Heading into preseason, we talked about a number of questions facing FC Dallas. Here’s a look at those questions and whether they’ve been answered or not:
Will the 2010 version of David Ferreira return or is he gone for good?
Ferreira didn’t make his preseason debut until Feb. 23 against the U.S. Under-23 team. While there have been flashes of his old self, he did suffer an Achilles injury during last week’s trip to Florida and was in a walking boot, casting considerable doubt as to whether or not he’ll be ready for Sunday’s season opener with the New York Red Bulls. “El Torito” was known for taking a beating during his MVP season but the cumulative effects of all those knocks finally caught up with him last year when he went down with an ankle injury just six games into the season.
Verdict: Mixed, while there have been flashes of the 2010 version, prompting some to drink the Kool Aid and say he’s completely back, those statements are a bit premature. Ferreira is more than likely a shell of his former shelf, which is still pretty good. FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman said he was at 80 percent late last week, which isn’t bad. But the fact he might not be as durable as he once was is a huge concern heading into the season.
Who will step up at right mid?
With 2011 starter Marvin Chavez traded to San Jose late in 2011 and likely heir apparent Jackson playing in his native Brazil, there was some question as to who would start at right midfield. Fabian Castillo has pretty much claimed that spot as his own. Sure, there have been some nice preseason performances by one Andrew Wiedeman, but his six goals all came against college competition and there’s still some question about whether or not he’s a starting-caliber player in MLS. So, your starter at right mid will be Castillo on Sunday. Wiedeman could be a nice option off the bench, maybe even as an energy guy sort of like Eric Avila was over the last few years, but he’s not a starter, at least not yet.
Verdict: Resounding, Castillo has been by far the top choice at right mid. Sure, Hyndman would like to see him handle his defensive responsibilities better, but with his pace and ability to get up and down the flanks, he gives FCD exactly what they need in that spot-a playmaker. He is still young and relatively inexperienced but the upside associated with this speedy Colombian remains quite high. That alone means he’ll be the starter.
Will the health of Daniel Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson be a concern going forward?
When healthy, the central midfield combination of holding mid Daniel Hernandez and linking mid Andrew Jacobson was rock solid for FCD last year. The problem was that they weren’t healthy for much of 2011 as both fought through respective injuries (although they still did pretty well in all honesty). Both Daniel and AJ had knee surgeries this off-season and their respective recoveries have been mixed. Hernandez’s surgery was about six weeks after Jacobson’s, and while he did have some issues initially, he now appears to be over those. Jacobson hasn’t experienced any issues at all during preseason, so he appears good to go going forward.
Verdict: Mixed, Hernandez has experienced some issues during his recovery while Jacobson has not. Maybe a big part of that is Hernandez’s age, but of the two players, the ex-FCD captain has to rank as the bigger concern going forward, especially with his age and injury history, especially his knees. This was not Jacobson’s first knee issue, but it was his first serious injury as a pro. The sample size with AJ is much smaller, but there don’t appear to be any concerns with him going forward. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Hernandez.
How quickly will Blas Perez have an impact up top?
First off, some well-deserved credit to Hyndman and the rest of the FCD powers that be for bringing in the man known as “Super Raton” in the first place. He is the kind of veteran and dependable presence that this club has needed up top almost since Hyndman arrived. Schellas had Kenny Cooper at striker when he arrived but Perez has a much longer career and more proven track record than KC. Expecting Perez to score 15 goals, and add between seven and 10 assists, is far from too much to ask from this talented veteran.
Verdict: Resounding, Perez is the forward Dallas has been needing ever since Jeff Cunningham left two seasons ago. Now the only big question is can some of what he has rub off on teammates like Ruben Luna, Jonathan Top or maybe even Fabian Castillo, who could start up top or at right mid depending on what formation Hyndman opts to go with.
Who will start at center back alongside Ugo Ihemelu?
When George John went to second-division English side West Ham United in mid-January, few knew how things would turn out for the affable center back across the pond. As we all know now, John didn’t get a ton of run with the Hammers but did gain some invaluable experience in training, which should help him now that he’s back with FCD. John and Ihemelu have developed a strong partnership over the last few seasons, one which should continue. Backup Hernan Pertuz performed well in his absence but the clear language barrier between the Colombian newcomer and Ihemelu is definitely an obstacle. Rookie Matt Hedges has already shown some flashes in his first two months of pro soccer but it’s way too soon to determine if he can be counted on as a rookie.
Verdict: Resounding, getting John back is absolutely huge for FCD but had Big George not come back from England, Dallas would not have been in as dire straits as many think. Pertuz gives them some much-needed depth in the central defense, something that was at a premium last year. And if John gets injured or misses time, he could definitely step in. Hopefully John and Ihemelu are healthy for the entire season, which is a possibility, but if Hyndman needs to call on Pertuz and maybe even Hedges a bit later in the season, both figure to be ready.