The countdown has reached single digits! Saturday will be here before you know it as FC Dallas begins their 2016 Supporters' Shield title defense in the MLS home opener at the Los Angeles Galaxy. There's so much going on, you could have missed plenty this off-season so here are ten things to know ahead of Saturday's regular season opener.
1. First-place finish? FCD hasn't stood pat.
After finishing at the top of the MLS standings in 2016, it could be understood if FC Dallas rested on their laurels and brought back about the same roster, but that hasn't been the case. The 2017 roster features no less than ten new players including internationals(Anibal Chala, Carlos Cermeno & Cristian Colman), Homegrowns(Reggie Cannon & Jesus Ferreira) and hardened veterans(Hernan Grana & Javier Morales).
2. Fighting on all fronts
For the first time, FC Dallas has advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage meaning the early-season matches will have FCD fighting on two fronts. Having defeated Arabe Unido 4-0 in the quarterfinal first leg, FCD is just one step away from qualifying for the semifinals which would see them battle either Pachuca or Saprissa in mid-March and early April. If FC Dallas advances to the CCL final, Oscar Pareja's side could play a stunning 13 games before the end of April.
3. Meet FCD's #9
For years, fans have been clamoring for FC Dallas to add a #9-style forward. While players like Maxi Urruti, David Texeira and others have done very well in their roles, Dallas finally added a more target forward-style player in Cristian Colman signed for a reported $2 million. Colman showed exactly what he has to offer with his one-touch finish on the first goal against Arabe Unido on Thursday night and he looks to be a perfect complement to Urruti's never-stop-running style.
4. Doubling down on youth
It's hard to believe, but FC Dallas got even younger this offseason. The additions of teenage Homegrowns Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira and Bryan Reynolds see FC Dallas have the youngest average age in the league this year and it's just a matter of time before one of those Homegrowns as well as Paxton Pomykal breaks through.
5. A new Toyota Stadium
You got a little taste of it at the CONCACAF Champions League match, but the finishing touches are being put on major changes to the Toyota Stadium experience. The new HD video boards and audio system are already in, but what you haven't seen yet is an all-new west side stadium club with major renovations. The suite level is also updated on both the north and south ends.
6. Watching history rise
Through the off-season we've been hard at work on the National Soccer Hall of Fame renovations coming to the south end of Toyota Stadium in 2018, and throughout this season it's going to be fun watching the structure rise. Much of the work so far has been done underground, but the actual structure is getting closer and closer to beginning to rise.
7. New teams, new stadiums!
2017 sees two new teams arrive in MLS as Minnesota United and Atlanta United start their maiden voyages in our amazing league. It won't take long for FCD to face one of them as Minnesota United comes to town on Saturday, April 8th. However, mark your calendars for September as FC Dallas will travel to both league debutants as well as the brand new Orlando City Stadium in a four-week span. Plan yourself a road trip to one of those new venues as every time a new team enters the league it's a further sign of the stability and growth of soccer in the United States.
8. Toyota Stadium is still a really, really tough place for opponents to play
Over the last three seasons, FC Dallas is a staggering 37-7-7 at Toyota Stadium including an over 365-day unbeaten stretch through 2015 and 2016. When you come to Toyota Stadium, be ready to cheer as loud as you can because away wins don't come easy and those home points are what has led FCD to become the first team in MLS history to score 60 points in two consecutive seasons. Those numbers don't even account for multiple Open Cup wins. Wow.
9. Enjoy watching Kellyn Acosta
It's truly amazing to think that this is going to be Kellyn Acosta's fifth professional season. Still just 21 years old, Acosta has 81 professional matches and as we saw against Arabe Unido, he just keeps growing and growing as a player. 2017 should be the year he makes a big impact with the national team, potentially at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and it's just a matter of time before we see him play in one of the big European leagues. That is not something to be sad about, rather something to be celebrated as he flies the flag for the FC Dallas Academy system. Sit back and enjoy watching one of the brightest young American talents ply his trade at Toyota Stadium this season.
10. No Diaz? No problem.
FC Dallas lost one of the MLS MVP front-runners at the end of 2016 as Mauro Diaz went down with a torn achilles and while his brilliance is tough to match, FC Dallas has proven they can find ways to win without the Argentine. Pareja's side have added an all-time MLS great in Javier Morales to fit that #10 role when needed and with new forward Cristian Colman, FCD can also transition into a 4-4-2 formation where that playmaker role is not needed(this formation allows Acosta to push up a little higher as well). Mauro will be welcomed back with plenty of fanfare later this summer, but for now FC Dallas will be just fine.