Building the 2020 FC Dallas roster – Who’s In and Who’s Out

The 2019 season has ended and we at 3rd Degree have begun our planning and evaluation for 2020.   We’ve done season grades, some roundtables, and talked about ways Coach Luchi Gonzalez can improve his team. And since time doesn’t stand still, FC Dallas has begun making roster moves.

Now is the time for some squad building.  Since Coach Luchi Gonzalez is engrained with the organization’s development philosophy I’m going to attack this next phase with the coach and philosophy in mind.  Luchi knows how he wants to play, knows who he wants to keep, and he knows what kind of talent he needs to add.

To undertake this effort, I’m going to build a roster by position. Adding in some discussion of players where needed.

So here’s my take on how FCD should build, I think I’ll start upfront.


There were too many 9s, someone needed to go. And they did.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Dominique Badji Trade Badji has solid MLS veteran roster value. Mostly healthy, likable teammate, works hard, isn’t too expensive, and produces consistent medium-tier numbers.  He’s a player you keep, but I don’t think he fits Luchi-Ball and I think FCD should trade him. Between the two expansion teams and a couple of other clubs rebuilding, I think he has value in the market. Under contract for 2020.
Cristian Colman Release Too expensive with no production. He’s never shown the ability to score in MLS despite the fact he’s a good teammate and hard worker. Option declined.
Zdenek Ondrasek Keep Until the middle of August, Cobra was going to be a “gone” for 2020… Now he’s earned a second season in Dallas with his amazing last 7 games.  He’s part of the 2020 solution. Under contract for 2020.
Ricardo Pepi Keep He’s the future, just not yet. Of course, FCD should keep him. He should see time with both FCD and with North Texas SC in 2020. Under contract for 2020.

Any additions? Yes.  FC Dallas still needs to go out and get a 9. A (relatively) expensive 9 different in style from Cobra. This has been a problem for years and is still unanswered despite Ondrasek’s improvement.

Zdenek Ondrasek against Houston
Zdenek Ondrasek takes on the Houston Dynamo, August 25, 2019. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Wing (right and left)

There should be four, Badji could be counted as one if he stays.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Francis Atuahene LoanI still think this kid has potential, but injuries derailed his first two seasons. He needs to stay healthy and be somewhere he can play, a lot. That means a USL-C loan. Still a GA in 2020 but right now he can’t help FCD much. Under contract for 2020.
Michael Barrios Keep FCD’s most consistent offensive threat. Tied the FC Dallas single-season assist record in 2019. Under contract for 2020.
Edwin Gyasi End Loan Bust. Buh bye. Option declined.
Santiago Mosquera Keep When he’s healthy and focused he is a dangerous player. Under contract for 2020.
Dante Sealy Bounce Dante Sealy spent all of 2019 with North Texas SC. He will spend a lot of time there in 2020 until he becomes a dominant player in USL-1. He will bounce back and forth though. Under contract for 2020.

Any additions?  Yes. FC Dallas needs to add a veteran left wing.  There are other central players (Ferreira, Pomykal, Roberts) who can provide depth here so just one player is needed plus Dante Sealy will bounce back and forth.

If Badji is traded, there might be room for a young forward/wing like Ronaldo Damus or Richard Danso both of NTXSC.

Dante Sealy
Dante Sealy takes part in North Texas SC training. (North Texas SC Communications)

