The Number 14

This article was originally written as part of 3rd Degree’s 20th birthday celebration.

Everyone knows of the world wide greats of the game wearing the number 10 and the great high strikers wearing number 9.  Those numbers shine for FC Dallas just like everywhere else.

But sometimes at a club, a slightly unusual number can take on great import. Manchester United’s no. 7 is a favorite example, such a number can become legendary.

For FC Dallas that number is the 14.

So let’s dive deep. Why do we say 14 such a big deal here with FC Dallas? It starts before FC Dallas even existed.

Pre-Burn

The number 14 started to become famous in the 1970s and two men played a big part of making that happen in these parts. One here in North Texas and one on the world stage.

Johan Cruyff

One of the all-time greats of the game. Cruyff is synonymous with the #14. The embodiment of total football; mind over matter; the king of letting the ball do the work; and the perfecter of the Cruyff turn. He’s so important that when a player like Coutinho moves to Barcelona and takes the 14 they still talk about Cruyff.

So why did Cruyff wear 14? Short version… He started his career wearing the 9, but before a game in 1970 a teammate couldn’t find his own shirt so Cruyff gave him the 9. Cruyff grabbed the top jersey off a pile and it happened to be 14. That game went so well both players decided to stick with the changed numbers… and the legendary 14 was born.

Bobby Moffat

Dallas Tornado midfielder Bobby Moffat (14) goes up for a header against New York Cosmos star Pelé during a June 1975 exhibition game at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York.(1975 File Photo / The Associated Press)

The fame of the 14 began locally in Dallas in the 70s as well back when Lamar Hunt owned the Dallas Tornado.

At the same time Cruyff was making the 14 famous across the pond, Bobby Moffat was representing the 14 in Dallas.  An Englishman who came to Dallas to play for the Tornado in 1970. he wore the 14 for nine seasons as a pro with the Tornado.

Since then, Moffat has spent decades running soccer camps and coaching youth soccer teams in the Dallas area. His camps were quite famous and there were residential versions years before MLS even existed. In the mid-80s, Moffat was vice president of the Dallas Americans, a pro club that played in the ASL and USL of the time. He even wrote a book on soccer, you can still get it today.

Moffat is a member of the Texas Soccer Walk of Fame out of Toyota Stadium. Here’s what his plaque says about him.

“Started professional career with Portsmouth FC in England in 1961 and spent 9 years with the Dallas Tornado, winning the NASL Championship in 1971. Became a seminal figure in the development of youth soccer in North Texas since moving to Dallas in 1970. His camps helped thousands of young players develop their skills.”

Bobby Moffat’s Texas Walk of Fame Plaque
Bobby Moffat’s Texas Soccer Walk of Fame plaque outside Toyota Stadium. (Buzz Carrick / 3rd Degree)

Dallas Burn

Now we move on to player who actually wore the 14 playings for the Burn and FC Dallas.

Leonel Alvarez (1996, 1998-1999)

FC Dallas started, as most of you will know, as the Dallas Burn. The no. 14 right out of the gate set the tone for what was to come. I talked about Alvarez in the FC Dallas All-Time Best XI, but let’s expand it a bit more.

Alvarez played for Dallas in 1996 and set the tone and presence in the locker room that has carried on to this day. On the field Alvarez was arguably the league MVP in ’96 and probably didn’t win it because he was a holding mid. He was named MLS Best XI and an All-Star that year. When Alvarez went to Mexico to play for Veracruz in ’97, Ted Eck changed his own number to 14 to honor Alvarez.

When Alvarez came back to Dallas in 1998, Eck changed his number to 41 so Alvarez could have the 14 again. Back with the Burn, Alvarez was named an All-Star in 1998 and was traded for Ariel Graziani toward the end of the 1999 season.

So with only three years in Dallas, why do we talk so much about Alvarez? It’s because of the culture of work and professionalism he instilled in the franchise.

Alvarez used to run extra training sessions for the defense or midfield in the afternoons after the squad had normal practice in the mornings. According to Brian Haynes, Alvarez would sometimes have the 5-man Burn midfield scrimmage against 11-man local Hispanic sides; full field games, 5 versus 11.

Jason Kreis talked about Alvarez in this FourFourTwo interview, “From my point of view, the best player and probably the one I learned the most from in my entire career was Leonel Alvarez. It was massive to be able to play alongside him.”

FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja played alongside Alvarez for two seasons in Dallas but Pareja also came up in the Colombian system during Alvarez’s heyday when Colombia was one of the best teams in the world. So I can assure you that’s Alvarez’s influence is felt even today in the FCD clubhouse despite the fact both men are gone.

Intensity, focus, toughness, work rate, just win – do whatever it takes – the hallmarks of Alvarez. They are still visible today as his 5 red cards remain the franchise record (tied with Blas Perez).

A Dallas Burn starting XI during the 1996 season. (Dallas Burn / MLS)

Ted Eck (1997, 2001)

I talked about Eck wearing 14 to honor Alvarez in 1997. Eck swapped to 41 when Alvarez came back in 1998 but changed back to 14 again in 2001.

A striker most of his career prior to the creation of MLS; over the years Eck played outdoor for the Ottawa Intrepid, Toronto Blizzard, and Colorado Foxes (under Dave Dir). Indoor, Eck took to the turf for Kansas City Comets, St Louis Storm, Denver Thunder, St Louis Ambush, and Wichita Wings.

Mostly a fringe player for the US National Team, Eck none the less has 13 caps and 1 goal, scoring in overtime to beat East Germany on July 28th, 1990. Eck had an even bigger impact with the US Fustal team, helping lead the team to 2nd at the 1992 FIFA Fustal World Championship in Brazil. He scored three goals in the tournament.

