As part of our wrap up of the 2019 season, we asked several members of the FC Dallas media to join us for a 6-part roundtable series.
Joining us for part four of the roundtable are Dan Crooke and Buzz Carrick from 3rd Degree, Peter Welpton from The Kickaround, Tyler Kern Co-Host at ESPN Soccer Today, Dustin Nation from the Dallas Soccer Show, and Nico Mendez, who is joining 3rd Degree as a writer.
Our fourth topic for discussion is “Defensive MVP.”
Dan Crooke – Writer 3rd Degree & MLSSoccer.com
It’s got to be Ryan Hollingshead. He led the team in tackles, interceptions, blocks, and aerial duels. He was third behind Hedges and Ziegler in clearances. He’s still a little shaky on how he shows attackers at times or where to cover, but he’s really become the ideal attacking fullback.
The talk of a national team call up may be premature, but I think it’s difficult to name a better left back on form in MLS this year. I hope this is the start of a great positional battle between Ho’head and Johnny Nelson next year.
Dustin Nation – Co-Host, Dallas Soccer Show
This is the hardest choice yet. The FC Dallas defense performed very well this season. The interesting thing is that they did so as a unit, with no player really standing out as having played out-of-their-mind individually. This is a testament to Coach Luchi Gonzalez’s early focus on team defense.
That having been said, I have Jesse Gonzalez edging out the outfield players for this award.
FC Dallas fans have known about his shot-stopping upside for a while. This season was no different for Gonzalez, saving 2 penalties and ending the season with -1.15 G-xG (the number of goals he allowed minus the number of goals he’d be expected to allow, per American Soccer Analysis). For comparison, MLS goalkeeper of the year, Vito Mannone, ended the season with -1.14 G-xG.
However, in seasons past there’s been a cloud hanging over Jesse Gonzalez’s head. A cloud of errors, bad judgment, dodgy passing, and lack of awareness. This season was completely different. From the beginning, it was easy to see (and hear) Jesse relishing his new responsibilities in Luchi Gonzalez’s system of playing out from the back. He showed leadership, communicated more with his teammates, and seemed more mentally engaged in each match. What’s more, he finished the season successfully completing almost 80% of his passes and it’s hard to remember a significant blunder from him.
This was the Jesse Gonzalez we were all waiting for.
Peter Welpton – Co-Host, The Kickaround
Defensive MVP? Easy-peasy and not up for debate. Matty Hedges. Started all but a single league game (he was suspended), don’t even try to imagine how this season would have played out without him back there.
Buzz Carrick – Founder and Editor, 3rd Degree
As a club, when you have the 7th best goals against in the league you’re going to have lots of worthy candidates for Defensive MVP. You could have picked almost anyone in the back five. I might have been all over Carlos Gruezo for this award if he hadn’t jumped to Germany.
But I’m going with Ryan Hollingshead as his offensive value added to solid and improving defense makes him the MVP of the defense in my book. On the defensive end, as Dan Crooke mentioned, Hollingshead led FCD in tackles, interceptions, blocks, and aerial duels. He’s also Whoscored.com’s highest-rated left back in MLS and the highest-rated FC Dallas player period at 7.22 while leading the club in minutes.
Offensively, his 6 goals are tied for 3rd on FCD, plus he was 7th in key passes (0.7), 2nd in dribbles (2.1), 4th in passes (46.2), and 5th in shots from inside the penalty area (0.8). Amazingly Hollingshead was tied for 2nd in shots from inside the 6-yard box!
He is the prototypical modern outside back that Coach Gonzalez wants, creating all the vertical width for the entire left half of the field. Is there room for improvement? Yes, for sure and Hollingshead continues to improve defensively.
Nico Mendez – Writer, 3rd Degree and Dallas Sports Nation
Ryan Hollingshead had one of the most impressive seasons in his career in 2019. At the beginning of the season, Marquinhos Pedroso was touted to be the starting left-back for Luchi Gonzalez after coming back from injury and would miss the first couple of games of the season. This proved to be the opportunity that Hollingshead needed to cement his place in the roster not only as a defensive player, which he has done before but as a starter for Coach Gonzalez.
Pedroso would eventually be traded to DC United and FC Dallas and Hollingshead haven’t looked back. Hollingshead played in every MLS game that FC Dallas took part in and registered the most minutes on the team with 2,961 minutes. He also came away with 6 goals and 3 assists which is also the most from any defensive player for FC Dallas and is remarkable from a player who primarily played a defensive role.
Ryan Hollingshead playing as a full-back under Luchi Gonzalez is a match that was perfect for player and coach. Hollingshead’s natural talent coming from his familiarity in the midfield allowed him to be an effective full-back who could get forward up the field and combine with the Dallas midfield and attack to create threatening goal scoring opportunities.
Much of his success comes from his comfort with the ball high up the field. His defensive success also has come from his time playing in the defense with FC Dallas. The versatility that Hollingshead provides is something that Coach Gonzalez values and that versatility have been put to good use this season in Hollingshead. The FC Dallas full-back has arguably had his best season with the team and has been making noise in the US Soccer realm as possible left-back for the USMNT.
At 28 years old, Hollingshead is in the prime years of his career and, like with many players for FC Dallas, is showing the skill, potential, and leadership to help bring Dallas its first MLS Cup.
Tyler Kern – Co-Host, ESPN Soccer Today
Center backs get a lot of love when it comes to best XI voting and Defender of the Year, but for me left back Ryan Hollingshead was the defensive MVP for FC Dallas in 2019. It’s not that Matt Hedges, Reto Ziegler, and Reggie Cannon were bad, but Hollingshead provided consistent production in both directions, tripling his previous career-high in goals with six and chipping in with three assists.
Before this year Hollingshead had been a swiss army knife of sorts for Dallas, popping up all over the field, including an emergency appearance at GK. Given the opportunity to be the full-time left back, he quickly made Marquinhos Pedroso (remember him?) dispensable and locked down the left side of the backline. His defensive work was solid to go along with his offensive production.
I’m frankly a little surprised that his efforts this year haven’t earned him a look from Gregg Berhalter given that the likes of Daniel Lovitz keep getting USMNT minutes
And as always, tell us who you picked for Defensive MVP down below!