FRISCO, Texas — The 2019 season has concluded for FC Dallas after suffering a first-round playoff defeat to the Seattle Sounders, 4-3, in overtime. FC Dallas had the youngest roster in MLS with a first-year head coach who gave the second-most amount of minutes to Homegrown players — only trailing Real Salt Lake.
The season had its ups and downs, but the highs were significant. The team was developing its own identity and style of play throughout the year — something that will only continue to improve moving forward.
To wrap up 2019, we caught up with different members of the media who cover FC Dallas — including Carlos Alvarado, the Spanish voice of FC Dallas, The Dallas Morning News's Jon Arnold, ProSoccerUSA's Arman Kafai, and FC Dallas broadcasters, Mark Followill and Steve Davis.
This Roundtable discussion will be split up into six parts — each one going over different topics. In the first five parts, the media graded the coaching staff, this season's Offensive MVP, chose their breakout player they didn't expect to see, and the 2019 Defensive MVP, and looked at who didn't live up to expectations this season. For our sixth and final part of our Media Roundtable, the media grades the 2019 season as a whole.
What is your overall grade for FC Dallas this season?
Alvarado: I give it a 'B", taking into account that FC Dallas is a low budget team. It was an acceptable season of which I have to mention the emergence of the academy youth.
Arnold: I think it's a solid B year. There are a lot of young players who will come back next season with a year under their belt. The system now is in place, and players understand better when to utilize certain elements and when not to ("Oh, I need to boot this long even though our principles say to pass out of the back whenever possible. It's not possible right now," or "I don't need to waste my energy pressing on this ball I'm not going to win in the 18th minute, I can catch my breath and go fight for the ball after the next pass"). It's setting up a big sophomore season for Luchi Gonzalez, though, because the goal now should be to have a much better regular season, go into the playoffs as a favorite and make noise in the single-elimination format.
Davis: Again, not sure how anyone could look at the season as anything other than a “success.” Playoff qualification was always a worthy target. Once that was nailed, Dallas was playing with “house money” so to speak, with anything further as a bonus. The team doubled down on its youth initiative in 2019, when starting 5 or 6 homegrown players occurred on the regular. That’s still quite rare in MLS. And in the end the experience gained through a late-season playoff chase and a nail-biter loss in Seattle will pay future dividends for all those young, locally and regionally raised academy products.
Kafai: B. The team grew in developing players and faced plenty of challenges from international call-ups to injuries. Making the playoffs is huge for a first-time head coach that played players as young as 16 on a consistent basis and should be marked as a success. The sale of Carlos Gruezo should also be considered a success as well, especially for the model that FC Dallas prides itself on. However, there have been moments of learning for Luchi and the team, such as difficulties on the road and deviating from the game plan at hand. It was a good season for the team that was supposed to be in 'rebuild' mode for 2019. Now it's time to build on that and compete for a higher seed in 2020.
Followill: I give the team a B. It was an above-average season in terms of reaching the playoffs with the youngest team in the league. I do think they could have been better on the road, they dropped some points late in a couple of matches and had a couple of subpar performances late in the season when they had a chance to improve their playoff positioning as opposed to barely getting in. The margins are small in professional sports. A few better moments here and there throughout the season or even in the playoff game with Seattle could have made a difference. All in all though the season was a positive building block for Luchi and the young players. With the right moves to supplement the core of the group, there is definitely reason for optimism.