Dan Kennedy

2015 ASA Preview: FC Dallas by Jason Poon

*xG = expected goals, xA = expected assists, xGD = expected goal differential. For more information see our xGoals by Team page.

By Jason Poon (@jasonhpoon)

2014 was about the return of a legend in Oscar Pareja to coach the Hoops, the final breakout season of a young promising attacker in Fabian Castillo and the return to playoffs after a two season absence. 2014 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Dallas after Pareja was snatched up from Colorado days before the SuperDraft, but the emergence of several young stars (Mauro Diaz, Tesho Akindele, and Victor Ulloa) pushed Dallas into the post season and came within a goal of reaching the Western Conference Finals.

2015 will be about correcting some of their own mistakes (red cards), fitness issues (injuries), improving on the little things (fewer shots against), and making another deep run into the playoffs to challenge for the MLS Cup. I wrote some similar stuff here at BigDSoccer.com, so if this looks familiar, well there you go. 

Silly Reds

The most infuriating part of watching FC Dallas in 2014 had to be their propensity to needlessly shoot themselves in the foot time and time again. Dallas was the most red carded team in MLS last season with 10 send offs. Chivas USA were second with nine and Toronto and Columbus tied for third with seven a piece. It's an entirely different story if you go in for a potentially goal saving tackle and miss or deliberately handle the ball ala Luis Suarez circa World Cup 2010, but those are professional fouls to eliminate a goal scoring threat. Dallas did none of that in 2014. Every single red card was a result of poor decision making, rash challenges and plain silliness. 

FC Dallas gave up at least eight points from matches where they picked up a red card in 2014, and that only accounts for the games that the red card took place, not the games missed following the suspension. Let's give Dallas the best case scenario that they didn't pick up those reds and secured all 8 points, that would have put them with 62 points, ahead of LA Galaxy and good for second place in the Western Conference last season. Or, we'll be more reasonable and conservative give them half of the points (4), that still would have elevated Dallas to third place. Bottom line, Dallas has to stop picking up pointless red cards if they want to give themselves a chance at becoming one of the elites in MLS in 2015.

Defensive Spine

The biggest question mark for me about this Dallas team is how will the defense hold up over the course of the season. If you'll take a quick look at the player transactions (as of 2/27/15) you'll notice something about the defense, namely that lots of players have left and few new players have come in to replace them:

Incoming: Michael Barrios (Uniautónoma/Colombia), Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Otis Earle (UC Riverside/SuperDraft), Atiba Harris (San Jose Earthquakes), Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA), Alex Zendejas (Homegrown)

Outgoing: Jair Benitez (Águilas Pereira/Colombia), Walter Cabrera (loan return to General Diaz/Paraguay), Andres Escobar (loan return to Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine), Raul Fernández (Universitario de Deportes/Peru), George John (New York City FC), Peter Luccin (option declined), Adam Moffat (New York Cosmos), Brian Span (waived), Hendry Thomas (option declined), Jonathan Top (option declined), Nick Walker (option declined), Je-Vaughn Watson (unattached)

Out went standout defender George John, and defensive midfielder Hendry Thomas. Granted John didn't play any minutes in 2014 and Thomas was limited to just 10 games so they didn't contribute much, if at all, to the team's defensive woes but the outlook was more positive had they recovered from their injuries and stayed with the team. The lack of incoming players to replace them is concerning and just who will step up for Dallas in ball winning and preventing goal scoring opportunities? 

Dallas gave up an atrocious 14.4 shots per game, which was only bested by San Jose's even more inept defense which shipped 16.1 shots per game. In the Western Conference, the team average of shots against was 13.1. Dallas will have to do better in this department if they are hoping to improve in 2015.

