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Five off-season questions for FC Dallas

Now that the 2011 season has ended with a huge thud, two if you count the loss to Toronto FC in the Champions League that ended FC Dallas’ run in that event, it’s time to look at the biggest questions facing this club heading into the off-season. So, without further adieu, here they are:

Going Forward---Want to impress your friends? Try naming all the players FCD has run out there at forward over the last few years. Milton Rodriguez started the year on the roster and even scored in a season-opening draw at Chicago. Maicon Santos joined the team in the middle of the year from Toronto FC and the results were mixed at best. Talented youngster Ruben Luna was getting a look early in the year and while he did look overwhelmed at times, showed he at least deserved more minutes.

Seeing Marvin Chavez and Jackson start up top was a stop gap measure at best. And let’s don’t forget about Homegrown Player Jonathan Top? He also remains in the mix. Will FCD go out and get a striker this off-season or will they try to make this work with the pieces in place? Whatever approach they choose could play a big role in how successful this club is or isn’t in 2012.

Crossing the Pond---If it seems like some FCD fans have already resigned themselves to the fact that center back George John might leave for England this winter, it’s because they have. John seemed to be a different player and person after the almost deal with Blackburn fell through. And now there’s word that other clubs, including Everton are interested in the native of Washington State. It wouldn’t be a huge shocker to see him leave for Jolly Old England this winter.

But what about Brek Shea? Sure, he did get a multiple-year contract extension early in the season and is a rising star both in MLS as well as on the national team front, but with his value currently being as high as it is, will a European club make FCD or MLS for that matter an offer they can’t refuse? It’s definitely possible.

Defensive Cover---Heading into this season, one of Dallas’ bigger strengths was said to be their depth. However, that depth didn’t prove to be as big as many thought it once was as the season played out. And in no one area of this team was that more evident than in the back. So, it’s not a big shock that FCD is in desperate need of some defensive cover.

Does that mean that Edson Edward, who missed the entire 2011 season due to a knee injury, returns? Or does it mean that Jack Stewart, a serviceable back-up, also is back in the fold for next year? Those are two distinct possibilities as well as seeing Home Grown left back Moises Hernandez getting a shot at some minutes with the first team. But the likely scenario sees FCD bringing in a defender or two this off-season. They might not be big names but they will help fill what has become a pretty glaring need for this thing, depth on defense.

No. 2 Goalkeeper---Some might question this even being a priority but there is sound logic behind this one. Kevin Hartman can’t play forever and expecting him to log almost every minute across every competition again in 2012 might be expecting too much. But to his credit, Hartman is in impeccable shape and has remained largely injury-free throughout his storied career.

However, there could have been times this year when FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman could have given him a breather but did not for one simple reason. He seemed to have little faith in back-up ‘keeper Chris Seitz. The Maryland product did start both Tigres games as well as the regular season finale, that 4-2 disaster at San Jose but the results were mixed at best. Does Dallas give Seitz another shot as Hartman’s back-up or do they look elsewhere for their No. 2 goalkeeper? FCD fans would love to see Home Grown talent Richard Sanchez get a serious look at that role in 2012, to get some great on-the-job training from one of the greats in Hartman.

All About the Armband---But the biggest question surrounding FCD this off-season has to rest in the middle of the park where captain Daniel Hernandez again battled knee issues down the stretch. Hyndman has been adamant that both Hernandez and Andrew Jacobson will need knee surgery this off-season but more recently, Hernandez came out and said he wouldn’t be going under the knife this fall.

It’s hard to tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe all the 36-year-old Tyler native and SMU product needs is some rest and then he’ll be good to go. Then again, maybe he needs knee surgery for a second straight year to go in and clean up some lingering issues from prior procedures. Hernandez is a true warrior and epitomizes everything a captain should be but everyone is wondering how much he has left in the tank? This might be one of the first questions answered this off-season.