As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part III of our top 5 player rankings by position – those who man the middle of the defense.
Making a distinction between right and left center backs seems silly, particularly when you add in sweepers and marking backs. So we combined them all into one Top 10 Center Backs list.
It’s my list, I can do what I want.
To make these rankings, I approached several people I know and respect who have been working around, writing about, or following the team for 25 years to give input. They may come and go over the course of the season as schedules allow. I will be giving them credit on each story to which they contribute.
Special thanks for participating in this center back ranking:
Dave Dir – The Burn’s1st coach, former color commentator
Steve Davis – The Dean of Dallas soccer writers and current FCD color commentator
Kevin Lindstrom – 3rd Degree writer since 2000
Dustin “El Jefe” Christmann – FCD’s 1st Fan, founder of the Inferno, former 3rd Degree writer
Chamo Jones – former 3rd Degree writer
Damian Wright – former 3rd Degree writer
On with the show…
Top 10 FC Dallas Center Backs of All-Time
10. Greg Vanney – 2005 to 2006
One of the best defenders in MLS right from its inception with 6 seasons at LA Galaxy before leaving in 2002 to join SC Bastia in France.
Returning to MLS in 2005, Vanney joined FC Dallas for two seasons. If you include DC United in 2007 – Vanney made a short stop in Colorado for 9 games – he made the playoffs every season of his first 9 in MLS. Only missing out in his final season of 2008 back with the Galaxy to complete the MLS career playoff sweep.
53 starts in Dallas with 1 goal and 3 assists to his name, but Vanney’s play certainly wasn’t about offensive numbers. Although you can add on 3 assists in 4 playoff games in Dallas. Vanney was named an MLS All-Star in 2005 and 2006 with FCD. He also has 37 US Caps.
Vanney is currently the Technical Director & Head Coach of Toronto FC.
Good player, good leader.Steve Davis
9. Richard Farrer – 1996 to 2002Embed from Getty Images
Selected in the 12th round of the Inaugural Player Draft in 1996, Farrer went on to play 158 regular-season games (8th in franchise history) with 141 starts (5th franchise history) – plus 17/11 playoff games/starts – in his 7 year MLS career. A versatile defender, Farrer played marking back, center back, sweeper, and even some right midfield. 6 career goals and 7 assists.
Little known fact, Farrer had an extended tryout with Lincoln City in 1995 before an ankle injury ended his opportunity there.
Farrer retired at the end of 2002 to attend Law School at the University of Texas and is currently a U.S. Magistrate Judge in San Antonio.
Starter for 5+seasons; probably would’ve gone longer in the game had salaries been higher (more like they are today). As it was, he wanted to make a little scratch, so he left the game early for law school.Steve Davis
8. Jorge “Zarco” Rodriguez – 1997 to 2002
I’m frankly surprised Zarco ended up this low.
Six seasons as a massive part of the Dallas Burn including the 1997 US Open Cup Championship winning PK. 3-Time Burn Defender of the Year (‘98, ’00, ’01) and 1998 Burn MVP. 155 games and 140 starts for the Burn mostly as a marking back or sweeper, but also played wide mid, outside back, or even holding mid.
Zarco was a PK specialist and ranks 3rd on the FCD PK charts to this day (1 ahead of Reto Ziegler). He still ranks in the Top 10 on the FCD career stats sheet with 25 goals (10th), 155 games (9th), 12,972 minutes (4th), 140 starts (7th), 9 game-winning goals (t-6th), 181 fouls (9th), and 22 yellow cards (t-8th). He’s also a member of the 3rd Degree All-Time Best XI from 2017.
Zarco is currently the Head Coach of FAS in El Salvador.
One of the early key players, Zarco was known for making a key run or two forward and often succeeding.Kevin Lindstrom
7. Walker Zimmerman – 2013 to 2017
Drafted as a Generation Adidas player in 2013 after two seasons at Furman. Played 89 games, making 71 starts for FC Dallas. Blessed with a knack for scoring big goals with his head, Zimmermann had 7 goals during his 5 seasons at FCD. Made 4 playoff starts and 6 appearances with the club in ’14, ’15, and ’16.
Walker made his senior US debut in 2017 after playing for the US at the U18, U20, and U23 level. Zimmermann won the 2016 Supporters Shield and 2016 US Open Cup with Dallas. Down the stretch of the horrific collapse of 2017, Coach Oscar Pareja lost faith in Zimmerman and traded him to LAFC that winter.
After starting 2 seasons in LA, winning the 2019 Supporters Shield, Zimmermann was traded to expansion side Nashville SC this winter.
Unfulfilled potential. A player with all the tools but there was always a costly mistake to be made. Great in the air at both ends of the field. The penalty he scored to eliminate Seattle from the playoffs is one of the most iconic moments in club history. When it was all said in done, he only put in one great season for the club.Chamo Jones
6. Ugo Ihemelu – 2009 to 2013
Drafted 5th overall by the LA Galaxy in 2005 – one pick ahead of another player on this list – Ugo played 2 seasons in LA and 2+ seasons in Colorado before Schellas Hyndman was able to pry him out of the Rapids hands in 2009 for the price of the very same player I just mentioned (plus allocation money and a pick, probably an overpay).
