Featured Image: February 2018 FC Dallas practice, Suad Bejtovic Photography
As of early February, FC Dallas has been practicing for several weeks, but already the Oscar Pareja-coached team has made great progress in preparation for the start of its run in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) International tournament which begins in late February.
First remark is about the optimism that the boys have brought to the camp and the enthusiasm they have been working with,” Pareja said. “That just makes us feel that we’re starting with the right foot. Now it’s just a matter of time before we put all the pieces together. Now we’re working towards that.”
Dallas, who missed the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs by a single point, being eliminated on the final day of the regular season, has plenty to play for in 2018.
Not only is FCD hoping to return to the CCL semifinals after a near-miss in 2017 where they took eventual tournament champion CF Pachuca of Mexico (who won their fifth title) the distance in the semis before losing by a single goal, 4-3, in aggregate scoring over the two-leg series, but they’re also looking to re-establish themselves as a championship contender in Major League Soccer (MLS).
The disappointment of both near-misses in 2017, including missing the league playoffs for the first time under Pareja, who was hired in 2014, gives Dallas, winners of the 2016 MLS Supporters’ Shield as the team with the best regular-season record, provided plenty of teachable moments for Pareja, both during the offseason and so far in preseason.
Yeah, we do it every year. Despite winning the titles we did or being out of the playoffs last year, every season is a learning process for all of us,” Pareja said. “We try to extract the best of what we did, or we see what things we can do better. This time that hasn’t changed.”
(Last year) we were just one point away from being in the playoffs and once you’re in the playoffs, you never know (what can happen). I think it’s just keeping the right frame of mind and seeing that this team has been succeeding the last four years, and keeping that mentality all the time.”
Any team which falls short of its major goals like FCD did last season, the ensuing offseason is bound to include plenty of personnel changes.
And this winter has included plenty of comings and goings in the Dallas locker room. Among the most notable additions are top draft picks Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi, who both hail from the African nation of Ghana, and veteran defenders Anton Nedyalkov, who is from Bulgaria, and Reto Ziegler of Switzerland.
Pareja has been coaching long enough to realize the process of jelling the new players with those returning is one that takes time, but the affable FCD coach likes the progress he’s seen from his club in that area so far this preseason.
The professionalism that I see from the new ones, that’s good news for us,” Pareja said. “I think they’re going to give us more hierarchy and just raise the bar on the demands of what we need to do on and off the field.”
Another change for FCD in 2018 is that they will be wearing new jerseys for their home games at Toyota Stadium, the first of which comes March 3 against Real Salt Lake.
In 2017, Dallas sported a new blue road jersey which featured stars in the spirit of the iconic state song, “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
And with the new home jersey, FCD went with a similar vibe, designing a red, white and blue look which resembles the Texas flag where the sleeves are a dark blue with the Texas star appearing on one sleeve.
These new home uniforms were a frequent topic for Dallas fans, especially after they were unveiled inside the FCD Team Store at the stadium on Friday, February 2nd.
Ziegler was one of two players modeling the new kits and the Swiss international liked what he was wearing for the first time, even if it was a size too big.
It’s beautiful, nice colors. This is a large. I will take a medium one, it’s a bit too big for me, but no, it looks really nice and I look forward to playing in it,” Ziegler said.
With plenty to play for, one of the most talented rosters in Major League Soccer and brand-new home uniforms, things are coming together nicely for FC Dallas so far in 2018.
Where will this year lead? We’ll all have to wait and see, but it should be an incredible ride.