FC Dallas 25th Season Top 5 All-Time Players – Attacking Midfielders

As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part VII of our top 5 player rankings by position.

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. 

For Part VII we move to the point of midfield… the attacking mids. The 10s. The playmakers.

Special thanks for participating in this Attacking Midfielders ranking: 
Carlos Alvarado – FC Dallas Spanish Play by Play
Dustin “El Jefe” Christmann – FCD’s 1st Fan, founder of the Inferno, former 3rd Degree writer
Dave Dir – The Burn’s 1st coach, former color commentator
Steve Davis – The Dean of Dallas soccer writers and current FCD color commentator
Chamo Jones – former 3rd Degree writer
Kevin Lindstrom – 3rd Degree writer since 2000
Andy Swift – The KickAround, former Burn GM
Damian Wright – former 3rd Degree writer

At the attacking mid position, there were three clear standouts all of whom were unanimous selections. All three were also almost the exclusive top 3 for everyone. 

Our 4th place candidate was in a gap by himself and our 5th place 10 was another step back in votes but was still safely ahead of the pack.

Top 5 FC Dallas Attacking Mids of All-Time

5. Jason Kreis – 1996 to 2004

28 Apr 1996: Carlos Valderrama #10 of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Jason Kreis #15 of the Dallas Burn fight for the ball during an MLS game played at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Burn won the game, 2-1. (Credit: Simon Bruty /Allsport. Courtesy FC Dallas.)

Drafted 43rd overall in 1996 in the 5th round.  For the first three seasons of MLS, Kreis mostly swapped between right mid and attacking mid depending on the tactics, players on the roster, and squad health.  He played more so as a 10 in 1996 and 1998 than in 1997.  It wasn’t until 1999 that he really became a full time striker. 

Over those first three seasons, Kries had 30 goals and 19 assists. Those are some remarkable numbers for a non-striker and on just those three seasons along he would rank 7th in club history for goals and be nearly in the top 10 for assists.  Kreis led FCD in assists and in game-winning assists in ‘98, ‘99, and ’00. He still leads the club all-time in assists with 65.

Kreis, of course, went on to a remarkable career. Since I’m confident he’ll appear in our rankings again, I’m going to forgo most of it here. 

Kreis is currently the US U23 Coach, the Director of Inter Miami’s Academy, and the Head Coach of Fort Lauderdale CF (Inter’s USL-1 side).

57 assists over his first 6 seasons and I had the pleasure of coaching him in 5 of those. Jason made his mark playing in the 10-position before Dallas ever had a real ten and you saw it in those assists numbers. He could score but was one of the best set up men in club history. While not a traditional 10 from a playmaking standpoint nobody was better than Jason at running off the ball and finding the open man once he received it. 

Dave Dir

4. Oscar Pareja – 1998 to 2005

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I talked a lot about Pareja in the Linking-Mid Top 5 where he ranked #1.  So I won’t repeat it all here.

Pareja’s arrival in late 1998 – in a trade from New England – and subsequent takeover of the #10 role allowed Coach Dave Dir to use Kreis as a striker from 1999 on. For the first two seasons, Pareja was the Burn playmaker with Chad Deering, Leonel Alvarez, or Ted Eck behind him.  It was circa 2001 that Pareja made the shift to deeper 8-style player.

Pareja still ranks 2nd in club history in assists with 47 behind Kreis. Underscoring his value, Pareja led the Burn in Game-Winning Assists in 5 seasons (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003) out of his 8 in Dallas.

Pareja is currently the Head Coach of Orlando City.

Oscar had a deft touch and could put the ball on a platter. When Sutter went down again to injury I remember I was so excited to have a chance to add him to the Burn roster.  He also had the ability to get box-to-box that we hadn’t had in Dallas and that was unmatched in his first years in the league. A player who showed up big in big games.

Dave Dir

3. Mauro Diaz – 2013 to 2018

Mauro Diaz fights off a Real Salt Lake defender, June 25, 2016. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

The last pure playmaking 10 the club has featured (the game is moving away from pure, one-way players) Diaz began to take over the play making duties in Dallas in 2013 after arriving from River Plate.

When he transferred to Shabab Al-Ahli in 2018 he departed FCD with 109 games, 84 starts, 23 goals, 10 PKs (leads franchise), 44 assists (3rd), 16 game-winning assists (3rd), and 261 corners (2nd).   

