Back! Once again! Again and Again! Two thousaaaaand and sixteeennnnah!
Alright. Settle down rabbi. You're just reviewing the MLS Western Conference for a goofy soccer blog, not dropping your sixth platinum album. Man, I wish I could rap. But I digress.
So we're gonna do the same thing, same format as last year: a little bit of who went where, and when; a little predicting. Mostly, it's exciting to get back to soccer, even though most Rapids fans are expected a 2016 where we serve as the league's roadkill, short a miraculous and unexpected signing going through soon.
We'll go alphabetically through each team, skipping the Rapids till the end.
18-6-10 (W-D-L), 60 points, 1st place in WC, MLS Cup Semi-finalists
2015 Goals For:
52 goals, 5th in MLS
2015 Goals Against:
39, tied for 3rd in MLS
2015 Key Statistic:
2013- Games Started: 5, Minutes: 423, Goals: 3, Assists: 2
2014- Games Started: 9, Minutes: 917, Goals: 3, Assists: 3
2015- Games Started: 24, Minutes: 1992, Goals: 8, Assists: 10
Maxi Urruti, Carlos Gruezo, Maynor Figueroa
Blas Perez, Dan Kennedy
What they have going for them:
FC was maybe one clunky half away from the MLS Cup Final. They couldn't defensively contain the Portland Timbers in the first leg of their playoff, and although they outplayed Portland in Dallas, didn't have enough to make the final. But this is a team that was excellent in 2015, missing the Supporters Shield only on goal differential. They've got a young, ridiculously talented Fabian Castillo on attack. They have a mind-bending 24 year-old playmaker in Mauro Diaz who, as you see by the numbers above, could be a league MVP if he can stay healthy enough for 30+ games. They have seven Homegrown players on their roster, giving them a ton of cap space. They got an excellent GK in the dispersal draft last year in Dan Kennedy, but didn't even need him because
Juan Jesse Gonzalez emerged as the talented number 1. Matt Hedges returns on defense.
Picking up Maxi Urruti should help them in late-game situations. Michael Barrios emerged last year as a threat on the right side in the attack. Hell, they had the rookie of the year in 2014 with Tesho Akindele, and barely even needed him last year, and they still killed the league. Just recently they picked up young Ecuadorean midfielder Carlos Gruezo, who is listed as a defensive mid. He can slot in next to Victor Ulloa, another talented d-mid, if Dallas want to play a 4-2-3-1. That would complete a midfield that, yikes, would be almost certainly the best in MLS. This team is ridiculously, stupidly good.
Uh, nothing? They lost Blas Perez, who is a pest to play against and forces teams to adjust around him, especially his size. On the other hand, he was slow and a defensive liability for much of 2015. His departure might be addition by subtraction.
Walker Zimmerman was resigned to play on the defense after a contract renegotiation*, but he might still be replaced by the acquisition of Maynor Figueroa, who looked pretty good playing for our Colorado Rapids from August onward. Still, their defense might not be as tight as last year. It might also be possible that if either of their two young homegrown defenders Aaron Guillen and Moises Hernandez step up, this team might unstoppable.
The only other thing that could stop this team is the sale of Fabian Castillo, of which there have been rumblings for a while. If he starts hot April through July, he could command an eight-figure transfer fee during the summer transfer window. Which would be great for MLS and FC Dallas in the long run, but in the immediate term, it might torpedo their 2016 season.
MLS Cup Final. Anything less is disappointment.
* An earlier version of this article stated that Zimmerman had been let go. He was resigned between the time the article was written and when it was published. My bad.