A big part of Hyndman’s team and a club leader over three seasons, Ihemelu’s career was cut short by a concussion in 2012 at the age of 29. He never played pro-soccer again. 66 starts and 68 games during his time in Dallas with 5 goals and 2 assists. A key piece in the all-time franchise-low 28-goals-allowed season of 2010 and the club’s only MLS Cup appearence.
Ugo currently teaches at Uplift Education.
The athletic counterpart that would erase any mistakes committed by the rest of the defense. He was the perfect complement to John.Chamo Jones
5. Reto Ziegler – 2018 to present
I was caught off guard by Reto being so highly thought of by our voters. He’s had two fairly strong seasons, but there’s a chance some recent’itis is at play here with a top 5 placing. At least in my mind, anyway.
Ziegler brings an immense amount of international experience to the club. 35 caps for Switzerland, including two World Cups (2010, 2014). 4 seasons in the Swiss top league, 145 games in Serie A, and 34 games in the EPL. He’s got some amazing clubs on his resume.
63 games, 63 starts in 2 seasons. The 9 goals in that time are certainly impressive and he’s already tied for 4th on the franchise PK list (He’ll tie Zarco for 3rd on his next one).
One outright franchise record to his name: most red cards in a single season with 3 in 2018. FCD’s Defender of the Year in 2019.
One of the club’s best foreign signings ever. The fact that he’s so high on this list after only two full seasons is a testament to his competence in this position. Additionally, he has been near-automatic on penalties and a threat on free kicks.Dustin Christmann
4. Clarence Goodson – 2004 to 2007
Goodson signed Project-40 out of Maryland and was drafted by the Burn 7th overall in 2004. From 2004 to 2007 Goodson made 66 starts and played in 74 games with 3 goals and 2 assists. Although he received 20 yellow cards, he never crossed the line and received an ejection. At 6’4” Goodson was dominant in the air.
The 2007 FC Dallas Defender of the Year, Goodson left in 2008 to play at IK Start in Norway. He spent time at Brøndby in the Danish Superliga as well before coming back to MLS in 2013 to play for the Earthquakes until 2016. Goodson has 46 caps with the US and was part of the 2010 World Cup squad.
Before there was Hedges and before John, Goodson was the best CB the club ever had. Used his size to dominate everything coming into the box. Unfortunately, he had a knack for disappearing in the big games.Chamo Jones
3. George John – 2009 to 2014
Selected 14th overall by FC Dallas and Schellas Hyndman, John was a college midfielder who converted to center back in MLS. 119 games and 114 starts for FC Dallas over 5 seasons. John too was good in the air (6’3”), scoring 6 career goals mostly with this head. Only 16 yellow cards and just 1 red in his time in Dallas.
John had a short, 2-month loan deal with West Ham United in 2012 that didn’t turn in to a permanent move. After another strong season in 2013, when he was named an MLS All-Star, John missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and was selected by NYCFC in the 2015 MLS Expansion draft after Dallas left him exposed due to said injury. Unfortunately, John never recovered and never signed with the Pigeons.
Another player in our rankings whose career was cut short by injury, John was only 27 when he had surgery in 2014 and is just now 32. Imagine having had John play alongside Matt Hedges the last 6 seasons.
Current whereabouts unknown.
A fan favorite, John was part of the 2010 team that made FC Dallas’ only MLS Cup appearance to date.Kevin Lindstrom
2. Drew Moor – 2005 to 2009
One of two unanimous vote-getters on the list.
A local kid who grew up supporting the club, Drew was actually in attendance at the Dallas Burn’s 1996 home opener at the age of 12. I first recall Moor showing up at FC Dallas training while a freshman in college.
After 2 seasons at Furman and 2 seasons at Indiana (back to back National Champs), Moor was drafted by Dallas with the 5th overall pick in 2005 (one pick behind Ugo Ihemelu). Moor made 111 starts and played in 123 games during his 5 seasons in Dallas. He scored 8 goals and notched 2 assists with just 16 yellow cards and 1 red. He was twice US Open Cup runner up.
Moor was traded to the Colorado Rapids in 2009 as the primary price for getting Ugo Ihemelu. As most fans will know, Moor went on to beat his old team in the 2010 MLS Cup and also won the 2017 MLS Cup with Toronto FC. He re-signed with Colorado this winter.
Great defender, great guy. Damn shame that he got traded away – a big mistake IMO. Let’s not forget, he went on to win TWO MLS Cup championships.Steve Davis
Was a bit undersized in the middle his ability to read the game made up for any lack of physical strength and was one of the best passers from that position.Dave Dir
If nothing else, Moor will always be remembered by many FC Dallas fans for the gesture captured in this picture.