Health

Related to the above but at the moment, Dallas only has three true centerbacks on their roster in Best XI candidate Matt Hedges, former first round draft pick Walker Zimmerman and serviceable journeyman and fan favorite Stephen Keel (who is currently out injured). Zach Loyd (who actually did extremely well here), Moises Hernandez and Je-Vaughn Watson (not on the team) all took shifts there last year, but if one of the CBs goes down with an injury, a makeshift backline will be in the works again. With Zimmerman having only played in 17 total games (13 starts) in his two seasons in MLS, asking the young CB to go an entire year injury free might be too much to ask so soon.

MLS Player of the Month in March, Mauro Diaz also spent a lot of time on the sidelines having only played in 17 games (9 starts) as well. Dallas did eventually figure out how to win points without their magical unicorn of a playmaker, and switched to a more direct counter attacking style of attack, but Diaz offers a vision and passing ability that no one else in the league can match at the moment. 

The outlook for 2015 is hard to determine at the moment. We've seen teams like DC United go from worst to best in the East in the matter of two consecutive seasons and we have seen teams like the San Jose Earthquakes go from Supporter's Shield winners in 2012 to whatever you want to call them last year. I'm cautiously optimistic that Dallas will be even better in 2015 but the history of the league has shown us that predictions are entirely a crapshoot at this point.

Season Preview: Chivas USA by Drew Olsen

Most people would associate Chivas USA with the pinnacle of terribleness within MLS. They've accrued all of 56 points combined the last two seasons which barely eclipses the LA Galaxy totals, their evil timeshare neighbor, over the course of just one year. The club from the beginning has sported a feel that was awkward---almost insulting---and it has been a bit of an outcast from the rest of the league. Despite what we all know about them now, it's easy to forget that as few as five years ago they were the more dominant LA brand, earning top-three finishes in 2006, 2007 and in 2008. They were lead by the likes of US internationals Brad Guzan, Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein. They boasted the scoring prowess of Ante Razov, one of the premier scoring talents in MLS history, who is still the club's all-time goal scorer. Despite the recent woes, it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could return to a run of strong form. But it will likely need to be built upon the youth and Academy products they've been working to develop, as Chivas USA has been cited as one of the more talent rich organizations at the youth level.

Make no mistake about it; things are just starting to get interesting in the City of Angels.

2013 Finish: 26 points, 9th in the Western Conference, Missed Playoffs ChivasXI

Player Added Position From Player Lost Position To
Andrew Jean-Baptiste D traded from Portland Timbers Patrick McLain GK Option Declined
Tony Lochhead D Free (Wellington Phoenix) Mario de Luna D End of Loan
Andrew Ribeiro D Free (Harrisburg City Islanders) Jaime Frias D End of Loan
Fejiro Okiomah D Free (Charlotte Eagles) Steve Purdy D Option Declined
Donald Toia D Free (Phoenix FC) Daniel Antunez D Option Declined
Thomas McNamara M SuperDraft (Clemson) Jorge Villafana D traded to Portland
Austin Pelletieri M Free (Racing Club) Edgar Mejia M End of Loan
Mauro Rosales M traded from Seattle Sounders Marvin Iraheta M Option Declined
Adolfo Bautista F Free (Unattached) Josue Soto M Option Declined
Gabriel Farfan M loaned to Chiapas
Jose Manuel Rivera F Option Declined
Tristan Bowen F traded to Seattle
Julio Morales F End of Loan

Roster Churn: 52.24% returning minutes (lowest return rate in MLS)

Okay, we know this team sucks. They've sucked each of the last four years. So they'll suck again this year right? Well... maybe. Or perhaps they're a team that could catch a couple of early wins and find some teams napping---much like what they did last year---and continue stealing points right up to a fifth-place finish. They've injected some talent, and there is the possibility, if the rumors about Luke Moore are true Chivas confirmed Moore has signed for the club yesterday, that they're not done yet and that's a very good thing for the club moving forward.

roster-chivasYes, Erik 'Cubo' Torres is perhaps the most talented piece on the roster. Yes, he will head back to his native Chivas Guadalajara in June which will pretty much bone the forgotten leftovers of Jorge Vergara. Which is sad because the talent level and parity for MLS is close that it really wouldn't take much for Chivas to become a club that could quietly sneak into MLS playoff contention.

