FC Dallas 25th Season Top 5 All-Time Rankings – Villains

As we continue to celebrate the 25th season of FC Dallas, we’re on to Part XVII 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 XVII we dig into the club’s own baddies. The Villains. The players everyone else hated.

Special thanks for participating in this Villains 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
Chamo Jones – former 3rd Degree writer
Kevin Lindstrom – 3rd Degree writer since 2000
Damian Wright – former 3rd Degree writer

The winner was pretty obvious coming in and took 5 of 7 first-place votes.  Our second-place finisher was a clear voting standout as well; although he didn’t get the other 2 first-place votes this gentleman finished high on almost every ballot.  After that three contenders stood out for the remaining top-five spots.

Top 5 FC Dallas Villains

5. Dario Sala – 2005 to 2010

Dario Sala warms up prior to facing the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Stadium, July 29, 2006. (Jason Gulledge, 3rd Degree)

A player of great emotion and heart, he sure seemed to love playing for FC Dallas.  He was a big believer in fighting for the shirt.  He was also quite skilled at the delaying tactics and gamesmanship that often feature in the game.  Dario used to drive opponents crazy with this antics… which his own fans of course loved.

One of his more famous dust-ups came in the 2006 MLS Cup playoffs.  After being upset by Colorado in the playoffs – this is one of the best FCD teams in history, mind you, wire-to-wire first place – some Rapids players allegedly taunted some FCD fans, including the Inferno. Sala, standing up for his own fans, got into it with the Rapids and ended up punching Hunter Freeman.  Sala was fined and suspended six games to start 2007 but it made the Dallas fans love him even more.

I think people forget how big a part of FCD history Sala is.  He ranks quit high in all the keeper stat categories.  Games – 100 (3rd), Starts – 99 (3rd), Minutes – 8,845 (3rd), win pct. – .530 (4th), wins – 39 (4th), losses – 33 (3rd), saves – 328 (3rd), shutouts 23 (4th), and save pct. – 69.5% (3rd).

He’s also the all-time FC Dallas career leader in ties with 27. So that’s fun.

Dario Sala was hated by many opposing fans for the same reason why many currently hate Jesse González, but he wasn’t so obvious or frequent about his clock-milking. But unlike Jesse, Darío had a certain flamboyance to his game, even for a goalkeeper, and he wasn’t shy about winding up opposing fans in away matches. And oh yeah, there was that Hunter Freeman incident. 

Dustin Christmann

4. Leonel Alvarez – 1996, 1998-1999

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The man who taught this franchise how to be professional.  Alvarez was the attention getting and leader of the early Burn teams.  He drew and attracted attention and hate… and a lot of it might be deserved.

Alvarez still holds the franchise single season record for yellow cards with 14 in 1996.  He drew 12 in 1998 for good measure.  And before you ask about 1997, that’s the season he went to Veracruz and in 1999 he got traded to New England.

He’s also still the franchise record holder for red cards with 5 – tied with another man on this list – despite only leading the team in fouls once in 1998.  It’s not the number of fouls (134, almost 2 a game) but how vicious they were.

The fourteen yellow cards and two reds in 1996 were only the beginning.  He often got cards just for the sheer force of some of his tackles and I remember just thinking, “I hope he can stay on the field.” Leonel was as intimidating a leader as I ever coached or have seen in MLS since its inception. He not only scared our opponents but practiced the same way he played which sometimes scared his own teammates but endeared him to all who played with him.

Dave Dir

3. Ariel Graziani – 1999 to 2001

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Graziani is the first of the aggravating 9s on our list.  Some dudes are just flat out annoying to play against – skilled, dirty (or skirting the limits of it anyway), trash talking, demonstrative, flailing all about… and scoring bags of goals.  Graziani sure as heck fit that bill.  He got fouled an impressive 120 times in just 57 games, for 2.1 fouls drawn per game.

He was also incredibly hard to manage. Often petulant and prone to temper tantrums on and off the field. He almost always reacted poorly to being pulled, thinking he should always be on the field.  Graziani tends to wear out his welcome fast, his two and a half seasons with the Burn is the longest stop in his career.

Master of the dark arts CONMEBOL style. A dive here, a push there, a moment of brilliance all packaged in the classical overly gesticulating Argentinian way of expression.