All of that took place before he was drafted by Dave Dir and the Burn in the third round of the 1996 MLS league launch draft.

Eck was a pure MLS 1.0 player. With the Burn he was mostly a holding midfielder, playing above his talent level due to his immense heart and work rate. I’ve frequently cited him as the player I wish I could combine in a lab with some $.05 knucklehead with immense talent. Heart, grit, focus, determination… sound like anyone else on this list?

Coming into the 2017 season, Eck still ranked 6th on the all-time FC Dallas games played list with 156 games, 5th on the fouls committed with 214, and 6th in fouls suffered with 191.

He was, and is, a huge favorite of old school Burn fans.

A no. 14 Side Story: Simo Valakari

In 2004 when Simo Valakari joined FC Dallas the club wanted to give him the 14. The coaching staff and front office recognized the importance of the number even then. I sat down with Valakari when he came into their Euro camp that spring, Valakari raised the topic of the 14 and how honored he was the club wanted him to wear it.

Unfortunately, at the time, the soon to be cut Gavin Glinton was wearing #14.  FCD wasn’t able to reach an injury settlement to clear Glinton off the roster by the time Valakari was added. So FCD was forced to give Valakari a different number and he ended up with 17 instead.

Valakari would have been perfect for the 14.  But since he played with FCD until 2006 it would have prevented the next guy from wearing no. 14.

Drew Moor (2005-2008)

Perhaps by now, you can see where this is trending.

Drew Moor was the next perfect fit for the 14. One famous Moor story is that at the age of 12 he was in attendance for the very first Dallas Burn game. He started showing up and training with FC Dallas when he was in high school at the Episcopal School of Dallas. After starting his career at Furman, Moor played two seasons at Indiana winning back-to-back national titles.

Moor was drafted by FC Dallas 6th overall in 2005 and made a rapid impact with 20 regular-season appearances as a rookie. In all Moor played in 107 regular season and playoff games for FCD in the number 14 jersey.

Moor switched to 3 in his final season of ’09 and played 21 games that year. Who knows, if he stayed in the 14 maybe he wouldn’t have been traded!! Ok, that wasn’t going to happen. Coach Schellas Hyndman really wanted Ugo Ihemelu and Moor was what it cost to get Ugo.

9 seasons later and Moor won his second MLS title, this one with Toronto. He also won the 2010 MLS Cup with Colorado, beating his old team FC Dallas.

Just like every other 14 on this list, Moor played with heart, brains, and guts. Everything you need to know about the man can be seen in this picture.

The beneficiary of Moor’s number switch in 2009 was the next great FCD 14, George John.

Drew Moor, returning to Dallas for the first time since Bobby Rhine’s passing, kneels in front of a sign paying respects to the late Rhine.(Elizabeth Hottle / 3rd Degree)

George John (2009-2014)

John was drafted after his senior season at Washington. Mostly a holding mid in college, John was selected as a two-time first-team All-Pac-10 selection, a two-time first-team NSCAA Scholar All-American, and the 2008 Pac-10 Soccer Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Converted to center back by FCD Head Coach Schellas Hyndman, John became a starter very quickly. John was blessed with a calm demeanor, solid touch, and above-average passing for a center back. He was also mentally tough, frequently playing hurt and logging big minutes for the club season after season.

In one famous moment, John scored a game-winner against the LA Galaxy only to be struck in the head by a bottle thrown from the FCD fan section.

“I knew something hit me,” John said. “I wasn’t quite sure what happened, if I ran into the post or what, but then I looked down and saw a beer bottle and I was like that had to have hit me. I felt [my head] and there was a ridge and then I was like ‘Yes, something hit me for sure.’ Luckily I didn’t need stitches and I was able to stay in and finish out the game.”

Unfortunately, John began to suffer knee pain late in the 2013 season. After a lot of rehab, John was forced to have surgery and missed all of 2014. Picked up by NYCFC in the post-season expansion draft, John has never able to get healthy and sadly hasn’t played since.

George John was a magnificent servant for the club whose huge heart made him a fan favorite. He’s a big contributor to the number 14 legacy at FC Dallas.

13 April 2013 – FC Dallas defender George John (#14) gets cleaned up after being hit by a beer bottle in the head after scoring a goal during the MLS regular-season game between FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. FC Dallas won the game 1-0. (Matt Visinsky, 3rd Degree)

Atiba Harris (2015-2017)

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Atiba Harris puts in maximum effort every shift he’s on the pitch.

After having started his career with Spanish club Cadiz, Harris became the definition of an MLS Journeyman playing for Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, Vancouver Whitecaps, Colorado Rapids, San Jose Earthquakes, and once previously for FC Dallas (2009-2010), before coming back to FCD in 2015.  275 MLS games is a substantial career.

Since 2001, Harris has made 60 appearances for his country, Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In 2009 and 2010 Harris wore 16 on his first stint with the Los Toros, but this last time Harris wore the iconic 14.

Ostensibly a striker in the earlier part of his career, later Harris redefined himself as a versatile, play anywhere utility man. Blessed with pace, enough skill, and enough smarts to handle almost any assignment; Harris has the last few years been a full field running attacking outside back for Dallas. Very few players have the stamina and athleticism to play until they are 33. But that’s exactly what Harris is still doing having signed with Murciélagos FC in Mexico for 2018 and playing with OKC Energy of the USL Championship in 2018 and 2019.

Harris might be the least heralded of the players to wear the 14 for FC Dallas, but there’s no denying that he more than lived up to his end of the bargain putting in immense work for 84 regular-season games the last 3 seasons wearing the 14 for the Huntsmen.

Atiba Harris of FC Dallas in 2015 playing against Sportin KC. (Craig Marcho, 3rd Degree)