FRISCO, Texas — The 2020 MLS Regular Season is almost upon us, and FC Dallas will be looking to continue to build on a promising 2019 campaign.
Note: We are not including 2020 SuperDraft picks, as they do not currently have contracts with the club. We are also not including new signing Franco Jara, as he will not join the team until July 1, 2020.
MR: It took a while to find the right combinations at the top of the formation and in the midfield, but once Gonzalez found the group who flourished, it was Zdenek Ondrasek leading the way at striker. He didn’t find his form until late in the season, scoring seven goals in the last eight matches of 2019. When he got going, he, frankly, sent the FC Dallas community on fire both domestically and internationally — he scored against England for the Czech Republic during European Championship Qualifiers. Behind Ondrasek, sits Homegrown prodigy Ricardo Pepi, who had a tremendous start to the USL League One season with North Texas SC — which earned him a contract with FC Dallas. Pepi still has a ways to go in terms of production, and he’s seen as the future striker for the club within the next few years.
MR: FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez wanted a winger that could stretch the defense and run in behind full backs, so he traded with the Philadelphia Union for Fafá Picault. In three seasons with the Union, Picault appeared in 89 matches, scoring 21 goals with 12 assists. He’s a player that can both get forward and also track back in defense, so it looks like he will fit into Luchi’s system well. Picault’s stats suffered during his last year with the Union because he played out of position, and his game time shrunk as the season went on. He’ll look to bounce back in a big way this season in Dallas. Behind him is incumbent Santiago Mosquera, who struggled to find form in 2019 after coming back from injury in the summer. He played behind Dominique Badji at left wing for most of the season, making 23 appearances in which he only had three goals and two assists. If he can beat out Picault for the starting spot on the left side of the attack, it will mean because he’s playing that well in training.
MR: The right-wing position has been locked down by Michael Barrios since his arrival in 2015, and that’s not going to change thisseason, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Barrios has enjoyed a great career at FC Dallas, and he had his best individual season in 2019 as well. He appeared in 32 matches, scoring five goals and assisting on 15 others from the right side of the attack. His speed and quickness gives defenders headaches, and that shouldn’t change in 2020. After returning from his loan at Austin FC, Francis Atuahene is expected to be the back-up to Barrios in 2020. He scored his first career goal last season against the San Jose Earthquakes before being sent to Austin, and he’ll look to contribute more this year with FC Dallas. He should get a nice run of games during the early round of the U.S. Open Cup. Behind those two will be Dante Sealy, the club’s 25th Homegrown, who has yet to make his MLS debut and played for North Texas SC last season. Sealy could possibly be sent out on loan, if not playing games for North Texas again this year.
GM: Jesus Ferreira alternated between attacking midfield and forward last season but became the first choice No. 10 ahead of Paxton Pomykal towards the end of the year. The 19-year-old showed he’s capable of carrying the ball from his own half and orchestrating attacks so expect to see him be the starter at the tip of the midfield come February. Pomykal experienced injury problems towards the end of last season and recently had to leave the USMNT winter camp, so his fitness (and place in the starting XI) will have to be reassessed after preseason. Thomas Roberts will likely be third choice at attacking mid and may split time with FCD and North Texas SC much like last season.
GM: This position will likely see a lot of rotation but expect to see Bryan Acosta as first-choice ahead of Brandon Servania to start the year. Acosta was moved around the midfield spots last year but the addition of Thiago Santos should allow him to resume his favored box-to-box role. Servania was among Dallas’ top performers after breaking into the team midway through 2019. He might not be a starter but he’ll definitely see a lot of playing time regardless.
GM: With nearly a full preseason under his belt, newcomer Thiago Santos will almost definitely be the starting holding midfielder to begin 2020. The veteran was routinely among the best tacklers in Brazil’s top flight and was brought in to anchor Dallas’ midfield and protect the back four. Homegrown teenager Edwin Cerrillo will still see game time but faces an uphill task to beat out Santos for the starting role.
MR: Outside of perhaps the midfield, the left back spot is possibly the most talented on the team, in my opinion. Ryan Hollingshead played all over the field in 2019, but the left back spot is his no questions asked. He enjoyed the best season of his career, and he’s still in his prime. He was arguably the league’s best left-back in 2019, and he’ll look to exceed that in 2020. He scored six goals, which was good enough for the fourth-most on the team. Hollingshead is a staple in the FC Dallas Starting XI. Behind him, is Johnny Nelson, who will be entering his second year after enjoying a promising start to the 2019 season with FC Dallas. He showed his talent and potential before suffering a string of injuries that kept him out for a while. He managed to work his way back to the FC Dallas gameday roster sheet after appearing in matches with North Texas SC along the way. 2020 will be his opportunity to show that he deserves to get more game time, and by the way he played last year, that could very well be on the cards.
MR: Forming one of the underrated center back partnerships in MLS last season with Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler became a staple along the FC Dallas back line. The club’s captain helped FCD maintain 13 clean sheets in 2019, and he’ll look to build on that along with the rest of his teammates. He’s been the club’s go-to guy on penalties, scoring five of them last season — which was good enoughfor the fifth-most on the team. Behind him, is Callum Montgomery, who will enter his second season with the club after playing primarily for North Texas SC last year. He has the chance to get some more playing time this year with FC Dallas, but he could once again feature mostly for NTSC. Only time will tell how his progress looks for Luchi.
GM: Matt Hedges put in another All-Star worthy season last year and there’s no doubt he’ll still be part of Luchi’s first-choice center back pairing. Brazilian Bressan looked solid at both center back and right back last year, but he’ll likely still be the first back-up behind Hedges and Reto Ziegler.
GM: Right back looks to be the deepest position in the FCD squad. There’s little doubt that two-year starter Reggie Cannon will once again be first choice. But after him it’s a bit of a wash. Bryan Reynolds showed a lot of promise in his 10 MLS cameos last year and was also a standout performer for North Texas SC in USL. Ema Twumasi, who was on loan to Austin Bold last year, has found his long-term position as a right back and will also be in contention to be Cannon’s first back up. New Homegrown Eddie Munjoma had an incredible final season at SMU and will be in the mix for game time at right back.
GM: The goalkeeper pecking order is pretty straightforward. First choice Jesse Gonzalez enjoyed his best campaign in 2019 was rewarded with a new long-term contract. Jimmy Maurer has showed he’s among the very best back-up goalkeeper in MLS and could probably be a starter elsewhere in the league. Kyle Zobeck was a rock during North Texas SC’s title triumph and – while he won’t see much game time – he’s a worthy third-choice keeper to push Gonzalez and Maurer in training.