presentation, awesome community tours and cool promotions FCD puts on. He loves FC Dallas, Alexis Sanchez and Ole Miss.
Aaron Griffin - Multimedia Manager: The third half of the TKTTM crew, Aaron is the one behind the camera and the brains that run FCDTV. He is the 2014 FCD Front Office Super Classico Goal of the Year winner, so he knows a thing or two about the beautiful game.
Daniel Robertson - Digital Content Coordinator: The other half of the TKTTM crew, Daniel(who loves to speak in third person) is both the self-proclaimed Instagram video king of MLS digital and the worst prognosticator in the history of MLS digital.
Let's do this.
2014 Team MVP
Scott B: Matt Hedges – Pareja has made a lot of great decisions for FC Dallas this year, and giving the armband to Matt is right up there with the best of them. Hedges continues to improve year-after-year. It’s kinda mind-blowing that he’s never received a national team call-up at any level. Don’t be surprised if that changes come January.
Daniel R: Matt Hedges - Through the first half of the season, Fabian Castillo would probably get the nod, but Hedges has simply been ever-present for FCD this year. Above all else, you want to have your defense in order and Hedges only solidified the award with his play in the playoff series against Seattle. January camp, Klinsi. Make it happen.
Robert C: Matt Hedges - Paging Coach Klinsmann! Hedges has improved drastically in each of his first three years and in 2014 he showed how valuable he is to this team. He wins headers, sniffs out passes before they happen, and organizes everyone in front of him. He got the captain’s band in the middle of the season and never looked back. I know what I’m thankful this holiday season….Matty freakin Hedges!
Aaron G: Matt Hedges - Captain and heart of our backline, to shut down Seattle in the playoffs is saying a lot. We are still waiting for the call up Jurgen…
Olivia B: Matt Hedges – My explanation for this choice is going to be as short as the amount of time attackers had on the ball when Hedges was on the scene – and because I don’t have enough time to write out all my reasonings AND call Jurgen Klinsmann.
U-23 Player of the Year
RC: Victor Ulloa - Vic came into preseason without a guaranteed contract and finished the 2014 season locked down in the central midfield position with 26 starts. The Wylie native and quickly-rising fan favorite displayed patience in his ball distribution and a maturity level that will make him a mainstay on the field in 2015.
OB: Fabian Castillo – see below.
SB: Fabian Castillo – This might be the toughest one to pick on a team that’s so stacked with young talent, but this one has to go to Fabi. He checked in at third on MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 this year, but Castillo was definitely FCD’s best player under 23 in 2014.
DR: Fabian Castillo - Before I explain this one, let me note that in 2014 FCD could've put together a U-23 team that could absolutely compete in MLS and that's pretty ridiculous. I went back and forth on this one as there are three or even four players that deserve serious consideration for this one, but I had to go with Fabi. He took the step forward in 2014 that we were all hoping and expecting. In 31 combined MLS & LHUSOC games, Fabian had 14 goals and 7 assists including his incredible ten-game streak with a goal or an asisst through the summer.
AG: Victor Ulloa - Started from the bottom now he’s here.
RC: Je-Vaughn Watson - Call him the ultimate utility player. Midfield, defense, it doesn’t matter where you put Je-Vaughn he’ll use his physical nature and ridiculous speed to make the position work. At right back, Watson ran with the fastest wingers and then hauled back down the other end to assist the powerful FC Dallas counterattack. He wasn’t always the center of attention on the field, but his efforts on both sides of the ball haven’t gone unnoticed.
SB: Victor Ulloa – The Ballad of Victor Ulloa isn’t quite as unsung as it was just a few weeks ago (Examples here, here and here). After getting his opportunity through injuries and suspensions in the defensive midfield Victor came seemingly out of nowhere (zero starts in 2011-13, 26 starts in 2014) to become arguably the best FC Dallas Homegrown product to date.
AG: Moises Hernandez – More often than not, he was at the right place at the right time.
