22 February 2012

Disney preview: FC Dallas

The 2012 Disney Pro Soccer Classic starts on Friday, signaling the final countdown to the MLS season. I’ll be calling games at the tournament for the third straight year, teaming up with Simon Borg as part of MLSsoccer.com’s coverage of the group stage and then working the final day of the tournament on the ESPN3 broadcasts. As the week goes on, I’ll preview each of the eight teams set to participate in Orlando.

The tournament starts on Friday, but half of the teams will kick off on Saturday. This is the third edition of the tournament, and three teams have participated in each one: Houston, Dallas, and Toronto. Two of those will take the field on Saturday, and we’re now up to my sixth preview and a team I’ll see a lot of this year, Dallas.

Disney Pro Soccer Classic
Team Previews

The basics
Team: FC Dallas (MLS)
Head Coach: Schellas Hyndman (5th season)

2011 results: 15-12-7, 4th place, Western Conference
Playoffs: Lost to New York 2-0
CONCACAF Champions League: eliminated in group stage

Returning Starters: DF Jair Benitez, MF David Ferreira, GK Kevin Hartman, MF Daniel Hernandez, DF Ugo Ihemelu, DF George John (status uncertain), DF Zach Loyd, MF Brek Shea
Key Newcomers: DF Matt Hedges, FW Blas Perez, DF Hernan Pertuz, DF Carlos Rodriguez

I’m looking forward to watching …
Blas Perez. There are actually a ton of Dallas guys I want to see, including Fabian Castillo (is he the answer at right mid? a better fit at forward?) and some of the other newcomers, but Perez stands out. He’s a big guy with a penchant for getting behind the defense, and I’ve been dying to see how he would work as a lone forward for Dallas – would he be able to hold the ball up enough? But Dallas has been playing a lot of 4-4-2 this preseason, so we’ll see what formation (and what Perez) emerges in Orlando. Perez averages about one club per season (15 since 1998), but he could be a great fit in MLS. Hopefully he sticks around long enough to take a better picture than the one at right!

Most important player …
David Ferreira. Talk about an obvious answer. The 2010 league MVP, Ferreira only played in six games last year due to injury, and Dallas eventually suffered for it. He has been fighting different injury problems this preseason, so it’s unclear how much of him we will see in Orlando. When he’s 100 percent, Dallas is a very different – and much better – team, so it will be interesting to see how hard Schellas Hyndman pushes Ferreira to be ready for the team’s nationally televised opener against New York and a front-loaded schedule that includes 12 games in the first two months.

Under the radar …
Andrew Jacobson. He has intriguing height (6-2) and technical skills (made the U.S. Futsal World Cup team back in 2008) and developed so quickly last year in front of essential defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez that Eric Alexander was shipped off to Portland. But Jacobson (like Hernandez) is coming back from offseason surgery, so Dallas will be trying to get him up to game speed in time for those hectic first two months. Moving down the depth chart in Jacobson’s spot could be a big drop-off in quality.

On trial …
Dallas coaches have said all roster decisions will be made prior to the tournament, so the squad we see on Saturday will likely be the squad. As of Wednesday, decisions remained to be made on several players, most notably veteran forwards Scott Sealy and Daniel Osorno, young defenders Scott Gordon and Christian Ibeagha, and 21-year-old Ivorian striker Ange Pacoma Dogba. If you hear the name in Orlando, he’s got a good chance to stick.

Saturday, February 25, 7 p.m. CT, Dallas vs. BK Hacken
(MLSsoccer.com – Williams / Yadrich)
Tuesday, February 28, 7 p.m. CT, Dallas at Orlando City
(MLSsoccer.com – Yardley / Borg)
Thursday, March 1, 5 p.m. CT, Dallas vs. Toronto FC
(MLSsoccer.com – Yardley / Borg)
MLS Opener: Sunday, March 11, 2 p.m. CT, Dallas vs. New York
(FC Dallas Stadium)

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