A healthy, loaded roster could push FC Dallas to the top

There is a growing trend that at least one local team’s season last year was faulted solely on injuries and the belief that everything will be better with everyone healthy. But while many are making that claim toward the Texas Rangers, it probably applies better to the soccer team that will begin its season in Frisco tomorrow.

Yes, FC Dallas did make the playoffs for the first time in three years, but there still might be a sense that things could have been better. Take away a two-month stretch in late spring when Mauro Diaz and Michel were out of action, and Dallas might have been a contender for the Supporters’ Shield, or at least a better seed that could have helped them in the MLS Cup playoffs.

But that year is behind them, and the club at Toyota Stadium has all the tools in place to make a serious run at that Cup, especially since Landon Donovan’s retirement has left the LA Galaxy as no longer the perennial threat it has looked like for years and MLS even more wide open than before.

Could Oscar Pareja’s club be the one to punch through the door? With Diaz, Michel, Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez, David Texeria and last season’s Rookie of the Year Tesho Akindele, the club has as many weapons on offense as anyone in MLS.

It gives Pareja a lot of flexibility to his lineup as who to mix and match on any given day. For a club playing in the hot summer heat of North Texas, especially when they will be competing in the US Open Cup as well as the MLS season, that type of depth is invaluable as Pareja can rest certain players for a particular game.

That isn’t to say the club was willing to rest on its laurels. Despite having a great goalkeeping prospect in Raul Fernandez, they believed they could get even better in the nets. So they scooped up Dan Kennedy from the currently defunct Chivas USA in the dispersal draft to play alongside Chris Seitz.

It might have looked like Kennedy’s future in Dallas would be uncertain given how loyal he he’d been to Chivas USA to the end. But the club and MLS came to terms on a contract extension, with Kennedy replying via Twitter: “Excited to get to work with my new teammates and the staff @FCDallas, and looking forward to making a new home in a great city w great fans”

That’s a good sign for FCD, as they are getting one of the flashiest keepers in the game. One of the few spots worth watching throughout Chivas USA’s struggles was seeing the spectacular saves Kennedy was capable of.

But an even better sign is that he may not need to make as many great saves as he did with his previous team. That’s because here he’ll be behind one of the sturdiest defenses in the league. Led by Zach Lloyd, and Matt Hedges, FCD’s back line could be an absolute brick wall at times that simply did not allow any attacker to get past them, forcing clubs to take low-percentage shots that the goalies could handle with ease.

It all adds up to one of the most complete clubs in North American soccer. And it could be the start of very good things when FC Dallas opens play against San Jose Saturday night at Toyota Stadium.

Larry Brown Has Moody Madness Returning to SMU

Published on Yahoo Voices

And mine was published BEFORE Sports Illustrated released its article on SMU!

Mavericks May Quickly Learn That Wright is RIght

Christmas may have come early for the Dallas Mavericks, with them receiving a six-foot-ten present of energy in the form of Brandon Wright.

And not a moment too soon, in their minds. Going into Wednesday’s game against Memphis, the Maverics still stand at just a few games over .500 at 14-10, which currently hast them holding the eighth spot in the West and seven games behind front-running San Antonio.

It’s essentially the same story as before: The Mavs have played decently. But decent is not good enough in the Western Conference. They might be a top four team in the East, but they remain barely in the playoff window in their actual conference.

Still, Dallas has managed to tread water and stay in that window, despite playing the most back-to-backs of anyone in the league for the first six weeks or so, along with the same issue as last year – injuries.

But the latter of those is being solved much sooner than last year, and fortunately never was as serious. While the Mavs spent the first two months of 2012-13 without Dirk Nowitzki and at least another month with him struggling to get back into shape, they have simply had to deal with the absence of Wright and Devin Harris. Important pieces for sure, but not devastating losses.

However, it was this past Saturday that they saw how big one of those can be when Wright finally got on the court this year

The result: Nineteen points in 19 minutes, allowing Dallas to beat Milwaukee rather easily despite Dirk and Coach Carlisle being out with illnesses.

I said even during the off-season that Wright would be one of the most important pieces for the Mavericks, perhaps giving them what they have sorely lacked for the last two years on the inside.

The center position has evolved over the past few years for sure. The days of Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon are simply no longer in a time when zone defenses combined with the shot clock greatly reduce a center’s offensive effectiveness. This has put even more of a premium on the big man who simply provides defense and energy.

