Every soccer season ends with only one team holding the MLS title. And this year, the highly coveted cup went to the Portland Timbers, which upended the Columbus Crew 2-1 to the delight of its throngs of fans in attendance and many more watching worldwide.
Were it not for a few missed opportunities and tough calls, however, the Timbers could easily have been FC Dallas, whose talented personnel – including the likes of forward Fabian Castillo and winger Michael Barrios – “headed” and headlined a season that was arguably the best in the FCD’s 20-year history.
FC Dallas top seed in West for MLS playoffs
For the second time in its 20-year membership in Major League Soccer, FC Dallas, which started out as the Dallas Burn, finished first in the Western Conference, made possible by key performances from Castillo, who led the way in scoring with 10 goals. Furthermore, FC Dallas had a solid record, wrapping up the 34-game season with a record of 18-10-6, good enough to maintain the top spot in the Western Conference division for most of the year and an eventual No. 1 seeding in the MLS playoffs.
FCD’s No. 1 seeding landed the team a bye in the first round, playing the eventual winner of the LA Galaxy-Seattle Sounders, a knockout round that Seattle emerged victorious from by the score of 3-2. In the two-game Western Conference semifinal, Dallas’ hometown team did just enough to win, outduelling the Sounders 4-2 on aggregate scoring.
That set up the Western Conference Championship with the Timbers, who defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps easily. But Portland’s stingy defense and robust attack was ultimately too much for FC Dallas’ to handle, falling just short of its goal to headline the MLS Cup Championship.
Personnel moves fast and furious
As the old saying goes, there’s always next year, and based on FCD’s performance, the kickoff to the 2016 season can’t come soon enough.
“I think we are in an incredible position,” said FCD’s Technical Director Fernando Clavijo, as reported by FCDallas.com, referring to how the team is expected to fare next year. “I think we have a really good core of players and I think we have identified some issues [where we need to improve] in key positions.”
He added that what proved to be the team’s undoing in the playoffs was scoring, not taking advantage of opportunities when they arose. He attributed this mainly to needing help at forward.
“It’s a key [piece] that we need to find [in the off-season],” said Clavijo.
Clavijo and FC Dallas’ front office have wasted little time thus far. Already, they’ve made a number of roster moves, re-signing defender Matt Hedges, but declining to pick up the contract options of Otis Earle, Danny Garcia, David Texeira and Michel.
These decisions weren’t made in a half-hearted fashion, Clavijo stressed, pointing out that roster moves are painstakingly analyzed and methodical in nature.
“I think we have worked throughout the year to evaluate, to know exactly where we are heading into 2016,” Clavijo told FCDallas.com. ” I think the future is bright and hopefully we can bring in players that make us all proud and help us win championships.”
FC Dallas’ loyal fan base won’t have to wait too long for soccer to resume, as the preseason kicks off at the end of January.