DR: Chris Seitz - His heroic deeds off the field are well-documented, but in 2014 Seitz proved that he won't simply be known for that selfless act. Chris had his best year as a professional showing FC Dallas has a bevy of legitimate MLS starting-caliber goalkeepers on the roster posting a 10-4-4 record in MLS, playoffs and LHUSOC play with four shutouts. In fact, since the start of 2013, Seitz is 16-7-6 in MLS, playoffs and USOC play. Very, very impressive. Huge honorable mention goes to Je-Vaughn Watson who finished second on the team in minutes played this year.
OB: Victor Ulloa – When he came in for a banged up midfield mid-season, people assumed they’d get the hesitant play of a young homegrown, but what they got was Shutdown Central: Party of 1. Plus anyone who gets in a mini WWE smackdown with Clint Dempsey in the Western Conference Semifinals – and wins – is an unsung hero in my book.
Stay tuned next week for part 2 of our awards featuring best defender, most improved & more!
The first big step towards the 2015 season takes place today as MLS holds the Chivas USA Dispersal Draft. Through a bit of good fortune, FC Dallas holds the top spot meaning we have first choice at Chivas USA players(minus Erick Torres). MLSsoccer.com has an excellent look at the Chivas USA roster, so be sure to take a look at that as well before today's 3:00PM central time draft held by private conference call.
Let's take a look at the different directions Oscar Pareja, Fernando Clavijo and the FCD technical staff can go with this one.
The best player
There's a train of thought in sports that in any draft you take the best player available regardless of position and there's certainly plenty of merit in that line of thinking. You assemble a squad with the best collection of talent and work the pieces out later because something ALWAYS goes wrong(though Oscar Pareja seems to always turn these into positives).
If you go with the best player theory, then the choice is very likely to be Dan Kennedy. Still just 32 years old, relatively young for a goalkeeper, Kennedy has been the face of Chivas USA for the past half-decade. The all-time leader in appearances for the franchise, the UCSB graduate has missed only eight games in the past four seasons and has averaged over six shutouts a season in that time span.
Yes, FC Dallas already has two starting-level goalkeepers and a strong future prospect in Jesse Gonzalez, but adding someone as talented as Kennedy gives you a lot of options going forward with a long time between now and March 2015 to work everything out.
Oscar Pareja has shown with his quotes and actions that he's not afraid to play young players and it's something he embraces. If FCD wants to add yet another young hotshot to the roster, then Chivas USA has some nice ones to choose from. Midfielder Marco Delgado is still just 19 and has already amassed 37 appearances in MLS including three goals, one of which was scored at Toyota Stadium this year.
There are certainly red flags with Delgado as he has the dreaded "no defined postion" label on him and underwent season-ending knee surgery in September, but he's still a US U-20 mainstay and a hugely talented player.
Another young and interesting prospect is forward Caleb Calvert. The 6-2 California native dominated the US Soccer Development Academy earning a Homegrown contract with Chivas USA. He just turned 18 and has a very bright future if FCD wants to go that route.
The proven commodities
Despite their record, though it wasn't as bad as some may think, Chivas USA certainly has some nice, solid veterans that could help any MLS team. FC Dallas fans will be very familiar with winger Marvin Chavez who had a fantastic run with the team through the 2010 MLS Cup season, and you'd think he could still certainly play a role with the team who utilizes their wingers more than most.
If FC Dallas is looking for a backup to Mauro Diaz, Martin Rivero isn't a bad place to look. The 25-year-old Argentine was brought to MLS in Oscar Pareja's first season in Colorado so there's certainly a familiarity there, and he's been up and down in MLS but did have eight assists in that first season. He's coming off an ACL tear in July, but at 25 there's certainly plenty of talent left in those legs.
FCD could upgrade their defensive depth by adding Bobby Burling, a 30-year-old center back with over 100 MLS games to his name. He likely wouldn't unseat any of FCD's incumbent center backs, but could add some solid, veteran depth to the back line.
