As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part XVIII of our top 5 rankings.
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 XVIII we’re talking about players who brought something other than their skill on the field. Guys who made big contributions off the pitch. Leadership, hype, charity, professionalism, media attention. This could be almost anything.
Special thanks for participating in this off-field ranking:
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
By now, these names shouldn’t shock you. These are the most influential players in club history. For the purpose of this ranking we only considered the impact during their playing career.
And we had another tie.
Top 5 FC Dallas Off-Field Impact
T-4. Hugo Sanchez – 1996Embed from Getty Images
You might ask yourself how a player with this franchise for only one season can make this list. It’s a fair question. The answer is: because he brought the club instant credibility and fame – particularly in the Hispanic market – and big the bulk of the heavy lifting in making this franchise seem a real club worthy of attention.
Sanchez is the greatest Mexican player of all time and was voted Concacaf Player of the Century. Among his many accomplishments in his brilliant playing career, he led Real Madrid to 5 straight league titles winning five Pichichis scoring 208 goals in 283 games in all competitions.
His willingness to sign with MLS and the Burn was a huge boost, a driver in the early large Hispanic audience, and a big factor in this club surviving the early days. This club probably wouldn’t have made it past The Great Contraction without the early fan base built to a large extent by Sanchez.
The Dallas Burn was a brief stop at the end of the illustrious career of Mexico’s greatest-ever player, but he meant the world to a brand-new team in a brand-new soccer league because he brought some much-needed attention and glamour. Hugol gave people a reason to spend their hard-earned money to see a team that they otherwise had every reason to ignore.Dustin Christmann
T-4. Ryan Hollingshead – 2014 to current.
While he’s not team captain, Hollingshead is one of the most important leaders in this current team. He’s the player that leads the team spirit, keeping other players up and motivated, keeping training running, and generally shaping the atmosphere around the club toward the positive.
Ryan is a terrific role model, walking the walk in his Christian life for all to see. He’s chosen to be public and open about his religion showing people a great example of his faith.
Hollingshead also had a near-death experience in an auto accident which he turned into a positive. Using the media attention to promote his ideas of helping others and thus putting himself, his faith, and the club in a positive light.
For all that he does, in 2017 Hollingshead was named the MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year and FCD Humanitarian of the Year.
And just in the last year – quite notably this last month – Hollingshead has emerged as a vocal speaker for the team and players in various media.
While he’s only recently even become a starter, his off the field actions are strong morally. He sets a tone of responsibility and values that his teammates must look up to. He took a year off when drafted to help his brother build a church. He pulled over and tried to help an accident victim before becoming one himself. I’m guessing that there’s a lot more that hasn’t been made public.Damian Wright
3. Leonel Alvarez – 1996, 1998-1999
Alvarez is the keystone professional upon which the franchise has been built. He taught this club and its players what it means to be a professional. Training habits, mentality, focus, health, attitude… all these precedents were set by Alvarez.
Jason Kreis has openly talked about Alvarez’s influence on him. Kreis wouldn’t be the franchise GOAT without Leonel. Ted Eck was so enamored with Leo he changed his number for Alvarez three times – to 14 in ‘97, to 41 in ’98 so Alvarez could have 14 again, and then back to 14 in ‘01. The no. 14 is arguably the most important number in this franchise’s history because of Alvarez.
You can see Alvarez’s influence on the young Oscar Pareja throughout Papi’s career and even today. You can argue that Alvarez is felt at FCD even now because of the values Pareja carried forward as a player, academy builder/director, and then first-team coach.
Leonel Alvarez for leadership. Everything about him has been said, you’ve read it all. Unquestionably, the absolute most respected team captain in franchise history. His influence was far-reaching and extended well beyond the pitch.Andy Swift
2. Bobby Rhine – 1999 to 2008
Rhine was a remarkable influence during his playing days in two major ways: work ethic and community interaction. Bobby was one of the hardest workers in club history. He led by example, giving 100% to everything he ever did. Training, games, and off-field endeavors… Rhine was “all in,” every single time.
Paxton Pomykal clearly has one thing above all others in common with Rhine and that’s his 100% all the time work rate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given Pomykal’s jersey number choice.
Former teammates Dax McCarty, Kenny Cooper, and Drew Moor have both openly talked about his influence on them.
