With expectations that the Rangers will be fighting to stay out of the bottom of the AL West, the Stars seemingly destined to miss the playoffs and the Mavericks looking like eventual first-round fodder, Dallas sports fans could be forgiven for any pessimistic attitudes about the short-term future.
But all they need to do is look to the north to find the hottest team in Major League Soccer, as FC Dallas stands at the top of the league after three games. They are the only team to capture all possible points so far, and although it’s early in the season, it bodes well for a team that fought tooth-and-nail in last fall’s playoffs with a Seattle Sounders squad rife with returning and departing European-level talent.
If Blas Perez is the grizzled veteran who has seen it all, then Tesho Akindele and Fabian Castillo offer a glimpse at a dynamic future.
In those first three games against San Jose, Kansas City and Philadelphia, FC Dallas has outscored its opponents 6-1 thanks to the three-headed hydra of Blas Perez, Tesho Akindele and Fabian Castillo at the top of the 4-3-3 formation that manager Oscar Pareja installed last season. The trio has accounted for all but one goal so far, led by elder statesman Perez, who has tallied three goals, including a stoppage-time winner in the season opener and a brace against Kansas City on his 34th birthday.
If Perez is the grizzled veteran who has seen it all, then Akindele and Castillo offer a glimpse at a dynamic future. Both are 22 years old, but the blisteringly fast Castillo is already in his fifth campaign with the club, while Akindele was MLS’ 2014 Rookie of the Year. Both had breakout seasons last year, as Castillo notched 10 goals and Akindele eight.
While the offense is clicking early on, the team is being anchored at the back by 24-year-old Matt Hedges, club captain and recent national team call-up, who is considered to be one of the league’s premier center backs. He’s joined by veteran Zach Loyd and home-grown player and Dallas native Moises Hernandez, who is looking to build off a promising 2014 campaign.
It all looks ready to fall into place, but the same was said the last two years as the club started strong, only to falter as the season went along. But this year’s team is older, a bit wiser, one hopes, and ready to continue the success of last season’s playoff run.
FC Dallas gets a good chance to prove this start is more than just a streak on March 28, when the club takes on Seattle at home in Toyota Stadium, for a rematch of last year’s western conference semifinals. Sounders captain and national team leader Clint Dempsey is expected to miss the match with a hamstring strain, which will make the home game all the more appetizing for Pareja’s squad.
There’s no guarantee that a hot start translates into end-of-season success, but the momentum of 12 points on four games is undeniably enticing for a young team ready to step into the league’s elite tier. There are the pieces in place to establish a deep run, which is more than can be said for Dallas’ other teams.