The wild cards
There's two offensive names that intrigue me on Chivas USA. Argentine winger Leandro Barrera is the first one. Just 23 years old, Barrera can play anywhere up and down the left side of the field and he brings a speedy spark off the bench that Oscar Pareja would love. He played over 2,000 minutes with Chivas USA this year, joining them from the Argentine First Division and certainly had some bright moments on a team that really struggled for offense. Put him in with this FC Dallas team and you could see him doing very well.
The other interesting name is Tommy McNamara. The name on everyone's lips for rookie of the year through the first month of the season, McNamara started the first six games of his rookie year before tearing his ACL. He was extremely active as a withdrawn forward/attacking midfielder, scored a goal on his MLS debut and was a player everyone was talking about before his injury. Only 23 years old, he's a player that could end up being a steal for someone....and that haircut, yes.
We've had some time to process things and it's time to come to the sad realization that the 2014 season is over. It was an incredible season, but it has sadly come to an end.
Fear not, however! Planning and roster building for the 2015 season begins almost immediately. Here's a rundown of what to expect over the next six weeks as we head towards 2015:
NCAA College Scouting - Now through December 12
It's the business end of the college soccer season as conference tournaments take place across the country this weekend before the NCAA tournament. Not only will the FCD coaching staff be looking at players they could potentially select in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, but they'll also have an eye on potential future FC Dallas Homegrown signings like Boyd Okwuono at North Carolina and Mikey Ambrose at Maryland. Stay tuned as we'll have plenty of info coming up in the next couple days on how our academy alumni are doing as NCAA soccer hits tournament time.
Chivas USA Dispersal Draft - Wednesday, November 19
Sadly, Chivas USA is no more in MLS and while LAFC will be taking their place in a few years, the task to allocate Chivas USA's players will be settled next Wednesday with a dispersal draft. CLICK HERE to read the full information on the draft. We will know the order on Friday and there is certainly a chance that FCD could add a player through this mechanism. It is important to note that any player added must have his 2015 contract option exercised, so it is doubtful that too many players will be selected, but given the fact that Chivas USA had 11 players age 23 or younger on their roster, there is certainly a chance FCD adds one of Chivas USA's former players.
MLS Cup Final - Sunday, December 7
Yeah, yeah I know it's a little tougher to watch when FCD could easily be in it, but c'mon it's the league's championship game. Will Landon Donovan go out on top? Can New England, New York or Seattle achieve their first championship in league history?
Half-day Trade window - Monday, December 8
Immediately after the season ends, the wheeling and dealing begins. MLS is opening a half-day trade window on Monday, December 8 for teams to make moves before the Expansion Draft. You wouldn't expect much but could see trades made with NYCFC or Orlando City before the Expansion Draft.
MLS Expansion Draft - Wednesday, December 10
This is a big one. With New York City FC & Orlando City FC coming into the league in 2015, that means one of the dreaded expansion drafts. We will discuss the rules in much more detail as we get closer to the date, but teams are allowed to protect 11 players plus their Homegrowns and can lose as many as one player to each team.
That's the FC Dallas radar from now until the end of the year. There is also the MLS Draft Combine and MLS Superdraft on January 15 before preseason 2015 gets going in late January. It'll be here before you know it!
Oscar Pareja is known as a manager for his tactical tweaks and there were a couple that caught my eye in the last week of playoff games that I wanted to bring up.
Tesho's two very different roles
Rookie of the year frontrunner Tesho Akindele's role with FC Dallas varied over the last two months of the season as the rookie, who had started 14 straight games, appeared in the starting XI just three times over the last eight games of the regular season.
However, the Colorado School of Mines product has started both of FCD's playoff games, though his roles were very different in the two matches.
Against Vancouver, Akindele was played on the right side of the 4-2-3-1 formation and was a relatively purely offensive player in the match. As you can see from the game's OPTA Chalkboard, Akindele's defensive efforts were mainly simple clearances from set pieces looking to get up the field as quickly as possible to add to the attack. He and Castillo switched sides to effective results during the match and Tesho had the fantastic effort to open the scoring just before halftime.
