'13 Season Preview: Cooper's return brings optimism in Dallas

Kenny Cooper established himself as one of the top strikers in MLS in his first stint with FC Dallas from 2006-09, and his return to the club is part of the reason that the Hoops harbor a return to the postseason after a one-year absence.

Cooper netted 40 goals in 90 matches for Dallas, including 18 in the 2008 season, and he figures to give the Dallas attack a much-needed shot in the arm that could propel them into the top five in a tough Western Conference.

The 28-year-old tied his career high with 18 goals last season while playing alongside Thierry Henry at Red Bull New York. And although he won't be partnered with quite as dynamic a forward in Dallas, there is enough talent on the roster to bring out the best in Cooper.

On the same day that Dallas acquired Cooper from the Red Bulls, the club also added Eric Hassli from Toronto FC in a separate trade.

Hassli contributed three goals in eight games for TFC last term after he netted 12 in 44 games for Vancouver as a Designated Player.

The talented Frenchman should compliment Cooper, while a pair of holdover forwards, Blas Perez and Fabian Castillo, emerged as scoring threats last season.

Perez led the team with nine goals in 20 games, while the 20-year-old Castillo is capable of a big year this season after chipping in six goals, including four in his last seven starts.

"As a striker, it's always great to have confidence in the guys around you," Cooper said. "When you're surrounded by good players you can have that. I've certainly felt that since I've been here."

The attack figures to be much improved, even with the loss of winger Brek Shea to England's Stoke City.

Defense was not the problem for Dallas last season, but the club will be breaking in a new goalkeeper after the departure of veteran Kevin Hartman.

Peru national team goalkeeper Raul Fernandez was acquired to compete with returning backup Chris Seitz between the posts.

Whichever player wins that battle, he will play behind a sturdy back line led by George John and Zach Loyd.

In addition to the arrival of Cooper, one of the biggest reasons for positivity at the club is a return to full strength of midfield playmaker David Ferreira.

The 2010 MLS MVP came back last season after a 15-month injury absence to assist on nine goals while scoring two himself in 17 games.

And while there were flashes of the old Ferreira at times, the 34-year-old should be in top form this year, which would be another big boost to the Dallas attack.

20112 IN REVIEW: Any hopes that Dallas had of making the postseason were damaged by a 13-game winless run from the middle of April to July. The club still managed to finish within four points of a playoff berth, but injuries and inconsistency were too much for head coach Schellas Hyndman's team to overcome.

ACQUISITIONS: Peter Luccin (M), Stephen Keel (D), Raul Fernandez (GK), Eric Hassli (F), Kenny Cooper (F).

LOSSES: Bryan Leyva (M), Bruno Guarda (M), Ruben Luna (F), Kevin Hartman (GK), Julian de Guzman (M), Scott Sealy (F), Moises Hernandez (D), Ricardo Villar (M), James Marcelin (M), Brek Shea (M).

OUTLOOK: Making the playoffs in the Western Conference will not be easy with teams such as Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, San Jose and Seattle to contend with. But Dallas has put itself in position to move past Vancouver and into the postseason with the additions of Cooper and Hassli as well as a full season from Ferreira. Offensively, Dallas should improve upon the 42 goals it scored last season, while the only real question defensively is in goal, where Fernandez will be the likely successor to the steady veteran Hartman.