By Demetrio Teniente
With Houston moving back into the western conference this season, FC Dallas will play the Dynamo three times in 2015, intensifying the tension and excitement of the Texas Derby pres. by Novo Nordisk. Two of those games will be right here at Toyota Stadium and the June 26 matchup, the first MLS visit from Houston in over two years, is our fourth Premier Match of 2015.
For those of you unfamiliar with the rivalry, you should know that the Texas Derby is kind of a big deal; just ask FC Dallas defender Stephen Keel and former FCD defender George John.
The winner of the series is crowned the best team in Texas and gets to take home a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon, affectionately named El Capitán. The games are full of passion, tension and controversy both on the field and in the stands.
Last season, FC Dallas swept Houston in the season series with two emphatic wins at BBVA Compass Stadium, winning 4-1 win in MLS play and 3-2 in overtime in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - keeping El Capitán in Frisco. FCD hasn’t lost to Houston since 2012, winning four times in a row in all competitions.
Not only will this be a great rivalry match in the middle of the season, but it’s also a chance to catch two of the most dynamic forwards in MLS go head-to-head in FC Dallas’ Blas Perez and Houston Dynamo’s Giles Barnes. Both Barnes and Perez finished the 2014 MLS season with 11 goals.
The Texas Derby is, hands down, FC Dallas’ biggest and most heated rivalry. And since this match is the second of three, it is quite possible that either team could secure the series title with a win (though we all know there's really only one team that will come into this one with a chance to clinch the cannon).
Let the 2015 preseason begin.
FC Dallas announced today that they will officially open 2015 preseason camp on Friday, January 23rd at 10:00 A.M. on AdvoCare Field 1 outside Toyota Stadium.
FCD will continue preseason training with two practices on Saturday, January 24th at 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. with their final practice of the weekend on Sunday at 10:00 A.M., all on AdvoCare Field 1.
FC Dallas will train in Frisco throughout the next week before heading to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL on February 1st where they will train for a week with games to be announced before returning back to Frisco.
Here is the full FC Dallas roster as we open 2015 preseason:
Defenders: Kellyn Acosta, Otis Earle, Matt Hedges*, Moises Hernandez, Stephen Keel, Zach Loyd, Will Seymore, Walker Zimmerman.
Midfielders: Kyle Bekker, Coy Craft, Mauro Diaz, Danny Garcia, Atiba Harris, Jaineil Hoilett, Ryan Hollingshead, Michel, Cobi Span, Victor Ulloa, Alejandro Zendejas**.
Forwards: Tesho Akindele*, Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, David Texeira.
**Currently with the U.S. U-17 National Team
***Currently with the Mexico U-20 National Team
NOTE: FC Dallas players and coaches are available for interviews,only as arranged through FC Dallas Communications,following the morning training sessions. Practices vary in length and times are subject to change. Media are encouraged to call FC Dallas Communications ahead of the scheduled times to confirm practice times and player / coach availability.
As you probably already know, FC Dallas captain Matt Hedges and reigning AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele are currently in training camp with the U.S. Men's National Team. Before heading to Santiago, Chile next week for the USMNT's first friendly of the year, the boys have been training in Carson, CA at the StubHub Center, home of the LA Galaxy.
Our friends at the Galaxy were kind enough to snap some training photos and send them our way this week. So we picked out EVERY photo featuring Matt or Tesho (whether they were the focus of the picture or not) to share with you. ENJOY!
Photo Credit: Hana Asano (Click on photo for larger version)
Headers with Matt!
Kicks with Tesho!
Tesho lurking in the background.
How many differences can you spot in this photo?
"Do blondes really have more fun?"
Tesho vs. Jermaine! Fourth of July preview, anyone?
Blurry Tesho photobomb!
FC Dallas added another major piece to the 2015 puzzle on Wednesday trading allocation money for Toronto FC midfielder Kyle Bekker. The Canadian has 29 appearances in two years in MLS as well as 13 apperances for the Canadian National Team including seven starts. His last appearance for Canada came in a 0-0 draw against Panama in late November.
So what kind of player is FC Dallas getting in Bekker? Well we definitely have some information to break down the 24-year-old's game.