Unfortunately, that is a lot harder to find that one would like. When big men finally reach the NBA level, many are unable to accept that they simply can’t dominate at this level like they may have in high school or even college (although the dominance of centers in college was dropping before it was in the pros). Too often then, they become unmotivated and lackluster, like Brendan Heywood or Shawn Bradley – or Samuel Dalembert.

That more than anything is why Mavs fans can be disappointed their team could not hold on to Tyson Chandler, who, despite concerns for much of his career, became the emotional spark and defensive presence that Dallas had needed for so long.

But Wright could be just the guy the Mavs need to fill that hole in the middle, if he gets the minutes and proves he can give that effort on a consistent basis.

The next two weeks could be crucial to seeing how well this Mavericks team can really play, even as they still await Harris’ return. With Dalembert likely to be in Carlisle’s doghouse for some time, it’s Wright and Dejuan Blair’s job to hold the middle for Dallas now.

Whether or not they can do it is an unknown factor for sure. But it’s still a much better prospect than what they had a year ago.

Mavericks May Be Looking at Fools Gold in Free Agency

I love Mark Cuban as an owner. I always have. I just hope he isn’t turning more and more to the Jerry Jones side – having to constantly prove he’s the smartest guy in the room.

That’s the feeling I got following draft night – well, along with wondering, like so many others, why the NBA has its asinine rule that picks can’t be traded on draft night until after they’re used, leaving us to wait until night’s end for ESPN to announce the moves we already knew about via Twitter.

At the end of the night, the Mavericks had turned the 13th pick into U of Miami guard Shane Larkin, who was technically Atlanta’s pick at 18. Sorry, looks like we won’t get to see Britny Greiner alongside Dirk Nowitzki.

Larkin is being touted as possibly a second coming of JJ Barea, someone who can overcome his lack of size with his ability to destroy you on the pick and roll, which is something the Mavs can definitely use in conjunction with Dirk. Dallas may have actually drafted someone who could truly see the floor for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

But we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking this draft was getting about players. It was about freeing up cap space.

Because the guy the Mavs want wasn’t wearing a college uniform last year but a Lakers uniform. And that’s what worries me.

It was just a few hours ago that free agency started, and already Mavs fans can erase one pipe dream. For the first time ever, the Clippers actually made an effort to keep a free agent, and Chris Paul is expected to sign a five year deal on the 10th. Who knows when Donald Sterling got his brain transplant, but Billy Crystal sure is thrilled.

That has left the few true basketball fans drooling at landing uber-talented but ultra-immature Dwight Howard to Dallas. The guy who destroyed two teams and is still going to get the max four-year contract a free agent can get elsewhere.

Not that that’s the only move the Mavs are looking to make. With the Boston Celtics looking to flush away their whole team for a glorious next two decades of lottery picks, the Mavs have their sights on Rajon Rondo, one of the few point guards in this game who actually brings the ball up court thinking pass first. Sounds a lot like the guy who took the Mavs to that championship who will now wear a suit on the sidelines for Brooklyn.

Here’s an idea: Why not go after the point guard and let some other team wreck themselves on Howard?

Pair Rondo with an Al Jefferson, someone who can take the role of Tyson Chandler, and suddenly, bam! You’ve got the combination that actually proved successful just two years ago. And you didn’t throw away 100 million dollars on a guy who’s likely to get your coach fired by New Year’s.

Here’s a wild question: Who so far has beaten David Stern’s favorite team playing at its own game yet?

While so many try to still find a way around the looming luxury tax to stockpile their own superteam to topple the vaunted Miami Heat, it’s ironically the Mavs from 2011 who still stand at how to actually beat them: Build the team around one great player surounded by many other good ones and let depth wear down super talent.

And it almost worked in San Antono as well. Sorry, Tony Parker and Manu Giunobli are really good players but not superstars. And that collection around Tim Duncan was on its way to knocking off Lebron and Co. had Greg Popovich not gotten arrogant or stupid or both in game six.

It’s amazing how, even with history showing the other way has actually succeeded, NBA teams and fans still want to go the volatile “fantasy sports” way, taking talent and attitude over teamwork and chemistry.

The Mavs should be looking at rebuildng a team rather than splurging for the reason the Orlando Magic’s Wikipedia page has a section called “The Dwightmare Saga.”

Neuwendyk’s Trades May be Why Stars Are Looking Elsewhere

Jaramir Jagr has at least one last chance to lift Lord Stanley’s chalice again. And he has Joe Neuwendyk to thank for it.