The OPTA Chalkboard showed 10 "defensive" actions for Akindele in Wednesday's match with six of those coming in his defensive third and four of those in the box, presumably off set pieces. His heat map to the left showed he roamed around the field for the most part looking to combine with Castillo, Diaz and Perez up front.
The relatively direct attack of Vancouver was, by and large, snuffed out by the excellent center back duo of Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges with outside backs Zach Loyd and Je-Vaughn Watson cleaning up anything from the wings.
FC Dallas didn't need a huge defensive effort from their wingers against a Vancouver team that does not really rely on their outside backs to provide offense.
Oscar asked for a much different role from him star rookie against the Seattle Sounders, a team with arguably the most offensive outside back in Major League Soccer.
We'll talk about its effectiveness in a moment, but first I want to simply look at the role Tesho played against Seattle. Oscar asked him to sacrifice his offensive opportunities on Sunday night to work in conjunction with Moises Hernandez in slowing down the Sounders' right side of Yedlin and Lamar Neagle, the guy who unleashed a rocket-shot goal in their previous meeting.
As you can see from his heat map to the left, Tesho's role was much more defined in Sunday's game asking him to play a high defensive pressure game against the Sounders' right side duo. His actions are, for the vast majority, in one 30% area on the left side of the midfield, also in the 4-2-3-1 though not as defined as the one with Mauro at the #10 role.
As mentioned earlier, Tesho had 10 "defensive" actions in Wednesday's match mainly in the defensive third of the field where defending is a necesssity. Against Seattle, Akindele had 13 "defensive" actions, but they were almost exclusively in that middle third left side of the pitch where you see the heat map defining.
Tesho was asked to combine with Moises Hernandez to shut down DeAndre Yedlin and Lamar Neagle, something Dallas did extremely effectively. Pareja praised Tesho's efforts after Sunday's match.
Now let's talk about just how well the Dallas defense did against Yedlin
Slowing down the best attacking outside back in MLS
DeAndre Yedlin's star has risen faster than perhaps any young player in MLS history. The 21-year-old earned a big-money move to Tottenham Hotspur on the back of a great performance in the World Cup and while his defensive talents can certainly be scrutinzed, there is no doubt that he is absolutely dynamic going forward and when he plays well, really good things happen for Seattle.
As mentioned before, FCD dispatched a two-pronged defensive of the ultra-athletic Tesho Akindele with Moises Hernandez to stick with Yedlin all evening and it worked wonders.
First, let's look at the last time FCD played Seattle. Dallas played a straightforward 4-4-2 with two left backs, Jair Benitez and Hernandez, and it wasn't the most effective thing ever. As you can see from Yedlin's heat map and stats from that first game, he pretty much had his run of show in the first matchup back in September. 45 completed passes up and down the right side of the pitch, five crosses, etc...
Being the amazing coach that he is, Pareja knew they'd need better results against Yedlin in the second match, so he put in another thoroughbred that could contain Yedlin in Tesho Akindele. As we mentioned earlier, Akindele hung with Neagle and Yedlin every step of the way combining with the excellent Moises Hernandez to make the Sounders' left side ineffective and practically non-existent in the first leg.
As you can see, Yedlin's heat map from Sunday tells an extremely different story from the match back in September. Yedlin completed 80%(45/56) of his passes in September's game compared to just 46%(14/30) of his passes on Sunday. According to the OPTA Chalkboard, Yedlin had 18 attemped or completed passes in the Dallas half in September's match compared to just six on Sunday and Yedlin had just one attempted pass in the FCD final third in the entire match. The stats on Neagle are very similar and it says enough that he was subbed out in the 65th minute.
The numbers are even more impressive when you look at Yedlin's previous matches before Sunday's playoff game.
