FRISCO, Texas — What's next for FC Dallas? After Sunday's elimination from the playoffs, change is on the horizon. What those changes will be, nobody seemed so sure.
What did seem certain is that there will be modifications - not to the team's overall strategy but certainly at the individual level.
"This time, we have had with this group, four seasons, and now we have to sit down and reevaluate," coach Oscar Pareja said after his team topped the LA Galaxy 5-1 but lost the tiebreaker for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. "It’s a cycle that needs to be reviewed because we all have to stretch out to the max and give our best but many of them need to change as well. Not because we don’t believe in the project. The project is going to move forward but this year has been difficult. We’ll see. What is coming next is we’ll reevaluate what is coming next for the group."
FCD owner Dan Hunt already has indicated he hopes to see more young players getting significant playing time in the 2018 campaign. FCD's academy is regarded as one of the strongest in the United States but this season the four teenagers signed to professional deals played infrequently.
The season also was marred by transfer rumors, including FCD confirming that it turned down offers for winger Michael Barrios and Maxi Urruti during the summer. Kellyn Acosta and Walker Zimmerman both had their names end up in the rumor mills as European targets, while Carlos Gruezo and Jesse Gonzalez also reportedly have been scouted by teams abroad.
There is uncertainty about which veteran names will be back next season. For most of those players, though, the wounds of this season were too fresh to think in the long-term.
"I'm thinking in the day-to-day. Right now I'm going to enjoy my family like I always try to. I'm going to become a father in a few months and that's what makes me happiest," Urruti said."I'm really excited about it. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm always thankful to everyone. When this offer came, when the team was interested in me, I always had my mind focused on Dallas. I wanted to give my best and try to get to the playoffs.
"It's not the time to think about anything other than we're upset we couldn't qualify and now we're going to try to think about other things, enjoy family."
Acosta said he didn't know if he'd be back either, but says: "Right now, it's just a disappointing season. I'm not really looking to the future right now."
Barrios was too busy thinking about what he'd experienced with the current group to focus on anything that might await him going forward.
"We’re united, like a family that’s always fighting for each other off the field or on the field. Unfortunately, we’re all hurt by what happened, by not being able to get the last spot, unfortunately, because of a rule change where I think it’s something crazy for the league to have a team eliminated not by goals but by (wins)," winger Michael Barrios said. "Those are the decisions they made, you have to accept it and unfortunately we’re out by a point."
It's not only the transfer targets who could be on their way out before the team resumes activity with matches in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. There are a number of veterans in the club who may move on, either by their choice or to make room for the younger players who characterize the club's style.
"Of course," defender Maynor Figueroa said when asked if he'd like to return. "My wish always is to be here and continue here, but we all know how the league is. It's a league where one day you could be here and the next day you're there. I'd like to stay here. I'm really very happy here, very thankful here and it'd be welcome if I were able to continue on with this club."
The one common feeling, the known quantity Sunday, had nothing to do with the future and everything to do with the present. No one who was part of FC Dallas' 2016 or 2017 team expected to be thinking about the future this early in the year. No one expected to be out of the playoffs, resting up or drawing up offseason training plans. Because of that, there will be changes as FCD looks to get back to the level it expects. The evaluation process will take time, but if Pareja gets his wish it will take place and fans will see the results.
"I think it’s necessary. The season demanded it," he said. "I think not getting to the playoffs makes us think we lack things. It could be the coach, it could be the method, it could be the players, it could be investment, it could be a lot of things, and that helps us evaluate things."