Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
In various parts of a roster there will be areas of concern and areas that show great strength. Having quality depth at any position is always a challenge for any Major League Soccer team.
Right now for FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman, there are two areas of his roster that have gone in opposite directions since the end of the 2011 season.
Last year one area of strength was at right wing while on the flip side the center back depth was a bit lacking.
Changes have taken place in the offseason and now those two areas are flipped. However, with change come new opportunities for players to step up.
Opportunities at right wing
Earlier this offseason, FC Dallas lost two players that played the majority of 2011 on the right flank. Jackson Goncalves was loaned out to Brazilian side Cruzeiro, while Marvin Chavez was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes.
Losing both created an instant hole for Hyndman.
But those two losses may open doors for others to step up and contribute big minutes in 2012.
Hyndman has four possible players to man the right wing.
Young and upcoming players like Fabian Castillo or Andrew Wiedeman have the inside track, while it isn’t too far fetched to think that even defenders like Zach Loyd or newcomer Carlos Rodriduez could contribute time on the wings this season.
Castillo has all the makings of becoming a starter at First Kick on March 11 against the New York Red Bulls. The 19-year old showed flashes of brilliance early last season on the wings. So far this pre-season he has already been used on the flank in against the Red Bulls during the team’s trip to Cancun, Mexico.
Wiedeman was brought in at the 2010 MLS SuperDraft as a forward but has seen a decent amount of his playing time with the club in the reserve league on the wings and in defense.
The 22-year old has the tools to be a very good player at this position due to his ability to play all over the pitch. He can track back to help on defense and also be able to push the envelope offensively.
Both Loyd and Rodriquez are wild cards in the mix for this position. Both could start on the right side – one in defense and one in the midfield – and spend time overlapping one another during the game. This would provide the defensive cover and yet also allow either one of them to get forward to contribute the way Hyndman likes them to.
Deep at center back
In 2011, the center back positions were all down to the health of Ugo Ihemelu and George John. Both players missed a couple games early on to start the season and John went on to miss a couple of games in the summer due to a potential transfer with English side Blackburn.
While both players combined for many starts the depth behind them wasn’t nearly as strong as Hyndman would have like it to be.
Fast forward to today to find Hyndman with a plethora of talent behind the incumbent starters.
Newcomers like Hernan Pertuz and rookie Matt Hedges will complete for a starting role this season.
The 22-year old Pertuz is a player that fits this team very well. His technique and soccer IQ are high thanks to a few years of starting at Independiente Medellin. During the club’s trip to Cancun, Mexico, Pertuz started alongside Ihemelu in the games against Altante and the New York Red Bulls.
Hedges has already had a strong preseason thus far. His side and distribution out of the back have brought some rave reviews from the coaching staff. While in Cancun, Hedges scored the club’s first goal of the trip against Playa Del Carmen.
Perez up front
Finally, if there is one spot that fans, managers and front office staffers always feel worried about is who is playing up top at striker. Newcomer Blas Perez appears to be the man tasked with carrying the club up front.
The 30-year old has already started a couple preseason games in Mexico. Between Perez, Castillo and young guys like Ruben Luna, Hyndman should have enough firepower up top this season.