OPTA Chalkboards of Yedlin's last five matches vs LA, at LA, at COL, vs CHV, at FCD show that Sunday was by far the lowest completed passes he's had in quite some time, his lowest percentage of completed passes and by far his most conservative heat map of the previous month showing FCD did a fantastic job of both keeping him pinned in his own half and limiting his crosses.
The flip side to all of this is, of course, the fact that Seattle seemed pretty content to sit back for most of the game. Much more than they typically do on the road, a team that by far led MLS in road goals scored this season.
It'll be a huge task to do it again in Seattle, but Dallas certainly was able to do it in their own house.
Hear from Tesho, Loyd & Pareja on Sunday's big showdown with Seattle in FCDTV's Quick Kicks:
Scott and Daniel break down the first leg of FC Dallas' Western Conference Semifinal series against Seattle Sounders FC.
On Wednesday night, FC Dallas clinched their spot in the MLS Western Conference Semifinals with a 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the wild card round match and with that brings a new playoff format.
Those of you who are UEFA Champions League die-hards will know exactly what a "two-legged aggregate" playoff means, but for those of who you follow FC Dallas either casually or fanatically, we're here to explain the ins and outs of the system.
Two games, one winner
Over the next week and a half, FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders FC will play twice, at Toyota Stadium on Sunday, November 2nd at 8:00PM and at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Monday, November 10th at 9:30PM. The two games will be normal 90-minute MLS matches, but it's the combined score of the two matches that will determine who moves on to the Western Conference Finals. Let's go through a few scenarios:
FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-0 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 1-0. FCD would advance to the conference finals because the combined, aggregate score is 2-1 FC Dallas.
FC Dallas and Seattle Sounders FC draw 0-0 in the "first leg" in Frisco and Seattle wins 2-0 in the "second leg." Seattle would advance to the conference finals with a 2-0 aggregate win.
That make sense? Well let's talk about ties.
Should FC Dallas and Seattle be tied in aggregate score after the games in Frisco and Seattle, one of two things will happen.
First off, let's talk about "away goals." Again, those of you who watch the UEFA Champions League are familiar with this rule and basically it means if the game is tied after 180 minutes, two games, whoever scored the most goals in the other team's house will advance to the conference finals. Again, let's go through a couple scenarios:
FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-1 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 1-0. Despite being tied 2-2 on aggregate, Seattle would advance to the conference finals because they have one "away goal" to FCD's zero.
FC Dallas and Seattle draw 1-1 in the "first leg" in Frisco and draw 2-2 in the "second leg" in Seattle. Despite being tied 3-3 on aggregate, FC Dallas would advance to the conference finals because they will have two "away goals" to Seattle's one.
Extra time and shootout
If the teams are tied after both games and also tied on away goals, the match will go to 30 minutes of extra time and if it is still tied, we will go to penalty kicks. You saw both of those scenarios in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal against Philadelphia Union earlier this year. Away goals is not in effect once you get to overtime. Basically, if both games finish with the same score, we're going to overtime.
Again, let's go through scenarios:
FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 2-1 and Seattle wins the "second leg" in Seattle 2-1. The teams would go to 30 minutes of extra time after the second game in Seattle as the teams are tied on score and away goals. If neither team scores in overtime, it goes to penalty kicks.
FC Dallas wins the "first leg" in Frisco 3-1 and loses the "second leg" in Seattle 2-0. The Sounders would advance despite being tied 3-3 on aggregate as they lead 1-0 on away goals.
Does that all make sense? Score more goals than the other team over two games, you win. Score the same amount of goals and more goals in the other team's house, you win.
FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have played three hard-fought games in 2014 and they’re going to go at it one more time on Wednesday night in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoff curtain-raiser, a do-or-die wild card round matchup. Let’s take a look back at the three matches they’ve played this season:
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, FC Dallas 2 – Sunday, July 27th BC Place
Raul in Vancouver
Goals from Michel and Blas Perez saw FC Dallas take a 2-1 lead into the halftime break, but a controversial second half PK from Pedro Morales earned a point for the Whitecaps.
