FRISCO, Texas - We're just days away from FC Dallas kicking off its 2020 MLS season against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at 5 PM at Toyota Stadium. Before the season gets underway, fcdallas.com writers Michael Ramirez and Garrett Melcer take a look at some of the top FC Dallas story lines for this year.
Health Status to Start the Season (MR)
FC Dallas will be without a few key players to start the 2020 season. The injury bug struck the team in the middle of preseason play on top of others dealing with nagging issues. The biggest injury storyline heading into 2020 preseason was the status of midfielder Paxton Pomykal. FCD’s 15th Homegrown was in the recovery process of an offseason surgery to repair a hernia injury. He was called into January Camp for the U.S. Men’s National Team but had to leave early to continue rehabilitation. He didn’t feature in any preseason matches, and it is yet to be seen how much involvement he’ll have to start the 2020 regular season. Pomykal was one of FC Dallas’ most important and talented players last year, and he’ll once again be an important figure as the team pushes for silverware in 2020.
During the preseason match against LAFC, Brandon Servania was forced off with a knee injury during the second, 30-minute period. After the match, it was announced that he would miss multiple weeks with a mild knee sprain, eliminating a consistent starter in 2019 from contention to make the Starting XI against Philadelphia and the short-term future.
The latest news on the injury front came before the preseason match against Austin Bold FC, midfielder Bryan Acosta was ruled out due to sickness. It was later revealed that he had to undergo surgery for appendicitis — he will be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Acosta’s injury brings the total up to three different starters from last season’s XI. Their injuries, though, will provide opportunities for other players to step up in their absence such as Edwin Cerrillo, Thiago Santos and perhaps even Johnny Nelson, depending on how Luchi Gonzalez wants to line up.
Will Kobra Strike Again? (MR)
Zdenek Ondrasek’s goal-scoring tear was one of the main storylines at the end of the 2019 season — in which he scored seven goals in the final eight games. He scored a late-game winner for the Czech Republic National Team against England in European Championship Qualifiers to put the cherry on top of a stellar finish to the year.
But the lingering question surrounding the team before and during preseason is how many goals can Kobra score in an entire season, and how consistent can he be? The good news for FC Dallas fans is he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so. New pre-contract signing, Franco Jara of Pachuca, won’t arrive until July, so FC Dallas will rely on Kobra until then to finish the majority of the chances it creates until then.
Who’s the Next FCD Breakout Star? (MR)
I’m going outside-the-box on this one. I think Tanner Tessmann is this year's breakout star. If not, I’ll go with either Thomas Roberts or Bryan Reynolds. Both have the potential to be quality starters in MLS, but it all depends on how many opportunities they will get this season.
I think Ferreira and Pomykal both had 2019's that are considered breakouts for me, so I'm going to exclude them from the list. If Tessmann can get consistent minutes, he's got a great shot at making some noise in MLS this year.
International Call-Ups (MR)
FC Dallas will be in multiple situations this season where it will be without key players for certain stretches. The Summer Olympic Games are this year, and a number of FCD players will be in the mix on that roster. The likes of Paxton Pomykal, Thomas Roberts, Jesus Ferreira, Reggie Cannon, Edwin Cerrillo and Brandon Servania will be in the mix for selection.
The U.S. Men’s National Team also has two matches in late March, which will surely mean the team will be without at least Cannon and perhaps Pomykal, Servania or Ferreira as well.
The European Championships this summer will also affect FC Dallas if the Czech Republic select Zdenek Ondrasek for the tournament — which will begin in June and run through part of July.
The good thing about the roster this season, is that it is deep at almost every position. Depth will surely be tested.
Left Wing Battle (GM)
Another storyline to keep an eye on is the battle for the starting left wing position. Last year, a combination of Santiago Mosquera and Dominique Badji filled the role for much of the season. Although Badji departed for expansion side Nashville SC, Mosquera still faces a tough fight for the starting spot with the addition of Fafa Picault from Philadelphia. Mosquera and Picault have split time so far this preseason, and it remains to be seen which one be first-choice to start the season. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, it’s up to them to distinguish themselves over the first few games of the season to see which one nails down the starting spot for the rest of the year.
Thiago Santos (GM)
New signing Thiago Santos promises to be a key piece of Luchi Gonzalez’s midfield in 2020. After the sale of Carlos Gruezo to German side Augsburg last summer, FCD was without a true defensive midfielder. Enter Thiago Santos. The Brazilian is a dogged and physical midfielder who will be tasked with protecting Dallas’ backline and distributing possession to Jesus Ferreira and the more offensive midfielders ahead of him. Recently, MLSsoccer.com listed Santos in the top five midfielders in the league, and if that proves to be true, expect Dallas to be a very difficult team to breakdown.
Formation Fluidity (GM)
This preseason has seen Dallas experiment with a new formation, the 3-5-2. Although it’s not as polished as Gonzalez’s go-to 4-3-3 setup yet, the new formation gives FCD added tactical flexibility if plan A isn’t working. Plus, it allows fullbacks Reggie Cannon and Ryan Hollingshead to get forward more frequently and contribute in the offensive third of the field, something we saw them do to great effect at times last year. Having an extra formation in their arsenal could prove crucial for Dallas over the 34-game season.
Franco Jara’s Arrival (GM)
One of the biggest storylines for 2020 is undoubtedly the impending arrival of Argentine striker Franco Jara in the summer. Having signed a pre-contract with FCD last month, Jara will arrive on July 1 once his current deal with Pachuca of Liga MX expires. The Argentine has been one of the most prolific forwards in Mexico over the last few years, and his arrival will be crucial to Dallas’ playoff hopes. Jara will challenge Zdenek Ondrasek for the starting role up top, and between them FCD should have more than enough firepower to earn a home playoff game.