1. Matt Hedges – 2012 to present
The Big Kahuna. Far and away #1. Hedges received every first-place vote in our center back survey.
MLS Defender of the Year in 2016, MLS Best XI in 2015 and 2016, 3-Time MLS All-Star (’17, ’18, & ’19), FC Dallas MVP in 2018, and 4-time FC Dallas Defender of the Year (’14, ’15, ’16, and ’18). Hedges was named to the 3rd Degree All-Time FC Dallas Best XI in 2017.
At the time of writing… 1st All-Time in Dallas starts with 238, 1st All-time in FC Dallas minutes with 21,028, 2nd All-Time in FC Dallas games played with 243 (4 games behind Jason Kreis), yet only 6th All-Time in fouls with 186 and 2nd in cautions with 35. Remarkably, just 1 red card.
Hedges, like the other tall defenders on this list (he’s 6’4”) is dominant in the air on both ends of the field and has 16 career goals.
Drafted 11th overall out of UNC in 2012 after winning the NCAA title and being named ACC Defender of the Year. He was previously named Horizon League Defender of the Year twice while at Butler.
Hedges will almost certainly play his entire career for FC Dallas and is already one of the all-time club legends.
Most tenured player at the position on track to be one of the greatest players in club history. Good at everything. He handles crosses, he defends well one on one, is positionally savvy, passes well out of the back, and has a knack for scoring goals in big games (USOC semis and final in 2016; Last year in the playoffs).Chamo Jones
I know this is already a long list, but there some other center backs worth mentioning.
Eric Dade (1997 to 2001) – 111 games and 98 starts mostly as a marking back or center back. A stalwart on the defensive line for the Burn under Dave Dir. Played professionally indoor for the Baltimore Spirit (’92-’94) and Dallas Sidekicks (’93-’96) before coming to MLS and then rejoined the Sidekicks (’00-’04) after he left MLS. 92 goals scored indoors, 4 outdoors. Currently the Executive Director of the Western New York Flash.
Had pace power and was an intimidating defender that caused fear in Dallas opponents.Dave Dir
Steve Jolley (2004-2005) – The veteran was brought in as the club was tooling up for the rebranding and was a vital part of a club that went from last to second in the division while he was here. 41 games played in a Dallas kit. Jolley became a broadcaster for a short time after he retired often working with Bobby Rhine. Jolley is now the Executive Vice President, Senior Advisor at the Walsh & Nicholson Financial Group.
Unfortunately, my most vivid memory of Jolley was him pulling his hamstring while celebrating a goal with a backflip.Chamo Jones
Steve Morrow (2002-2003) – After a long career at Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers, Morrow joined FC Dallas in 2002. He played 41 games over two seasons before becoming an assistant coach under Colin Clark and then head coach after Clark was let go after 2006. Morrow only coached FCD himself for a season and a half before being let go in 2008. Steve worked for Arsenal mostly in their youth club from 2008 until he was just recently let go in a power reshuffle.
One Season Wonders
There were also some players that got votes from our panel despite playing just one season (or less) with the club.
Lubos Kubik (2001) Named an MLS All-Star in 2001 despite just 11 games for the club. Yes, 11. That’s it. While I don’t know where Kubik is now, his son currently plays soccer at *checks notes* California University of Pennsylvania.
A terrific player who would be higher on the list … except that he was pretty old in his short time in Dallas. Oh, also, it was a VERY short time in Dallas.Steve Davis
Cory Gibbs (2004) – Arguably one of the very best defenders to play for the club while he was here for a very short 21 game season between stints at FC St Pauli and Feyenoord. 2004 FC Dallas Defender of the Year and 2004 MLS All-Star. Gibbs is currently a player agent and represents multiple FC Dallas players, including Paxton Pomykal.
Chad Deering (1998, sort of) – Certainly much more well known as a central midfielder for the Burn, during his first season in MLS Deering played sweeper for Coach Dave Dir and had a terrific season despite the club’s overall poor showing. Chad is currently the Director of Coaching at Dallas Rush.
Duilio Davino (2008) – The famous Mexican International (84 caps) never really lived up to the billing in Dallas earning the nickname “traffic cone” during his short 23 game stint under Steve Morrow. Perhaps with a different coach things might have worked out better. Or perhaps if he had been better, Morrow would have lasted longer as a coach. Davino is currently the Sporting Chairman of CF Monterrey.
Wade Webber (1997) – Picked by Dallas in the 1997 Supplemental Draft. At the end of the season, the Burn didn’t protect Webber (you could protect few players that year) and he was selected by the Miami Fusion. 18 games, 18 starts in 1997 with 2 goals and 2 assists. Currently a Tacoma Defiance assistant coach.
Only played 1 season for the Burn but was one of the best defenders in the history of the club. Unfortunately, he was picked in the expansion draft in an era where you could protect very few players and went on to start for Miami.Dave Dir