The English season might just have got warmed up but the MLS is approaching the business end, with the play-off’s underway. Sadly one team not participating in the play-off’s after a difficult 2013 is a team from my old stomping ground, FC Dallas.
I remember being in attendance when the club moved into the “Pizza Hut Park”, now known as Toyota Park, in Frisco. It’s a stadium that’s built into the ground – you go across flat land and actually descend into the arena, it really holds in the heat that’s for sure (in fact, they call the pitch, ‘the oven’!). It creates a very good atmosphere unique to that club, an identity of its own – the stadium is a fantastic complex.
There are risks that come with playing in a soccer specific stadium, in that you know you’re building it only for soccer fans and therefore not attracting as many people, or casual match goers. The fans can be frenetic and loud but I feel that there aren’t as many as they could be simply because of the move out to Frisco. Nonetheless, it’s very encouraging to see a club at least attempt to create their own kind of identity and culture.
The facilities on the grounds of the stadium play host to the “Dallas Cup”, the famous youth tournament which I have been involved with many times with Gordon Jago, when I was living in McKinney.
In an era where I am so passionate about football people being involved in the game and North American teams establishing their own prestige and culture, it’s refreshing to see the work of Lamar Hunt, who was, of course, so heavily involved in the launch of the MLS and teams in Kansas and Columbus as well as Dallas. Dallas are currently owned by Lamar’s son, Clark – keeping it in the family is certainly a way to at least build a consistent tradition.
The next step, following a difficult season in which Schellas Hyndman has resigned, is to try and re-establish Dallas as a force to be seriously contending for the play-off’s and use their unique setting to their advantage. I remember the days of the former Arsenal player Steve Bould in charge and I can’t help but think that it’s a club that has never reached its full potential. There are some good players at the club – the one who will probably be most familiar to readers in the UK will be Kenny Cooper, who was at Man Utd as a kid. He’s an out and out forward but for me wasn’t utilised properly in the 2013 campaign; there’s been a lot of reliance of Herrera and I think it’s been too much pressure on him.
I won’t name names but I look at the club and its roster and think there are a lot of players given an opportunity because of their nationality and the history of excellence of players from those countries rather than their own ability and it would surely be something that the incoming manager will do to try and get a strong core of quality players in order for things to improve next season. Quality players that are there to make the difference and take the club to the next level, that should always be the aim – and to not make the play-offs is something that is very disappointing for them. It won’t be a surprise to anyone reading this that I am a huge advocate of home grown talent and I know that there is plenty there to be used, these opportunities don’t need to go to foreign players.
Dallas, at the moment, is a club looking to create an identity of its own and that makes it appealing for any football person, like myself, looking to get back in the game and lead a club – an opportunity to use the unique existing features and combining them with your own philosophy and vision.
In the past, the MLS has not always been taken seriously, but in the last couple of years there appears to have been a significant shift. European teams come over here in the summer knowing that they’ll get a proper work out, it’s not just a holiday anymore, and there is a feeling that in the next few years there is an opportunity to close the gap in quality and competitiveness significantly – as long as those steps that are taken are the right ones.