The Goats off-season was largely productive if you forget about the addition of AdolfoChivasINFO Bautista---who, to me, is a worrisome deal considering the 34-year old didn't even score a goal last season through his 16 games (international appearances included) and could very well turn out to be a scrub.

Looking specifically to the defense, the club acquired Andrew Jean-Baptiste for pretty much being at the right place at the right time. This is an unequivocal boon for a defense that was just plain bad through the 2013 campaign, posting a league worst expected goals against (xGA) total of 55. This speaks not just to the volume of shots the line-up allowed, but also the quality at which they were fired at Dan Kennedy's goal. Baptiste isn't necessarily an earth-shattering piece now, and he's still raw, but getting him starts and placing him alongside Carlos Bocanegra could cultivate the young 21-year-old's potential, and he could grow into a top-level central defensive player with the aspirations of being involved with the USMNT.

Recs/90

The midfield has it's share of questions, as they lacked effectiveness, if not bite, with Oswaldo Minda in central  defense. Recoveries are a good thing and "even have a positive correlation with long term results". The other side of that is fouls are mostly bad (duh). Yet, I'm not sure that fact was ever explained to Minda. When Minda was able to find his way on to the pitch healthily, he committed a lot of fouls (35) and it limited the helpfulness of the recoveries (95) that he procured. Top central defending midfielders (think in this case of Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman) usually boast twice that ratio. What that means is simply that Minda must play more minutes, foul less, and gobble up more free balls if the goal is to lessen the load for the youthful defense.

KP/90We've now reached the part of this segment where I try to convince you that Mauro Rosales will help Chivas USA, and that he's not done yet. In fact, I feel that with his help, Cubo Torres could become more Torres than you could likely handle or imagine---and yet, at the very same time, Rosales could rip what heart is left from the limited Chivas USA faithful. He was 9th in MLS in creating shots (65 total key passes), but in reality he was further up the chain in the per -90 version of the stat, which I prefer as I feel it's a stat that is better in ratio format.Rosales isn't just about delivering passes though. The guy still has some pace to him, puts forth a ton of effort, and can score a few goals too. While he doesn't even average a shot per 90, that wasn't his role with Seattle. He averaged roughly one goal every 500 minutes, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a slight bump in those numbers. With that in mind, he's getting older, and part of the reason why the Sounders parted ways with him (beyond the issue of his contract) is that he's declined in each of his three seasons with in the Emerald City. He's going on 33 years old this season, and after visibly losing a step last year, there is reasonable concern that he might not make 2,000 minutes, let alone a full season. Despite all that, what minutes he manages to get he'll make an impact for The Goats.Looking at the roster as a whole, there is quite a disparity in age. There are 7 of the 23 individuals on the roster that are over the age of 30. Then on the other side of the coin there are 6 of 23 that are 21 or younger. If---and perhaps a better word is "when"---injury strikes, they could to be forced to throw those young players to the rest of the league. This is obviously going to affect their play, as there is a drop off in not just talent but also experience.I see a situation where they could improve over their season last year. Then again, it could be a situation where we find the team forced to play younger players of lesser quality, getting stuck in the same trend they were last year where they have some interesting players without the supporting cast to take them into contention for a playoff spot. Either way this is a club that, in our pre-season survey, 93% of voters rated as a non-playoff club. That's the highest percentage of any club, even in the East where there is an extra team left out of the playoffs.This off-season was an improvement---you'll get no argument from me about that. Major League Soccer purchasing the club and preparing for a rebrand, is again, a good thing not just for the league but the fans that support Chivas. As the organization adds talent and continue to bring in the young players from their once promising academy, the club will only move closer to contention. Finding a new owner that can and will match the dollars that LA Galaxy throw around is another key item on the list.Crowd Sourcing Placement: 9th place in Western Conference; 286 of the 406 9th-place votes (70.44%).*ExpGD is the same as our xGD statistic on the site.