As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part XX, the final Top 5 of our series.
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.
For Part XX we’re talking about the best of the best. MVPs. The men, the myths, the legends.
The greatest players in club history.
Special thanks for participating in this Best Player 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
Steve Davis – The Dean of Dallas soccer writers and current FCD color commentator
Dave Dir – The Burn’s 1st coach, former 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
We had a clear Top 5 that separated themselves, but there was one man who truly stood out receiving 8 of 9 first place votes. He is the franchise GOAT.
After THE MAN, 2nd and 3rd were really close to each other as were 4th and 5th. We’ve also got two honorable mentions that received a couple of votes each but they didn’t have the totals to break into the top 5.
Every one of our Top 5 Best Players, unsurprisingly, topped a prior Top 5 list. Sometimes two, three, or more.
Fun Side Note: Three of our Top 5 Best Players are Colombian.
Top 5 FC Dallas Best Players
5. Leonel Alvarez – 1996, 1998 to 1999Embed from Getty Images
Leo topped our Holding Mid Top 5, finished 3rd in off-field impact, grabbed 4th in our FCD villains rank, and remains, even just playing three seasons, one of the most important players in franchise history.
In 1996, Very few players or staff really knew what it meant to be a top tier professional in world soccer, Alvarez did. He taught this franchise what it means to sacrifice, compete, and be professional. Leo is the keystone in the bedrock foundation of this franchise.
Beyond that, of course, he’s the best holding mid this club has ever had. He was arguably the league MVP in 1996, although a holding mid wasn’t sexy enough to actually get the trophy. Alvarez was named Burn MVP in 1996 and MLS Best XI.
At the time he came to FCD, he and his Colombian partner Carlos Valderrama were arguably were the best midfield combo in the world. Colombia was one of the favorites for the 1994 World Cup and might have won it if not for the insanity that kept René Higuita out.
Alvarez has put together a long and colorful coaching career since retiring. His last stop was with Club Libertad Asunción in 2019.
He was the one true World Cup Star the team had. All you have to do to see what that meant to this club is to look at all of the Dallas Burn players who are contributing to the game today and dig into who inspired them and who showed them what it meant to be a professional soccer player in the United States.Kevin Lindstrom
4. Matt Hedges – 2012 to Present
The club’s best-ever defender – and top of our center back list – Hedges is rapidly burning up all the FCD longevity records. Now in his 9th season, he remains an indispensable, quiet leader and is the centerpiece of the team’s defense. Having turned 30 in April, Hedges should have 3 or 4 seasons left and is pretty much Mr. FC Dallas at this point already.
2016 MLS Defender of the Year, two-time MLS Best XI, three-time MLS All-Star. FC Dallas MVP in 2018, and 4-time FC Dallas Defender of the Year (’14, ’15, ’16, and ’18).
The Hunts damn well better make sure Hedges is a one-club only player. He deserves that respect.
Matt Hedges heading into his 9th year is by far one of the best defenders in MLS history, let alone club history. Hedges has all the tools of a great center back and he has brought stability to a backline which has been anything but stable in its 25 years of existence.Dave Dir
3. Oscar Pareja – 1998 to 2005Embed from Getty Images
Pareja started his career as a playmaker but transitioned to a linking type mid during his time in Dallas. He probably would have been a great holding mid too if asked. Pareja was the heart and soul of the club, a leader in the locker room and on the field, and usually its captain during his eight seasons as a player here.
Burn MVP in 2001 and 2002, MLS Best XI in 2002 but shockingly he was never named an MLS All-Star. Pareja still ranks in the top 10 of 11 different franchise stats.
Pareja is currently the head coach of Orlando City and is quickly cementing his reputation by leading them to the MLSisBack Semifinals (at the time of writing). Frankly, his reputation should have already been cemented being the first coach in MLS history with back-to-back 60 points seasons. He also won a US Open Cup, and a Supporters Shield in Dallas.
Oscar Pareja gave everything to the franchise. He made DFW his home and has always been an example for young people on and off the field, both as a player and now as a coach. The love of our fans towards him is such that they always wish him the best wherever he goes.Carlos Alvarado
2. David Ferreira – 2009 to 2013
Our top attacking mid, Ferreira carried the franchise offensively during his stint in Dallas. Usually surrounded with good defensive teams but not a lot of offensive help, Ferreira’s 2010 season was ranked as the 2nd best single season in club history by our panel.
MLS MVP, Best XI, and All-Star in 2010. FCD MVP in 2010 & 2012. Ferreira led FCD in assists in ’10, ’12, & ’13. It’s a shame his time in Dallas was shorter than it should have been due to injury. He has 39 caps for Colombia.
David – Jesus Ferreira’s father, as if you didn’t know that – finally retired in 2019 at the age of 39 having played for five more teams over six seasons after leaving FCD.
