FRISCO - As FC Dallas turns the final corner and heads for home on the 2018 season, what are the looming questions left down the final stretch?
Here are just a few:
5. GOING THE DISTANCE
It's been the Reggie Cannon show for Dallas this season. From relatively unknown rookie to among the most respected right backs in MLS in the span of six months, Cannon has been perhaps the biggest individual storyline in 2018. Many players have left their impact in different ways, but the Homegrown has done something that no one else has this season: starting in every single match in every competition. Can he close it out with seven more?
No FCD player has started every single MLS game since 2010 when David Ferreira started all 30 games. Ferreira and Dave van den Bergh both accomplished that same feat the year prior in 2009. Only Kevin Hartman (33 of 34 in 2011), Matt Hedges (32 of 34 in 2013 and 2014) and Victor Ulloa (33 of 34 in 2015) have come close since.
4. FOR BETTER OR WORSE
Did FCD's slew of summer moves make them better or hamper them when it matters most? There's no way to know the absolute answer, but just how far this team makes it into the Fall will go a long way to giving a clue. There were big additions like Dominique Badji, Marquinhos Pedroso, Pablo Aránguiz and Abel Aguilar, but the club also saw Kellyn Acosta, Anton Nedyalkov and Mauro Diaz leave mid-season for one reason or another.
So far, most seem to be positive moves forward for the team, but in the high-stakes situations, will the chemistry be there?
3. BEST XI
Competition has been the name of the game in 2018. Oscar Pareja has loved the in-training battles for every position on the field, from Jesse Gonzalez or Jimmy Maurer in goal to Badji or Maxi Urruti up front and even who of Roland Lamah, Santiago Mosquera and Michael Barrios starts on the wings?
It's important to have options, but come playoff time it's also crucial that some form of a tiered depth chart takes shape. You might only get one chance to advance or go home. If the playoffs started tomorrow, do you have a clear-cut Starting XI? From there the depth pays dividends on the bench as a match or series evolves, but you need to put your best foot forward from minute one.
2. OFFENSIVE OUTPUT
Can the Dallas attack sustain their last two matches? It appears that the front four of Badji, Urruti, Mosquera and Barrios might be staking their claim on the starting roles in their respective positions, but only as long as the goals keep coming.
1. WHERE DOES FCD FINISH?
At the end of the day, all that matters is where you're left at the end of the season and on Dec. 8. The eight-month marathon can come down to a single game to decide if a team is in or a team is out, whether it's home-field advantage or road warrior, if a trophy is lifted or tears are shed.
Positioning at the end of the day on Oct. 28 can decide all of this and more.
The chaos is fun to watch, so let's all enjoy the rest of this ride.