Jagr will lace up the skates for the Boston Bruins tonight as they look to even up the Stanley Cup Finals at one game apiece against Chicago. Two things to keep in mind: The Cup Finals have proven over the years that a 1-0 deficit is almost worthless, so Jagr’s Bruins are definitely still in it, and Jagr is not just along for the ride. Despite not yet putting the puck in the net himself this postseason, the 41-year-old has still contributed 26 points in 28 combined regular-post season games> And those that actually were in the American Airlines Center when Jagr wore the green and black know how potent he could still be on the power play.

The ironic thing is that, with a Boston-Pittsburgh East Final, it was guaranteed that a former Star would be playing for the Cup, with Brenden Morrow skating for the Penguins. Two trades of top players by the Stars payed big dividends for the recipients.

Which makes you wonder if those deals were ultimately what cost Neuwendyk his job as Stars GM.

Being a major league general manager is not an easy job, unless it’s GM of the Dallas Cowboys because you have ultimate job security by inhabiting the same body as the owner. But it’s even tougher when you’re running a club looking at a fifth straight year out of the playoffs in a league where you just have to cross over into that eighth spot to get in. And when you have a new owner like the Stars have in Tom Gaglardi, you’re on even thinner ice (pun intended).

Neuwendyk was clearly looking to the future, dealing aging players for more young talent that could grow with the likes of Jaime Benn, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon and others. WHen you’re a new owner, however, you want into that excitement of the NHL playoffs as soon as possible, and it probably stings that an opportunity was stripped away.

Even with the deals, the Stars still were within striking distance as the games ticked down before a three-game losing streak to end the year ultimately put them seven points out of that final spot. (Don’t get me started on the “points” thing; that’s a discussion for another time.)

You have to winder if Gaglardi saw that and had to feel that, had Morro and Jagr still been here, would the Stars have had the power to get up into that playoff window after all.

And to anyone who would just fire back that finishing with the last spot wouldn’t be worth it anyway, Gaglardi could just show them those year-old clips of an eight-place team from Los Angeles hoisting the Cup.

That’s probably why the former Conn Smythe trophy winner was shown the door.

So now it’s wait and see as to what new GM Jim Nill will do under Gaglardi’s watch. Just how much moey will Gaglardi be willing to shill out to get players to come to Texas?

It’s pretty clear the new owner wants to win now. And with him stripping away almost every holdover from the Stars’ years of glory, from the uniforms to “Rock and Roll Part II,” he may need to in order to get those AAC seats filled.

DFW sports fans in shock over upset in the Broadcasters Bracket

Is this the biggest upset since Virginia Commonwealth went to the Final Four?
Okay, that might be a stretch.
Still, many in the DFW sports world are in shock and elation or anger upon discovering the first major upset in the Dallas Morning News SportsDayDFW Broadcasters Bracket, as 105.3 The Fan host Gavin Dawson beat KDFW Fox 4 sports anchor Mike Doocy.
Doocy has anchored the sports portion of Channel 4’s evening news for several years, and his TV presence was sure to have given him an advantage. But Dawson’s “G Bag Nation” has become the highest rated evening radio show in the market, spawning a passionate, dedicated group of listeners called the G Bag Soldiers.
Those viewers turned out in full force during Wednesday’s voting. That morning, Doocy started with an 80-20 lead. By the end of the night, Dawson had pulled away with 58 percent of the vote.
The result has invoked passion, particularly from the listeners of The Fan’s rival station, SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket.
“I’m shocked that anyone from the wipe or D Bag Nation would win squat in here,” Shawn Schultz commented on the Broadcasters Bracket page. “and one of them beatin Doocy? That’s a crime in itself.”
“I’m also shocked that some DBag I’ve never heard of who is so spare he hosts a nighttime shift on the worst sports station in America beat the great Doocy,” wrote another commenter identified as KayurPatel.
The Soldiers, however, were just as passionate.
“Fan Fans and the GBag Nation Army united to put the popular local broadcaster and #1 night show host intheMetroplex into the 2nd round,” stated Ryan Magby.
“Gavin going the distance. None of this survive and advance crap.” said Jordan Sellers.
Not that Dawson’s battle will be any easier. His second round matchup is against longtime Dallas Cowboys play by play announcer Brad Sham.
In the meantime, the soldiers appear to be planning to support fellow 105.3 host Shan Sharrif against WFAA Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hanson. Hanson and Dawson had their own battle last year over Hanson’s repeated criticism over Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and suggesting The Fan refused to criticize him because they were the Cowboys flagship station.