Welcome back to Daniel Sloane-Suarez’s journey to win glory with FC Dallas during his Major League Soccer journey. If you are new to the series, check this link here to go back to part one. If you’re a regular reader, then welcome back, and here are links to go to part 3 and part 4 if you need a quick brush-up on what’s been happening!
Remember in the last article Carlos Gruezo was attracting interest from Liverpool? Well, I’ve got some news for you! On July 1, he joined Paris Saint-Germain. I didn’t want to sell him since he’s such a useful player to me in the midfield, but he wanted to leave for a bigger division, so when PSG came in, I had no choice but to negotiate to keep an influential player from getting disgruntled and upsetting my locker room.
PSG started with a low-balled $3m offer, but after some tough negotiating, I got this deal out of them. I started high with a $10m asking price but haggled my way into a deal potentially in excess of $7.75m for the Ecuadorian. We made $4.5m up front for him, in payments we’re due another $2.5m, after 10 games we get another $650k, we get 30% of the profit from any future sale, and PSG owes us a friendly.
As nice as it would be to welcome a team like PSG to Frisco, Texas to face us, I don’t know how easily I can cash in on it. They are contractually obligated to honour a request for a friendly, but we’re in a summer league, so during our off-season, PSG will be in the middle of a Ligue 1 campaign, and vice versa. Still, if we can pull off arranging a friendly and then get a decent result, it will be a nice, prestigious event that will hopefully bring in a good attendance and give us that much more prestige as we prove that Major League Soccer is on the rise and becoming a quality league in its own right.
In late July I was appointed to be the manager of the MLS All-Stars game against Leicester. I’m not going to lie to you… I’ve never had any idea how this is decided, why I’m the one doing it or what the point even is, but it’s an extra fixture I have to concern myself with. On the plus side, we’re meeting in Houston, which is only 6 hours from Dallas. That’s just a simple jump on a plane for a night on the other side of Texas, and then it’s back to work in Dallas with my men.
As you can see here, it came down to a 1-1 draw, though the All-Stars won in a penalty shootout. Demarai Gray and Nicolas Lodeiro were responsible for the two goals. In the resulting shoot-out, Iheanacho and Gray failed to score their PK’s, and Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley was able to give us the winning goal, though Gray had the Man of the Match award for Leicester.
Again, I’m not sure why I was doing this or why I should even care. I don’t care, but we have the win and I can at least say on my CV that I was part of this event, if it’s even worth anything to me down the road. Leicester City is a great team, but it’s not like I had a good result against Arsenal or anything!
Back in league news, I didn’t cover the back half of the season because I was starting to get sick of winning so much, but we did win the Supporters’ Shield. We were the defending team because we won it under Oscar Pareja last year before losing the MLS Cup playoffs, so the board and fans are naturally happy that it was successfully held onto by us.
I’m going to take a minute and explain the Supporters’ Shield, just in case you’re completely new to Major League Soccer and this series is your first taste of it.
The Supporters’ Shield is awarded to the team who wins the 34-match regular season, with that table decided like other leagues, with 3 points to a win, 1 to a draw, and nothing for losing. When you win the Supporters’ Shield, you earn one of the USA’s CONCACAF Champions League berths, which is fantastic news and something to strive for, but it’s not the actual trophy that decides who the winner is of the MLS. That’s the MLS Cup final, which I’ll cover in next update, which will include our MLS Cup run.
We had a major piece of MLS silverware in our drawer now, which is fantastic, but the job’s not done. I didn’t have a particularly challenging time going up against the teams in the league, but it’s not a run we should be complacent in, because if we fail in the semi-final or in the actual final (we skipped the first round as winners of the Supporters’ Shield), then we’ve failed to actually win the top league trophy, so we have to be on our best!
This was our run from the end of June. We had a rough month in July, with 1 loss and a draw in the league and our elimination from the US Cup when we visited Sporting Kansas City in the Quarter Final, but it’s been pretty smooth sailing. As I said, we’ve got a solid team already as the defending Supporters’ Shield team, and we’ve got an arguably broken, but still effective 3-striker tactic that I employed because I have too many strikers expecting regular play time. We’re in a good position compared to other teams in this league.
There were a handful of good results that I wish I had time to share, but this update will become a bit lengthy, so I won’t do so. But you can see some of the results we had by looking here!
This is the league table. With 26 wins and 5 draws after 34 matches, we finished the season with 83 points and a goal difference of +61. We broke the league wins record of 25 matches set in the 90s by the Galaxy, and Tesho Akindele broke the league goalscoring record of 27 goals this season, with Maximiliano Urruti not far behind, despite missing a fair amount of matches with several lengthy injuries. Right now he’s nursing broken ribs, but in the best case scenario, he might be capable of playing in the last matches of the MLS Cup run.
As a guy used to struggling with challenging teams, deciding on my hometown team and then proceeding to win everything became a bit of a slog at times, but I can look on with pride at the team’s accomplishments now that we’re in the home stretch!
Oh, and as a little note, I got reminded that the MLS MVP award was going to be voted on soon, and all coaches could place a vote for a player that isn’t their own. I went to click and take a look at the shortlist, and as you can see, a Dallas player occupies all five slots, with Kellyn Acosta, Tesho Akindele, Cristian Colman, Mauro Diaz, and Maxi Urruti all in contention to win the award. In a first for me, I actually can’t participate in the MVP award vote, because I can’t vote for anyone! They’re all my players!
This update is finished now, but if you come back again next week, we’re going to cover the structure of the MLS Cup playoffs, look at the teams participating in each round, and we’re going to do our best to make it to the end and win the trophy ourselves!