There is certainly a lot of similarities to Victor Ulloa in Bekker's game. They're both two-way midfielders who have a little more defensive tint to their game than offensive, but they do a good job at retaining the ball and getting it to the dangermen. For an FC Dallas midfield that found itself thin as the season wore on last year, Bekker will provide another nice piece of depth that will not only contend for a starting spot on a weekly basis but push a player like Ulloa to be better as well.
Perhaps the best part of Bekker's season to evaluate is an eight-game stretch in early April to early June during which he started every game with Toronto going 4-3-1 in their best eight-game stretch of their beleagured 2014 campaign. In those eight games, Bekker was, according to Squawka, the highest rated player on the TFC roster earning the highest marks in possession as well as showing strongly defensively(see graphic below). It's a small sample size, for sure, but it certainly suggests that the Canadian is no slouch in the center of the park.
He found playing time difficult to find in the second half of the season as Toronto FC nose-dived to the finish winning just two of their last 13 games in a stretch that saw Ryan Nelsen replaced at manager by Greg Vanney. With a new coach and new ideas came the trade of a player that never quite seemed to fit into TFC's plans despite obvious talent.
According to Squawka, Bekker finished the season with a passing accuracy of 83% of which 79% were forward passes which compares to 85% passing accuracy of Victor Ulloa of which 80% were forward passes so those numbers obviously match up well also.
Just 24 years old and with two years of MLS under his belt, Bekker is a very low risk and high upside acquisition for FC Dallas that gives more depth in the midfield and another player that could flourish under the tutilage of head coach Oscar Pareja.
MLS Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele is now through a week of his first USMNT camp and some great media stories have come in about the FC Dallas forward who still remains ineligible to actually play in a game for the US and has a decision to make about his future.
Jon Arnold of Goal.com is in Carson at USMNT camp and filed this report on Tesho.
He feels like one of the guys off the pitch as well, though one of the biggest surprises came when he realized the intensity that can come with a national team camp.
"I think a lot of the guys, it’s just crazy the switch that gets flipped," he said. "Like, once training starts, guys get super intense and if you make a mistake everybody’s getting on you. But in the locker room, everybody’s joking around and having a good time."
Doug McIntyre of ESPNFC.com is also in California and writes that Tesho is getting a feel for life with the USMNT under Juergen Klinsmann.
"He's doing really well, Tesho," Klinsmann said. "The goal with players like him or Julio Morales (another young dual-national who is also in this camp) or others that came in before is that they may get a feeling for our environment. They may get a feeling for their teammates, how things are run with the U.S. program and then down the road they make their decision. Together with their family, they have to go the direction they feel most comfortable with. I think so far he's having a blast. He's doing fine, he's looking sharp."
We're just days away from the 2015 preseason getting started, but we've still got time for one final draft before we say goodbye to the offseason.
This afternoon at 1:00PM rounds three and four of the MLS SuperDraft take place via conference call and FC Dallas holds the 14th pick in each round.
Last season, FCD's third round Nick Walker, made the team after preseason and appeared on the matchday roster multiple times, so while any players selected in these rounds are relative long shots, there is certainly a chance FCD could find a hidden gem.
For a primer on today's supplemental draft including the 20 best players remaining, check out this article on MLSsoccer.com.
Last year, FC Dallas had a successful week of training in Bradenton and they'll be returning to the IMG Academy for a week in the 2015 preseason.
FC Dallas will be in Bradenton at IMG Academy from Sunday, February 1 to Sunday, February 8 along with DC United and Swedish sides Jonkopings Sodra IF and Malmo FF as part of IMG Academy's Season of Sun, Sand and Soccer.
Stay tuned for full FC Dallas preseason coverage and more announcements of preseason games as we march towards the start of the 2015 season!
The CONCACF U-20s are in full swing down in Jamaica and FC Dallas players have played a big part in the tournament as Mexico and the USA look to qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Let's take a look at how both of our FC Dallas professional players have done as well as a quick look at an Academy player making headlines.
Jesse Gonzalez and Mexico U-20s perfect through three games
It's been a fantastic tournament for Jesse Gonzalez and the Mexico U-20s who look set to cruise to one of the two automatic qualifying spots.
Mexico is a perfect 3-0-0 in the tournament with an astounding +13 goal differential. FC Dallas Homegrown goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez has played every minute of all three games in goal for Mexico allowing just one goal for El Tri.