Chamo Jones

Side note: Graziani made his pro debut with Newell’s Old Boys in 1993 where he was a teammate of Diego Maradona.  NOB is, most Dallas fans will know, the youth club of Maxi Urruti and is where he made his pro debut. La Lepra is also the first youth club of a certain Lionel Messi.

2. Blas Perez – 2012 to 2015

7 June 2014 – FC Dallas forward Blas Perez (#7) rounds Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin (#1) during the MLS game between FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won the game 3-2. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

We’re starting to get into the real upper echelons of players pissing off the opposition.  Perez was inded royalty when it comes to the game of annoyance.   He had all those same traits as Graziani that anger defenders so much, except where Graziani was hot head and emotional, Blas was calculating and methodical. 

Not blessed with pace, Perez would get by you with body and strength.  Hook or crook might be a good way to describe his style. As a consequence he drew a lot of fouls, 164, good for 10th in club history.

He was also productive with 36 goals – 3rd all-time in club history – in just 97 games.  The Panamanian striker is also tied with Alvarez for the club record with 5 red cards but unlike Alvarez, Perez isn’t in the top 10 in yellow cards. 

Intelligent, provocative, and very effective in taking advantage of the opponent by pretending aggression. His play infuriated the opposing fan who saw his constant movements in the area trying to avoid the defenders.  Perez liked to work over the referees after each foul. He was a leader, both on and off the field. 

Carlos Alvarado

1. Carlos Ruiz – 2005 to 2007, 2016

Carlos Ruiz thinks it’s a foul against the New England Revolution, August 13, 2005.

And now the granddaddy of them all, the man you all expected to top this list.  FCD fans certainly hated him when he played for the LA Galaxy and it worked the other way as soon as he joined Dallas.

Ruiz often infuriated – partially of course for being so good – but also because he tended to be on the ground a lot.  Perhaps flopping?  So much flopping you might think his nickname of El Pescadito – which eventually just became “Fish” overtime – was earned from it.  Spoiler… it’s not.

32 goals in 69 games gets a lot of attention and while he was offside a lot (92 times), he’s not in the club ranks for either color of card.   He is in there at goals per 90 minutes, 3rd overall at 0.53… basically 1 every other game. And that can piss people off.  Perhaps that is why he was fouled 160 times in those 69 games, 2.3 fouls suffered per game.

A man so hated, Ricardo Clark tried to kick him in the face – only making shoulder contact – and even that Fish embellished.

This is a no-brainer. He’s been hated by US soccer fans ever since he was the main antagonist and scored a late tying goal against the USMNT in the 2000 qualifier for Korea/Japan. This continued when he was signed by the Galaxy in 2002 and traded to FCD in 2005. So really, it was no great surprise that there was no real outrage from non-FCD fans when Ricardo Clark took a gratuitous kick at him when he was on the ground in a 2007 match against Houston.

Dustin Christmann

Honorable Mention

Jesse Gonzalez – 2015 to Current. Gonzalez’ dislike from opponents mostly comes from his time wasting shenanigans.   He’s got such a massive reputation for it that even referees began to treat him unfairly at the merest hint of time-wasting. Which isn’t to say his rep wasn’t deserves in this regard. He built that rep fair and square.  16 yellow cards is a lot for a goalkeeper in just 103 games.

Last year he cut down on the time wasting but both other teams and the refs hated him for his shenanigans.

Damian Wright
Jesse Gonzalez stops a ball in FC Dallas training, June 12, 2018. (Jessica Tobias, FC Dallas)

Chad Deering – 1998 to 2003. A much nicer guy off the field, Deering was a real jerk on it.  That’s not a criticism, sometimes at the pro level you gotta be mean. It’s a fair question to ask if over the years FCD has been too nice.

Deering ranks 3rd on the FCD all-time fouls list despite being an 8 more than a 6. He’s also 7th in cautions with 28.  Credit where credit is due though, Deering was the consummate two-way player and his 30 assists are tied for 8th in club annuls.   

He also once broke an SMU player’s leg in a scrimmage with a retaliatory foul. So yeah, he was mean.  Not Dema Kovalenko, but a long way from Bobby Rhine.

I think he deserves to be in this category.  His time in Germany and his experience in the World Cup in France gave him that leader attitude both on and off the field, making him a benchmark for the team.  Being a two-way midfielder he made opponents uncomfortable, sometimes made them angry, and urged fans to mess with him.

Carlos Alvarado
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What’s Next?

Off-field influence.  You know when you see it.

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