2023 Season

Steve Davis: FC Dallas Hunting Additional Road Points in 2023

3.9 Steve article

FRISCO, Texas - Securing 53 points in the standings last year was commendable stuff for FC Dallas. High five, fellas, for a home game in the playoffs, for expedited progress and all the rest!

But it did create one tiny problem, albeit a good problem to have: How to improve on that impressive point total in 2023?

Without wading into the weeds of strategic approach, personnel choices or evolved tactics, the very short answer is this: find a few more points away from Toyota Stadium.

FC Dallas hits the road this week for the first time this season, the second campaign under their highly analytical Spanish manager Nico Estévez.

In his first year as an MLS head coach, Estévez helped restore FCD’s longtime rep as a high-performer at home. Only three other clubs (out of 28 last year in MLS) earned more points at home.  

MLS clubs have historically averaged 1.75 points at home; anything at or above 2.00 a game is pretty much gold in MLS. That’s where Dallas landed last year, so significant improvement would be a heavy lift. Digging up a few more points away from home, on the other hand, looks more doable.

Top 5 MLS points at home in 2022
T-1. Philadelphia 
3. Colorado
T-4. FC Dallas

Not that FCD was poor when traveling out of North Texas in 2023. But the 19 points earned was tied for 6th best among the 8 Western Conference playoff clubs. Not bad, but room for improvement.

More to the point, FCD was so frustratingly close to doing much better away from Toyota Stadium last year. The goal in 2022 was 20 points, and Dallas got achingly near to it. For instance, but for one mistake FCD was terrific in an early match at New England; no points earned in that one. Even more frustrating were points dropped from winning positions as FCD failed to hold late leads at Austin, at Houston, at Sporting Kansas City and – this one is especially relevant – at Vancouver. That particularly bitter pill was swallowed at BC Place in British Columbia, which is where Estévez and Co. will point the FCD jet this week.

Sure, those late leads in Austin and Kansas City were difficult to swallow. And that one in Houston was crazy, when Jesus Ferreira appeared to seal the deal in the 93rd minute – only to see Teenage Hadebe equalize in the 101st minute.

Maddening, to be sure. But the loss in Vancouver is the one that seems to irritate Estévez most.

Even without top goalkeeper Maarten Paes and dynamic winger Alan Velasco, FC Dallas was in control last May in Vancouver, creating almost all the dangerous chances. Things looked great – until things fell completely apart after 70 minutes. A defender mistake, then a goalkeeper error compounded by a poor tackle and “poof!” went the potential win.

A few days later when the FC Dallas broadcast crew asked about it, Estévez laughed and seemed bewildered, like he’d just been asked to explain thermodynamics. “I still don’t know how we lost!” 

It mostly boiled down to this: It was relatively early in the season, and a young team was still building and fortifying its stockpiles of know-how and confidence. When things started spinning out of control, FCD didn’t yet have the right stuff, the delicate blend of poise, determination and courageous self-assurance required to nurse a lead over the finish line.

That was almost 10 months ago, and a lot has happened since.  A trade for Sebastian Lletget supplied some valuable, additional veteran wile. Paul Arriola isn’t the new guy anymore; now he’s team captain, in a better position to lead. Collective maturity was gained in two tightly contested playoff matches. Ferreira has been to a World Cup and Paxton Pomykal is winning balls and driving the midfield like a player who probably would go to a World Cup if the team were selected today.

All of that is to say, FC Dallas still has to work hard and smart to create those opportunities for points on the road, but conditions are better now for holding any leads or draws.

Still, it’s tricky. Especially at BC Place. Estévez says it’s a different kind of venue for soccer (it’s a dome), and a building where the Whitecaps don’t even necessarily need to play well. If they’re close, the Whitecaps’ mentality and the home crowd often provide the final push.

"We have to understand, it's not only going to be about performance,” Estévez said this week. “It’s gonna be about the mentality to stay in the game the whole time, and get it done."



View the 2023 FC Dallas schedule.