The Mexican U-20s won their first match against Cuba by an astounding 9-1 scoreline, following that up with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Canada. In their third match of the tournament, Mexico impressively dispatched of Honduras by a 3-0 score to solidify their spot at the top of the group.
Judging by the highlights, Gonzalez hasn't had a ton of work in his two shutouts, though stiff tests await in El Salvador and a potential U-20 Championship game. Mexico can clinch the top spot in the group and a place in the 2015 U-20 World Cup with a win over El Salvador on Monday.
Up and down for Kellyn Acosta & USA U-20s
Team captain Kellyn Acosta and the US Soccer U-20s have had an up and down tournament so far in Jamaica going 1-1-1 and finding themselves in third place in the group with two matches left.
In their first match against Guatemala, the United States led 1-0 late in the match before FCD Academy player Andy Ruiz scored surely the goal of his life on a 20-yard volley to send the game to a 1-1 tie.
The next match was a crucial game against a very good Panama side that the United States surprisingly dropped 1-0 leaving them in a tough position near the bottom of the group.
USA bounced back with a huge 8-0 win over lowly Aruba that shot the US back up to third in the group standings. Kellyn Acosta started and played the first two matches for the US U-20s as captain.
The United States certainly has their work cut out for them in the next week with games against hosts Jamaica on Sunday and Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday. The US needs to finish at least third to qualify for the one-game knockout round with the winner advancing to the U-20 World Cup.
FCD Academy's Ruiz leads surprising Guatemala U-20s
RUIZ Golazo vs US
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the CONCACAF U-20s has been Guatemala and FCD Academy midfielder Andy Ruiz scored the goal everyone was talking about in the 1-1 draw against the United States.
Guatemala has followed that up with wins over Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica giving them a great shot to either win the group or finishing second.
Ruiz has played every minute of the three matches scoring the goal against the United States.
Guatemala has games against Aruba and group-leading Panama left with two wins securing them the top spot in the group and a berth in the 2015 U-20 World Cup.
By Demetrio Teniente
Our second Marquee Matchup of 2015 is Saturday March 28 vs. Seattle Sounders FC and do we really need to tell you why this match is going to be awesome?
Now, we know you haven't forgotten how FC Dallas and Seattle squared off five times last year, including an epic showdown in the Western Confernce semifinals where, thanks to the newly instituted away goals tie-breaker, Seattle advanced past FC Dallas to become the first Supporters' Shield winner to advance past the first round since 2011.
And we also know that revenge is sweet.
Kudos to Seattle for their accomplishments, but they spoiled FC Dallas' return to postseason play after a three-year hiatus, so Dallas will be looking for retribution when these two teams square off on March 28.
Also, the Sounders coming to town brings the opportunity to see two Texas products in former FC Dallas forward Kenny Cooper and USMNT super star Clint Dempsey as they battle against our guys in what is always a closely-fought duel.
Cooper logged a total of five seasons with FCD and is ranked seventh among active players with 72 career goals as well as second on the all-time FC Dallas scoring charts. Dempsey is the current captain of the U.S. National Team and is a seven-year veteran of the English Premier League. Last season he made 26 appearances for Sounders FC in his first full season back in MLS after signing mid-2013.
It will also be your only chance to catch Sounders FC at Toyota Stadium. With memories of last season's playoffs resonating on the pitch, there should be no shortage of excitement heading into this matchup.
By Demetrio Teniente
FCDTV: Meet Otis Earle
With the 15th pick in the 2015 MLS Super Draft, FC Dallas selected 22-year-old defender Otis Earle from UC Riverside. To help you get to know him a little better we found everything the internet says about him, so you wouldn't have to.
First things first- here is his UC Riverside bio. Coming into the draft, MLS believed Earle to be the best outside back available, here is their article detailing his rise from relative obscurity.
And the Riverside Press Enterprise ran a feature on Jan. 14 delving into Earle's path to the draft.
Top Drawer Soccer's Travis Clark had a great Q&A with Earle talking about his life growing up with a famous father and his move to America.
Finally, give a look to a great Fox Sports profile of Earle that will help you get to know him a little better before preseason starts next weekend!