Frisco, TX – It will be very interesting to see how the 2012 season unfolds for FC Dallas.
The club completed a respectable 2011 campaign by finishing fourth in a stacked Western Conference during the regular season, but it ultimately crashed out of the playoffs in its play-in match against Red Bull New York.
But after reshuffling the squad in the offseason, it is unclear whether FC Dallas is poised to make it over the hump and contend for MLS Cup or if it will suffer a minor set-back.
FC Dallas is led by Brek Shea, a versatile player who can play virtually any position on the pitch. The 22-year-old notched a team-high 11 goals last year, almost twice as many the club's second-highest scorer, Marvin Chavez.
Some of Shea's complimentary pieces have departed as Chavez, Maykel Galindo, Jackson, and Maicon Santos have all moved on, raising questions as to who else can shoulder some of the scoring responsibilities.
It could be a case of FC Dallas simply banking on a productive return from 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira.
Ferreira only appeared in six matches last season before a gruesome tackle from Jonathan Leathers left the midfielder with a broken ankle. His return to form will be key to the club's success in 2012, but will it be enough to put Dallas over the edge?
There will also be pressure on Andrew Jacobson to take the next step in his career. The 26-year-old enjoyed a fine season last year and could be line for a larger role within the team following the key departures in the offseason.
One thing that should work in the club's favor is its less congested fixture list.
Between MLS matches and CONCACAF Champions League clashes, FC Dallas played 48 games in 2011. But with no Champions League fixtures on the schedule this season, the club should still have something left in the tank to make a late charge toward the MLS playoffs.
The club will also be buoyed by the return of George John. The defender was on a two-month loan to West Ham United with the English side reserving the option to buy the player. But after failing make an appearance with the Hammers, the option was declined and the 24-year-old will be back with Dallas in time for the start of the season.
But there is nothing that John can do about the club's lack of depth as there does not appear a great deal of cover for Ferreira and Shea should either player go down through injury. And that could ultimately be the downfall for FC Dallas.
2011 IN REVIEW: FC Dallas finished with a 15-12-7 record, good enough for fourth place in the West on 52 points. Ferreira's injury early in the season did not help the cause, but the club ran out of gas by the postseason as it was ousted by Red Bull New York in the play-in game.
ACQUISITIONS: Matt Hedges (D), Walter Hines (F), Ian Kalis (D), Blas Perez (F), Hernan Pertuz (D), Carlos Rodriguez (D).
LOSSES: Marvin Chavez (M), Edson Edward (D), Maykel Galindo (F), Jeremy Hall (D/M), Jackson (M), Maicon Santos (F).
OUTLOOK: Schellas Hyndman's men will go as far as Shea and Ferreira can carry them. Barring a big mid-season acquisition, there is not enough talent on the bench for FC Dallas to make a legitimate run at the title that eluded the club in 2010. But Dallas can still enjoy another respectable year if some of its young talent shows promise.