As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part II 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.
Special thanks for participating in this left back ranking:
Dave Dir – The Burn’s 1st 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
For Part II we move to the backline…
Top 5 FC Dallas Left Backs of All-Time
5. Brandon Pollard – 1996 to 2000Embed from Getty Images
Pollard is perhaps most famous for having his leg broken by Dema Kovalenko, but he makes this list for his excellent play. 106 games and 91 starts in his time in Dallas. A former US U20, Pollard was drafted out of the University of Virginia by the Burn. He participated in the 1996 Summer Olympics and became a regular starter for Dallas in 1997. He retired in 2001 and is now a professional beekeeper. Pollard was a defense-first player in an era when that was most often the way for outside backs. 3 assists but no goals during his time with the Burn. 137 fouls committed, 104 fouls suffered, and 11 yellow cards.
Won an Open Cup Championship, won our hearts.Kevin Lindstrom
4. Maynor Figueroa – 2016 to 2018
Both a center back and left back, most of Figueroa’s top-end career came before joining FC Dallas. He is, in fact, still playing for the Houston Dynamo. Figs spent 2016-2018 with FCD, making 65 starts and 70 appearances with 4 goals and 2 assists. 8 cautions in 2017 led FCD that year. Usually a fairly clean but physical player, Figueroa only committed 56 fouls during his Dallas time, less than 1 a game.
Figueroa spent the better part of several seasons as Oscar Pareja’s first-choice, tough-as-nails left back. He had that thundering left foot!Steve Davis
3. Ryan Hollingshead – 2014 until now
Hollingshead has spent his entire career in Dallas. After being drafted in 2012 – earning Pac-12 Player of the Year that season – he took 2 years off for a mission. He rejoined FCD in 2014 and was an on and off starter until 2019 when he produced one of the best seasons for any left back in club history. Being a converted attacker, Hollingshead is very offensive with 11 goals and 9 assists in his 144 appearances and 101 starts. In many ways, Hollingshead’s current form is a bonus after his career was almost ended in 2017 in a terrible accident. He was named the 2017 MLS Humanitarian of the Year.
Hollingshead surprises coming forward from the back and has become a quality defender as well.Dave Dir
I was surprised to see Hollingshead end up this high on the list despite his amazing 2019. I think it says as much about how hard it to find good left backs as it does him.
2. Chris Gbandi – 2002 to 2007
The Hermann Trophy winner at UConn in 2000 (and a finalist in ’99, ’01), Gbandi was drafted #1 overall by Dallas in 2002 despite tearing his ACL that season. A dominant defensive midfielder in college, Gbandi was one of the highest ball skill outside backs in club history and frequently got forward to cross. 100 starts and 111 appearances in 5 seasons in Dallas with 3 goals, 8 assists, 121 fouls committed, 29 yellow cards, and 2 red cards. He was FCD’s 2006 Defender of the Year. In 2008, Gbandi transferred to FK Haugesund where he scored 5 goals in 37 games. Gbandi has one cap for Liberia and is currently the head coach at Northeastern University.
A starter for most of his five seasons playing in Dallas. Rarely spectacular, but always reliable.Steve Davis
1. Jair Benitez – 2009 to 2014
Benitez came to FC Dallas in 2009 after already enjoying an extended career in Colombia (344 games, 19 goals). Benitez was the runaway winner of this ranking taking the #1 spot in 5 of the 7 rankings submitted. 153 games played for Dallas with 140 starts, 2 goals, and 12 assists. A terrific two-way player who worked the wide line, Benitez was a real handful as both a good defender and a good crosser. Benitez still ranks in the club’s top 10 for games, starts, minutes (12,396), and fouls suffered (202).
Benitez did everything you need a left back to do. Stick to defenders. Prevent crosses. Always willing to mix it up and get physical. Played out of the back in short triangle-passes, mid-range passes, or by hitting the long ball across the field. Great ball control. And who can forget the goal he scored from midfield.
And by the way, Mac Kandji DID foul Benitez before the game-winner, whether Baldomero Toledo called it or not!Steve Davis
Paul Broome – 1999 to 2003. A Dallas Texans standout and SMU grad, the Burn converted Broome from winger/striker to left back where he mostly appeared for the club. One of the fastest players in club history – and best golfers – Broome made 64 starts and made 87 appearances with 2 goals and 16 assists before losing his place to Gbandi. Along with Ryan Suarez and Antonio Martinez, Broome was part of the giant trade with LA Galaxy that saw Ezra Hendrickson and Gavin Glinton come to Dallas.Embed from Getty Images
Shout out to Anton Nedyalkov who, despite playing just 9 games in 2018, had the talent to be one of the best ever for the club but got homesick and left.