Diaz is the highest assists-per-90-minutes player in franchise history with 0.54, just over 1 per 2 games.  Oddly though – probably due to injury – Diaz only led the team in assists twice, in ’15 & ’16. He was also fouled a staggering 267 times (4th most in club history) which is a big part of why he was frequently banged up.

Diaz was a key part of the FC Dallas 2016 Supporters Shield and US Open Cup double. We’ll never know for sure, but if not for his late-season torn Achilles tendon, FC Dallas would likely have won the treble that year.  2016 MLS All-Star & Best XI.  2016 FCD MVP.  March 2014 Player of the Month, won only 9 times in club history.

Diaz played roughly one season combined in Dallas after his 2016 injury; 19 games in 2017 and 12 games in 2018. 

Recently Diaz departed Shabab Al-Ahli and now plays for Estudiantes in Argentina.

Man, he was so good before he did his Achilles and I will forever cling to the belief that FCD would’ve won MLS Cup in 2016 were it not for that injury in the penultimate game. As it is, we will always have his masterpiece in the Open Cup final to look at and wonder what could’ve been. There’s a reason why he got the nickname “The Magic Unicorn” from Matt Doyle of MLSSoccer.com… there has never been anyone like him for this team.

Dustin Christmann

2. Alain Sutter – 1997 to 1998

Alain Sutter of the Dallas Burn shields off Mike Burns of the New England Revolution in 1997. (Courtesy FC Dallas)

Allocated to the Burn in 1997 after a career with Grasshoppers, Young Boys, FC Nurnberg, Bayern Munich, and FC Freiberg; Sutter quickly won over fans with a fantastic display of playmaking over 21 games that season with 2 goals and 8 assists.  Named MLS Player of the Month in May of 1997 and an All-Star that year.

An extraordinarily gifted passer, Sutter was electric to watch on the field. His position high on this list is due to his subline skill rather than longevity or club achievements.  

Unfortunately for Burn fans, Sutter was injured stepping in a hole on the Greenhill School field – where the Burn trained in the late 90s – early in the 1998 season (4 games, 2 assists to that point) and he never played again. The holistic type healing methods Sutter preferred didn’t help him recover in this case.  He ended his career with 68 caps for the Swiss, including the 1994 World Cup.

Sutter is currently a soccer pundit on Swiss TV.

No, he wasn’t around long enough. And, yes, his tummy trouble in the ’97 playoffs probably cost Dallas a shot at the 2nd MLS Cup. But this guy was a legit world-class player. Could see the field wonderfully and knew how to expose the defensive gaps when he spotted them.

Steve Davis

1. David Ferreira – 2009 to 2013

21 July 2012 – FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira (#10) dribbles past Portland Timbers midfielder Eric Alexander (#17) and Portland Timbers defender Mamadou Danso (#98) during the MLS game between FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won 5-0. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

The mac daddy of all FCD playmakers, the 2010 MLS MVP, and one of the baddest dudes to ever play for Los Toros.  He did the bulk of the heavy lifting on the way to the only MLS Cup visit in club history.

Acquired on loan from Club Athletico Paranaense in 2009, Ferreira was signed outright after the 2010 MLS Cup run.  Five seasons in Dallas with 113 games, 108 starts, 24 goals, and 29 assists (t-4th in franchise history).   MLS MVP, Best XI, and All-Star in 2010. FCD MVP in 2010 & 2012.  Ferreira led FCD in assists in ’10, ’12, & ’13.  

He still ranks in the club annals with an amazing 290 fouls suffered (3rd), 0.36 Assists per 90 (4th), 12 game-winning assists (4th), and 252 corners (3rd). All while losing over a year of playing time between April of 2011 and July of 2012 with a broken ankle.

Ferreira never quite regained his MVP form after the injury and his contract wasn’t renewed at the end of 2013.  Since then Ferreira has played for Santa Fe, Atlético Huila, América de Cali, Real Cartagena, and Unión Magdalena where he still plays at the age of 40.

