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 two of the roundtable will be Dan Crooke and Buzz Carrick from 3rd Degree, Peter Welpton from The Kickaround, Dustin Nation from the Dallas Soccer Show, and Tyler Kern from ESPN Soccer Today. Two new media members join us for this discussion: Nico Mendez, who is joining 3rd Degree as a writer, and John Lenard who is already with us at 3rd Degree.
Our second topic for discussion is “Offensive MVP.”
Dan Crooke – Writer 3rd Degree & MLSSoccer.com
We’ve been treated to a couple of solid contenders with Paxton Pomykal in the early stages of the season and Jesus Ferreira clicking at the 10-spot over the past couple of months, but it has to be Michael Barrios for me.
The Colombian has been consistent over several years, let alone a season. He finished third in the league in assists and equaled a team record. If you take off hockey assists he led MLS with 13. A quarter of FC Dallas’ goals have been created by him, another 10% scored by him, and he’s been the constant threat that teams have to prepare for which tends to leave others open. His 89 key passes put him eighth in the league, six of the seven players ahead of him each make over $2m per year, it also puts him 16 key passes ahead of the next two FC Dallas players (Pomykal and Ferreira) combined.
The offense simply doesn’t work without Barrios.
Dustin Nation – Co-Host, Dallas Soccer Show
Much attention was given to likable newcomer, Zdenek Ondrasek, who made his own case for offensive MVP with his almost single-handed dragging of FCD into the final playoff spot after breaking into the first team against Montreal.
However, over the entire season, Michael Barrios kept the team in games that they didn’t deserve to be in. While the team struggled to find the balance between offense and defense, he was one of the only consistent offensive bright spots. He quietly racked up 15 regular-season assists, besting his 2017 total of 14, and equaling Jason Kreis’ assist total in the 1999 campaign. He even added another in the post-season, just for good measure. Barrios’ contributions to the FC Dallas offense in 2019 were invaluable.
Peter Welpton – Co-Host, The Kickaround
This category feels a lot like, “Coldest Ice Cube” from an ice tray that’s been sitting out all day.
Here, let’s compromise and name an “Offensive MVP” for 2019, but using a different denotation for offensive: Mosquera – a player who’s done nothing of note all season. Is he unlucky with injuries, or is he just that type of player who refuses to play through pain? When he is on the field, can anyone explain what his strengths are? Playing the position of most need, and in many ways, the attack’s most broken piece – 2019 was poised for Santiago to shine, instead of ending behind two defenders in goals scored and not even top five in assists. After two seasons and 59 appearances, Mosquera has failed to register even 10 goals or assists.
In the spirit of not being a total jerk, obviously the coldest cube for the FCD ice tray is Barrios.
Tyler Kern – Co-Host, ESPN Soccer Today
For me, there’s only one answer for offensive MVP for FC Dallas in 2019: Michael Barrios. His 15 assists put him tied for 3rd in the league with some guy named Carlos Vela and trailing only Diego Valeri (16) and Maxi Moralez (20). Imagine how many assists Barrios could have racked up if he had been playing with a true killer at center forward all year.
Without a true threat on the left side since Fabian Castillo left, the diminutive Colombian has shouldered a huge amount of the offensive responsibility while garnering the majority of the attention from opposing defenders. There’s a part of me that wonders if we’ve begun to take Barrios for granted over the last few seasons. With 35 assists over the last 3 years, he’s been the most consistent offensive threat for FC Dallas over the past several seasons.
Buzz Carrick – Founder and Editor, 3rd Degree
Coming into 2019, Luchi Gonzalez didn’t quite know where to use Jesus Ferreira. In spring training, Ferreira mostly lined up as the 2nd choice 9 or 3rd choice wing because Dom Badji was the clear choice 9 at the start of the season.
But it quickly proved that Badji wasn’t the answer and Jesus Ferreira soon got his chance starting the 4th game of the season at the high striker position and quickly proving to be the best 9 option. So over the first half of the season, Ferreira solved one big offensive problem area for Coach Gonzalez.
Then in July, Paxton Pomykal – who had been the team’s 10 or “free 8” if you prefer – missed a game with an injury and Coach Gonzalez again turned to Ferreira to solve another big problem, moving him to the 10-role. Gonzalez had tested Ferreira in that role during US Open Cup play in June and the staff really liked the qualities he brought to the table. Namely connectivity through the midfield, escape-ability, penetrating runs, and quick transition play.
This was the second time this season Ferreira solved a big offensive problem for Coach Gonzalez. Once Ferreira moved into the starting 10-role in MLS play, he never gave it up; starting every game but one, a start at forward, the rest of the season.
In the end, the 18-year-old Ferreria earned the FCD Golden Boot with eight goals (none of them PKS) and finished 2nd in assists with six. And three of Ferreira’s six assists were game-winners, a 50% ratio.
Nico Mendez – Writer, 3rd Degree and Dallas Sports Nation
It’s a little difficult to pick out one single player as the offensive MVP. Each player had their ups and downs over the course of the season. If anything, Coach Gonzalez and his staff have been a valuable piece to the functioning of the attack. It’s been mentioned multiple times throughout the season by media members, and Luchi Gonzalez himself, that FC Dallas has been growing, learning, and developing throughout the year.
The most important thing is that the coaching staff has implemented a system. A system that not only has demonstrated that it can score goals but also be dynamic. The FC Dallas coaching staff has set the foundation for an attacking style that has multiple approaches for the attacking aspect of the game. Whether it be a quick combination play with the wingers and full-backs to cutting inside and letting the midfield create and setup attacking players to playing a simple cross this the attack has, over the course of the season, learned to be flexible and constantly solve and look for solutions on the field. It’s the flexibility, determination, and desire that started by the coaching staff has transferred to the players on the field. It’s not that there weren’t these attacking characteristics with previous FC Dallas teams but rather with a new Head Coach and a new style of play, these changes are apparent and different from the counter-attacking style of Oscar Pareja.
While choosing the coaching staff might have been a cheap way out of choosing an MVP, a player that has responded to this new system is Michael Barrios. Michael Barrios has been involved in 20 goals over the course of the season which is the most of any FC Dallas player in 2019. At 28 years old, Michael Barrios is in the prime years of his career and demonstrated that he is a consist threat in the attack growing and learning as a player. From firing in shots and cross at full strength to now become more patient and having the correct weight on his passes and crosses, Michael Barrios has been a key player to the attack. If you want a player that encapsulates the new flowing attack, look at Michael Barrios. His production on the field has been valuable but so are his intangibles off the field. With 5 MLS seasons under his belt, he’s a leader with his experience in age. That experience is invaluable for FC Dallas where they are going all-in with “the kids”.
Anyone will tell you that the production is not what fans, media, or even the club desire. Will it come with time? Yes, it will, and the foundation has been laid in 2019 and hopefully, it continues to improve in 2020 and any offensive addition over the winter/summer could help supplement the attack.
John Lenard – Writer, 3rd Degree and SocTakes
For this segment, I turned to the all-knowing, infallible WhoScored ratings, pulled up FC Dallas, and sorted by offensive rating. Near the top are the usual suspects; Paxton Pomykal, Michael Barrios, Bryan Acosta, etc.
But leading the chart was someone I didn’t expect: Mr. Ryan Hollingshead. Statistically speaking, he was the most consistent, most beneficial attacking player throughout the season, and adding to his benefit, he played all 34 games. Ryan had a proper breakout season on and off the field, his 6 goals leave him tied for third on the team, and he managed to put up more goals than bad performances, something that can’t be said for much of the rest of the squad.
So my contrarian vote goes for Mr. FCD himself, Ryan Hollingshead.