Rhine was also wonderful at community and fan outreach. No player has done more too personally – fan by fan – build the base. Rhine loved all the fans, attended every event he could, and built lifelong fans (and friends) with his work. He’s never been matched in this regard.
Rhine was also the 2003 and 2007 FC Dallas Humanitarian of the Year.
This short space doesn’t do him justice. If you would like to read more, I recommend this story on MLSSoccer.com.
Rest in Peace my friend.
He walked into the team as a rookie, walked away as a legend for everything he did on and off the field. And that was before he spent time in the front office and in the broadcast booth (when the legend only grew). Well-liked and enormously respected on every step along the way.Steve Davis
1. Oscar Pareja – 1998 to 2005Embed from Getty Images
No surprise, no one player has meant more to this franchise than Pareja. Even limiting this vote to his playing days he was still the clear #1 choice by our panel.
For eight seasons Pareja was the heart and soul of FC Dallas. Frequently the club captain and always its biggest leader both in action and in words. Pareja set the tone in training, led by example on the pitch, kept players in line in the locker room, and educated and taught young players even while he was a player himself. Even if it meant helping a young man who might take his place in the lineup.
Pareja has expressed numerous times his love for FCD. We expect him to come back here some day and the doors will always be open.
There’s a reason everyone started calling him Papi, a term of reverence. He earned it over 8 seasons as a hard-working midfielder and community leader.Steve Davis
He was so active in the community and really was the drinking force around real youth development [later on]. As a league-owned team, that wasn’t even a possibility until the Hunts took ownership. Their legacy and success was defined by Oscar.Dave Dir
Daniel Hernandez – 2009 to 2012.
When Hernandez joined FCD he found a complete lack of player comradery and culture. Being a Schellas Hyndman guy, Hernandez was quickly named captain and began a series of team building, player-only gatherings, and cookouts to try and rebuild the clubhouse and sense of team.
Hernandez also took control of the locker room, setting a tone in training with work and professionalism. He brought everyone into line with the coach’s vision and was a big part of Hyndman’s team building. Hernandez also brought grit, steel, fight, and nastiness to the team that was sorely missing these characteristics.
I’d go so far as to say Hernandez’s eventual departure is what finally ended Hyndman’s run as head coach with Dallas. Without his lieutenant, the team stopped rowing in the same direction.
Despite his reputation for being nasty and hard to coach, Hernandez was a great guy off the field and was named 2-Time FC Dallas Humanitarian of the Year (2010, 2011) for his work with the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Embed from Getty Images
In a similar way to Leonel Alvarez – which is really saying something – Hernandez was more than just a player and a captain.Kevin Lindstrom
Chris Seitz – 2011 to 2017.
I think fans forget sometimes that Chris Seitz spent seven seasons in Dallas, making 67 starts with a 1.30 GAA and 17 shutouts.
I mention the numbers because Seitz missed a big chunk of 2012 saving someone’s life. After he was matched with a leukemia patient in need during a bone marrow test, Seitz chose to give up the back end of the 2012 season and donate his bone marrow.
For his selfless act, Seitz was named the 2012 MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year and FCD Humanitarian of the Year.
He started what Hollingshead improved on in setting an off the field example for FCD players to make a big impact in the community. He donated bone marrow to someone in need and had to miss games because of it. Maybe FCD players don’t have that meanness on the field they may need to win a title but they’ve been a group of great guys and pretty classy from what I’ve noticed and Seitz went way over what normal people do.Damian Wright
Plus we’ll always have this .gif, which is priceless.
Denilson – 2007.
Yes, he is the biggest bust in club history. Yes, he’s up there with the biggest DP busts in league history.
But, for one glorious moment when he signed, FC Dallas was talked about all over the world. Football fans around the globe who had never heard of FC Dallas had now heard the name. Denilson’s fame at the time was still something special and gave the club world-wide exposure.
Granted, Denilson sucked. But that’s the second way he has a massive impact on this club. Partially because of Denilson, the Hunts are shy to spend big on DPs… at least on old, aging, famous, DPs on the downside of their career. The Hunts instead are all in on young, cheaper DPs still climbing the ladder. And Denilson is a big reason why the Hunts are this way.Embed from Getty Images
Most Underrated. The dudes who were sneaky good and didn’t get the fame.