One of just two league MVPs to wear the Dallas shirt, he was an absolute force as an attacking midfielder. He had plenty of skill but set himself apart by applying it with a real competitive drive. He drove the team right into its only MLS Cup final appearance in 24 seasons.Steve Davis
1. Jason Kreis – 1996 to 2004Embed from Getty Images
The GOAT. You knew it was coming. The top dog at off-striker – and honestly, he’d have been top dog in a unified striker list too as he got an Honorable Mention in our high striker 5 – and the best single-season in club history to boot in 1999 when he had the first 15 goals / 15 assist season in MLS. He even got enough votes to finishes 5th at ttacking mid.
1999 MLS MVP (first American born MVP), 1999 MLS Best XI, 1999 MLS Golden Boot, 7-time MLS All-Star, and 5-time FCD leading scorer. He still leads FCD in 10 stat categories and ranks 10 top in 6 others.
He also remains tied for the club record for goals in a season (18 in 1999 – Cooper 2008) and assists in a season (15 in 1999 – Barrios 2019).
And Kreis owns the craziest record in MLS history. One that will be virtually impossible to break: He scored the first-ever goal in franchise history for two different MLS clubs – FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
Kreis kicked off his coaching career with RSL in 2007 and went on to be the youngest ever coach to win MLS Cup in 2009. He’s currently the Fort Lauderdale CF Head Coach (Inter Miami’s USL-1 team), Inter Miami’s Academy Director, and US U23 Head Coach.
Back in 2003 or so, when it was under construction and before it had a name, I jokingly referred to the stadium now known as Toyota Stadium as “Uncle Lamar’s House of Whoop-Ass.” But I could’ve called it “The House That Jason Kreis Built.” Through the team’s pre-Frisco years, he was the face of the team. He was the scorer of the first goal in club history, he was the club’s first-ever league MVP, he was the club’s first-ever golden boot winner, he’s still far and away the club’s all-time leading scorer, more than 15 years after his departure. In a club that would later forge its identity as one that develops its own superstars, he was the first, going from an unknown in early 1996 to league MVP in 1999.Dustin Christmann
Jorge “Zarco” Rodriguez – 1997 to 2002. Zarco didn’t top any of our top 5 lists, but I think that’s because he played so many different positions for Coach Dave Dir.
Any given season, Zarco would start wherever the team’s weakest position was and play there at an All-Star level. If he had stuck with one position he’d probably be an ever greater club legend then he is. Clearly the man is well respected by our panel.
Zarco received votes in the left back, center back (finished 8th), right back (5th), holding mid, utility player (2nd), off-field impact, most underrated (4th), and now best player lists. That is some serious franchise-great value.
For six seasons as a massive part of the Dallas Burn including taking the 1997 US Open Cup Championship winning PK. He was a 3-time Burn Defender of the Year (‘98, ’00, ’01) and 1998 Burn MVP.
Zarco, unsurprisingly, is putting together a pretty good coaching career and is currently the head man at FAS in his home country of El Salvador.
Embed from Getty Images
I know him and I know how much he loved this team. He always gave everything of himself on the field and tried to help young people to grow and improve their game. Now he is one of the most respected young coaches in his country (El Salvador). He was part of that group that gave the franchise its first silverware, the 1997 US Open Cup.Carlos Alvarado
Mauro Diaz – 2013 to 2018. Unlike some national media – I’m looking at you Matt Doyle – our committee knows that while Diaz is a special talent his inability to stay healthy and be available for his team tarnishes his legacy. I don’t just mean the one injury in 2016 that cost FCD the shot at the treble.
Despite leading FCD to a Supporters Shield and a US Open Cup in 2016, Diaz finished 3rd in our attacking mid list. His 2016 season did come in at 4 in our best individual seasons rank.
Diaz happens to be a pure 10 (and special unicorn) in a time when that position is fading away. Certainly at FCD, he struggled to grasp the idea of playing as a false wing or 8.
Diaz is the highest assists-per-90-minutes player in franchise history with 0.54, just over 1 per 2 games. Yet he only led the team in assists twice in his five seasons in Dallas – 2015 & 2016 – because he only played in 60% and started 46% of the regular season games in which he was eligible to play while signed for the club.
Diaz left FCD in 2018 to join Shabab Al-Ahli in the UAB where he played two seasons before joining Estudiantes in Argentina last January.
2016 was a signature season for the club, informing the world on what FCD was all about (with its thriving youth initiative). And that season would not have happened with such a flourish without Mauro Diaz. Yes, his run at the club should have been longer. And, yes, he could be a handful to put up with. But when it comes to skill and ability to shape a game, he was probably the best ever to wear a Dallas shirt. Plus, as I’ve said plenty of times before, his show-stopper night in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup final remains THE best individual performance I’ve ever seen at Toyota Stadium.Steve Davis
Nothing, that’s it. Our run of 20 Top 5s (ok 19 and 1 top 10) has come to an end.
We hope you enjoyed the trip through FC Dallas history.
Once again I would like to thank all the members of our voting committee that took part in this project. Without them, this whole thing doesn’t work.
Dustin “El Jefe” Christmann
Thank you, gentlemen. This series was made special by your participation and I can’t express my appreciation for you enough.