FC Dallas will host Red Bull New York at FC Dallas Stadium on Sunday, beginning its 2012 Major League Soccer season similarly to how the 2011 campaign ended.
Dallas limped into the postseason last year and was immediately ousted in the play-in game with a 2-0 loss to New York.
But with the batteries recharged and the squad retooled, Dallas will be looking for a much different outcome this time around.
Brek Shea is expected to be the standout player this season for FC Dallas, but the club will also have high hopes for David Ferreira and George John.
Ferreira, the 2010 MLS MVP, missed most of the 2011 due to a gruesome ankle injury, but he should be back at full fitness to help guide Dallas to a playoff run.
John's return to the team was in question after spending the offseason on loan at English side West Ham United. The Hammers reserved the right to buy the defender at the conclusion of the loan spell, but the club declined that option after John failed to break into the first team. He will be welcomed back to Texas with open arms though, as he has been one of the club's most consistent performers in defense over the past couple of seasons.
Dallas may be left to rue some key losses though, as Marvin Chavez, Maykel Galindo, Jackson, and Maicon Santos have all left the club. All of these players proved to be good complimentary pieces to Shea, but their departures will place added pressure on the American youngster to shoulder the scoring responsibilities.
New York has lost some key pieces as well, though it appears that the Red Bulls have done better to find adequate replacements.
Breakout defender Tim Ream was sold to English Premier League side Bolton in the offseason, while the departures of Frank Rost and Bouna Coundoul raised some questions of the Red Bulls at the goalkeeping position.
The club responded by signing two top-tier central defenders in Wilman Conde and Markus Holgersson in addition to deciding to develop youth in goal with the signings of promising stoppers Ryan Meara and Jeremy Vuolo.
But the most important signing for the Red Bulls could prove to be the addition of Kenny Cooper. The burly American striker was picked up in a trade with the Portland Timbers, and with Luke Rodgers remaining a question mark with visa issues, Cooper could slot in right away alongside Thierry Henry.
The Red Bulls have a stacked starting lineup, but depth may be an issue. If New York suffers any major injuries to key players, it could spell trouble for a team that only qualified for the playoffs in its final regular season match of 2011.