Central Midfield

The deepest and most entrenched part of the squad. Only one of two changes.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Bryan Acosta Keep A solid, If not great, season by the DP in 2019.  He’s not a superstar but he’s doing the job he’s being paid to. Under contract for 2020.
Eric Alexander Gone He’s a solid vet and a good training piece who is almost a second coach. It’s a long shot, but depending on other signings, he could end up staying in Dallas for 2020. Out of contract.
Pablo Aranguiz Loan/Sell He doesn’t want to be in Dallas and they don’t really want him at the level he’s playing.  Either extended the loan or sell. Under contract for 2020.
Edwin Cerrillo Keep I’m at the front row of the Cerrillo bandwagon, but he’s not there yet as a single 6. A depth piece at this time but for sure keep him. Under contract for 2020.
Jesus Ferreira Re-sign Not only keep, but sign him to a Pomykal’eque contract extension and build around both players. Under contract for 2020.
Jacori Hayes Keep A fantastic squad player and a great value MLS roster piece. But at one point does he ask to leave because he wants a starting spot? Is he content to stay around and sit the bench?  It’s all about the kids here after all. Under contract for 2020.
Paxton Pomykal Re-sign The face of the franchise and one the squad should be built around. New contract 2020-2024.
Thomas Roberts Keep Another kid with a bright future. He needs 10 to 15 starts next year and needs to be in the 18 all the time. If he’s not, then he needs a full time loan. One where he can start 30 games at a level higher than NTX. Under contract for 2020.
Brandon Servania Keep Right now he’s a lock starter in midfield. Only time will tell if he keeps that spot but he’s playing in the best form of his life. Under contract for 2020.

Any additions? Yes. FC Dallas needs to add a pure 6 that can play single-pivot since right now Cerrillo needs a double pivot.  A depth player at the 6 will give FCD the flexibility to use Acosta as an 8 if necessary.

Brandon Servania vs Sporting KC
Brandon Servania vs Sporting KC, October 6, 2019. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Left Back

Pretty set.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Ryan Hollingshead Keep Arguably the best left back in MLS in 2019. He has a brand new deal and he’s the emotional leader of this team. New contract for 2020-2022.
John Nelson Keep An MLS starter talent. A natural left back, he can play right and even centrally in a pinch. Could he draw an offer FCD can’t refuse? Under contract for 2020.

Any additions? No, not specifically. Ziegler and Bressan can both play out here in a pinch.

Central Defenders

Just need a little depth.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Bressan Keep Aka, Matheus Simonete Bressanelli. He has improved his fouling but is still a bit risky at times. Can he beat out the aging Ziegler?  Under contract for 2020.
Matt Hedges Keep Yes. Under contract for 2020.
Moises Hernandez Gone I originally wrote, “Sell him to San Antonio FC or waive,” which is exactly what happened. At 28 he’s not in the picture in Dallas anymore. Option declined.
Callum Montgomery Keep Plays left center back with North Texas, has shown progress, but needs more with the passing for Luchi-Ball and MLS.  I wouldn’t hate the idea of a USL-C loan. Under contract for 2020.
Reto Ziegler Keep The FCD captain is under contract for 2020. No reason not to bring him back. But he will be 34, can Bressan or anyone else, beat him out? Under contract for 2020.

Any additions? Yes. With Hernandez departing, a depth piece from the SuperDraft or via a Homegrown signing is needed. Maybe even two if Montgomery isn’t cutting it.

Right Back

This is where the biggest question marks are on the defense not because of talent, but rather because of ambition.

Player Suggestion Notes Status
Reggie Cannon Sell The time has come for either Cannon or Reynolds to go as both can’t start.  Cannon, I think, wants to go as he has turned down contract extensions from FCD. So I think it’s time to sell him. He’s pretty firmly in the USMNT pool and his value is pretty solid.  The longer you wait, the less you can get for him. Time to cash in. Under contract for 2020.
Bryan Reynolds Re-sign Reynolds needs to start for FCD or someone else. If FCD doesn’t sell Cannon, then Reynolds needs a loan to the USL-C side or maybe even a European club, as he’s past the North Texas SC level. But I think he will be FC Dallas.  Also, he needs a new deal. Under contract for 2020.
Ema Twumasi Keep Keeping Twumasi as the backup right back is contingent on either Reynolds or Cannon departing on sale or loan. FCD tested this idea out and it looks pretty good in training and scrimmages.  Kevin Bonilla of the FCD Academy is ready for a North Texas contract, not MLS. Obviously, if both Cannon and Reynolds are with FCD in 2020, then Twumasi will be a loan. Under contract for 2020.

Any additions? No. Nelson or Hollingshead can play here if they have to.