The workhorse of the Hyndman cycle.  The MLS MVP the year the FC Dallas went to MLS Cup.  He scored in the Conference Final against LA Galaxy and in MLS Cup too. Besides all the game-winning goals, dazzling assists, and getting fouled all the time, my most vivid memories of David Ferreira was watching him put the game in the deep freeze by playing keep-away near the corner flag. Nobody could take the ball away from him without resorting to fouling him.

Chamo Jones

Honorable Mention

Joselito Vaca – 2001 to 2003. “Little Joe Cow,” as we affectionately call him in these parts, signed with MLS out of the famous Tahuichi Academy in Bolivia and was drafted by the Burn 5th overall in 2001.  His arrival allowed FCD to shift Pareja back to a more 8-type of role.

Vaca played in 73 games with 61 starts in Dallas – frequently as the 10 but as a wide mid as well. In his three season, Vaca scored 6 goals and notched 18 assists.  Named an MLS All-Star in 2002, Vaca was traded to the MetroStars in 2003. 

In 2004 he returned to Bolivia and continued to play in South American joining Blooming in 2013 where he still plays to this day at the age of 37. Vaca has 56 caps for Bolivia.

Underrated throughout his Burn career, probably because of his size and age. Blossomed into Bolivia’s NT starting #10 shortly after leaving MLS and going back home.

Andy Swift
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Ramon Núñez 2004 to 2007, 2013. Ramon first started training with the Burn when he was 15 years old.  This was in a time before Academies and Homegrown signings, so Núñez was forced to play one season at SMU before he could sign a Generation Adidas deal.  The Burn selected him 6th overall in 2004.

Núñez played for FCD from 2004 to 2007 and was traded to Chivas USA midseason of that year.  After stints with Olimpia, Puebla FC, and Cruz Azul in Mexico; Núñez signed with and played for Leeds United from 2010 to 2013.  Returning to Dallas in 2013 for 10 games, Núñez departed again for Alajuelense and Real España before coming back to the states and winding up his career with the Fort Lauderdale strikers in 2016. 

Núñez has 44 caps for Honduras including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where, in a moment of insane coincidence, he traded jerseys with Reto Ziegler after facing Switzerland (see pic below).

Núñez has played for both the Fort Worth Vaqueros and the Mesquite Outlaws in recent seasons.

Although he was a Honduran international, he was a local kid who hit the big time after starring at Dallas Texans, WT White, and SMU. He wasn’t much of a setup man, but his scoring ability was such that it created space for Carlos Ruiz, Roberto Mina, and Kenny Cooper, and he was near the top of the team’s scoring charts for the very good 2005 and 2006 teams.

Dustin Christmann
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Paxton Pomykal – 2016 to Current. Again, I am surprised to see Pomykal on our list getting votes. Certainly, it indicates how highly he is thought of among our committee.

Pomykal signed with FCD in 2015 and has been eligible to play since 2016 only becoming a starter in 2019.  He’s currently played 35 games with 23 starts, 3 goals, and 5 assists.  A big part of the US U20 side, Pomykal recently made his senior US debut.

The ceiling is very high here and I’m sure we all expect him to climb the franchise ranks of greats… if he sticks around Dallas.

Currently, Paxton Pomykal is the player to watch. With a great present and future, he only needs to solidify his position in the team over the years to come as he evolves into that great leader that the FCD will need.

Carlos Alvarado
Paxton Pomykal, mustache in full effect, as FC Dallas takes on the Montreal Impact, March 7, 2020. (Craig Marcho, 3rd Degree)

A Final Thought

As I was wrapping this up, it occurred to me you can basically see the club’s lineage of 10s here on this page.  Give or take…

1996 – Jason Kreis
1997 – Alain Sutter
1998 – Jason Kreis
1999 & 2000 – Oscar Pareja
2001 to 2003 – Joselito Vaca
2005 to 2007 – Ramon Núñez
2009 to 2013 – David Ferreira
2014 to 2018 – Mauro Diaz
2019 and on – Paxton Pomykal (sorta – soccer is changing, he’s a “Free-8” more than a 10)

And before you ask, 2004 was a split season, Brad Davis early and Pareja late were both paired with Simo Valakari in a 4-4-2.

2008 was the Morrow to Hyndman transition year. Lots of Juan Toja and Arturo Alvarez dual attackers/wings without a true 10 early in the season leading to Bruno Guarda as the 10 under Hyndman for the back half.  

What’s Next?

Right midfielders and wingers.

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