This match will be remembered, however, for some heroics from goalkeeper Raul “Superman” Fernandez. The Peruvian made seven acrobatic saves denying Morales who had an incredible 12 shots on goal.
FC Dallas 2, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1 – Saturday, September 13th Toyota Stadium
FCD 2, VAN 1
Oscar Pareja’s side extended the Whitecaps hoodoo in Frisco as two goals from Blas Perez sent Vancouver’s all-time record at Toyota Stadium to 0-5-0 with a 2-1 win for FCD.
Perez’s first goal was a spectacular, if perhaps accidental, effort from nearly the corner flag. His cross/shot looped over the head of goalkeeper David Ousted and straight into the goal sending the Budweiser Beer Garden into raptures.
Perez won it late for FC Dallas, hammering home a rebound in the 78th minute to earn all three points for FC Dallas, a huge home win that proved vital later in the season.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, FC Dallas 0 – Saturday, October 4th BC Place
VAN 2, FCD 0
The Whitecaps earned their second-ever win over FC Dallas with a comprehensive 2-0 home win earlier this month. A five-minute double from Sebastian Fernandez in the first half was all the offense Vancouver needed as the Whitecaps were able to sit on the 2-0 lead for pretty much the entire match.
Despite having 24 crosses to Vancouver’s 5 and earning more shots, corners and possession, FCD was unable to seriously test Ousted in goal in this match.
A hard-fought match that saw 31 fouls committed, coaches from both sides were seen getting into a bit of a tiff at the final whistle adding a little extra spice to what should be an incredible match on Wednesday night at Toyota Stadium.
Here's your Keys to the Match pres. by Toyota for Saturday's regular season finale vs Portland:
Saturday's win at Colorado coupled with Real Salt Lake's draw at Portland has made the playoff picture pretty clear for FC Dallas with one week left to go in the season. Let's talk about it:
FC Dallas will finish third in the Western Conference if:
-Real Salt Lake loses or draws against Chivas USA on Wednesday night
-FC Dallas defeats Portland Timbers FC on Saturday night
If FC Dallas finishes third, our Western Conference semifinal playoff schedule will be:
WC Semifinal 1st leg - LA Galaxy/Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas - Saturday, November 1 or Sunday, November 2 Toyota Stadium
WC Semifinal 2nd leg - FC Dallas at LA Galaxy - 8:00PM - Sunday, November 9 StubHub Center
2nd leg - FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC - 9:30PM Monday, November 10 CenturyLink Field
FC Dallas will finish fourth in the Western Conference if:
-Real Salt Lake defeats Chivas USA on Wednesday night
-FC Dallas draws or loses to Portland Timbers FC on Saturday night
If FC Dallas finishes fourth, our Western Conference playoff schedule will be:
Wild Card Round - Vancouver Whitecaps/Portland Timbers at FC Dallas - 7:30PM Wednesday, October 29 Toyota Stadium
If FCD wins the Wild Card Round, our WC Semifinal schedule would be:
WC Semifinal 1st leg - LA Galaxy/Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas - Saturday, November 1 or Sunday, November 2nd
WC Semifinal 2nd leg - FC Dallas at LA Galaxy - 8:00PM - Sunday, November 9 Toyota Stadium
WC Semifinal 2nd leg - FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC - 9:30PM Monday, November 10 CenturyLink Field
For those not familiar with the MLS Cup playoff format, the top five teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Fourth place hosts fifth place in a one-game wild card playoff with the winner playing the top seed in a two-leg semifinal while second will play third also in a two-leg playoff. The two-leg playoff rounds will feature home games at both stadiums and whoever has the highest combined score will advance. The lower seed will host the first game while the higher seed will host the second match.
The winners of the semifinals will play each other in a two-leg conference final and the winners of the conference finals will play in the one-game MLS Cup played at the home of the remaining team with the most points earned in the regular season.