Ema Twumasi with the Austin Bold
Ema Twumasi with the Austin Bold. (Austin Bold Communications)


Player Suggestion Notes Status
Jesse Gonzalez Keep The best pure shot-stopper in MLS.  Vastly improved his ball skill to be the best passing keeper in MLS.  Gonzalez will only continue to improve with age as he gains wisdom. Under contract for 2020.
Jimmy Maurer Keep Good enough to start in MLS. Great teammate.  Great luxury to have a backup this good in MLS. Unless someone in MLS panics and overpays for a starting level keeper. Under contract for 2020.
Kyle Zobeck Keep Has vastly improved since coming here and so far is keeping Carlos Avilez in USL-1. Under contract for 2020.

Here’s the math on the 30 man roster I just built including trading Badji.

  1. F1 – Zdenek Ondrasek
  2. F2 – Ricardo Pepi
  3. F3 — New veteran signing
  4. LW1 – Santiago Mosquera
  5. LW2 – New veteran signing
  6. RW1 – Michael Barrios
  7. RW2 – Dante Sealy
  8. CM1 – Bryan Acosta
  9. CM2 – Paxton Pomykal
  10. CM3 – Jesus Ferreira
  11. CM4 – Brandon Servania
  12. CM5 – Jacori Hayes
  13. CM6 – Thomas Roberts
  14. CM7 – Edwin Cerrillo
  15. CM8 – New veteran signing
  16. LB1 – Ryan Hollingshead
  17. LB2 – Johnny Nelson
  18. CB1 – Reto Ziegler
  19. CB2 – Matt Hedges
  20. CB3 – Bressan
  21. CB4 – Callum Montgomery
  22. CB5 – College-age Homegrown or SuperDraft Pick
  23. RB1 – Reggie Cannon or Bryan Reynolds
  24. RB2 – Ema Twumasi
  25. GK1 – Jesse Gonzalez
  26. GK2 – Jimmy Maurer
  27. GK3 – Kyle Zobeck
  28. HG/SD – Homegrown or SuperDraft Pick
  29. HG/SD – Homegrown or SuperDraft Pick
  30. Francis Atuahene on loan

FCD can only get relief for one player on loan, which should be the player without right of recall – Pablo Aranguiz – which is why I prefer they sell him.


  1. Hmm. There doesn’t look like there’s a lot of room to improve offensive output of the starting X1 here, considering the habits of the FO. A net ringing 9 and dynamic winger could vastly improve the attack so let’s go spend some cash!

    Reality is a 15 (or dare I ask for 20) g/y number 9 has been a unicorn for some time and will cost big bucks to bring in, so that won’t happen. Speedy, creative L/RW is likely what we’ll shoot for, bringing in some relatively unknown from South or Central America and hoping to stumble into another Castillo.

    You’re spot on regarding the log jam in central midfield. This can be a glass half full or half empty situation depending on one’s demeanor. Can Paxton churn into an elite 8 in a 3 man center? If Acosta can lock down a single pivot 6 (which he almost totally has), Pax become that dynamic 8, and we can find Diaz’esq 10 this might be the strongest heart of a lineup in the MLS. Again, asking a lot from the FO. The only reason I’m still very interested in finding a 10 is I don’t think that’s really going to be Pax’s best position, though I could be totally wrong. All that being said, you’ve still got 4-5 CM’s that can play, and need to play, and they all kind of play the same position. Somewhere between the 6 and 8, jack of all trades, master of none. Glass half full, or empty?

  2. I hope that Twumasi gets a shot at featuring in at right back this season. He’s put in some quality time with Austin Bold, and I like the idea of having some solid offensive defenders on both wings in Hollingshead, Nelson, Reynolds and Twumasi.

    FCD seems to have a knack for finding defensive players in the Superdraft, so I think leaning that direction to continue to build out depth is the way to go.

    Really hope Atuahene can have an injury free year and show his value. I loved his debut goal from the outside of his foot. It was the EXACT type of change-up a lot of our other players don’t try.

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