I had intended to share this picture as a Throw Back Thursday post on twitter. It’s the only usable picture I have of a starting XI from that season. This particular pic is fairly close to being the guys who started the most games for the Burn that year.
Before I tweeted the picture, it occurred to me that lots of current FC Dallas fans might not know who these guys are so I should write up a short blurb on each one. But as I started to write it up I realized I might as well make a blog post out of it.
So here we are.
I’m going to run through the guys in this picture and then mention a couple more key players.
The 1996 Dallas Burn
The 1996 season was greatly affected by the loss of Tom Soehn prior to the season when he got injured playing indoor. The team struggled to find a replacement and used a fair amount of bodies in their back line. Under then head coach Dave Dir, the Burn started 1996 in a 3-5-2 but eventually shifted to a 4-4-2 during a slump because of the continued defensive issues.
Dir liked to use a zonal defensive system and give his players tactical freedom to get forward with lots of positional rotation. They finished the season 2nd in the West behind the LA Galaxy but were eliminated by the Kansas City Wiz in the Quarterfinals of the playoffs.
Dir coached the Colorado Foxes in the APSL (American Professional Soccer League) where they won two titles prior to becoming the head scout for MLS and then the Dallas Burn head coach. You will notice Dir brought a fair number of these guys with him from the Foxes. Marcelo Balboa and Robin Fraser also played on those stacked Foxes teams and were big-time players in MLS.
7 – Mark Santel
(1996: 30 games, 28 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist) Santel played quite a bit as a center back in 1996, particularly after the shift to 4-4-2, but was a wide mid for most of his career. The #1 overall pick in the MISL in 1991 he eventually played for the Foxes before being a Burn Allocation Player. An MLS All-Star in 1996 and 1997. Played 148 games for Dallas before being traded by the Burn to KC after the 2000 season. 13 US caps.
1 – Mark Dodd
(1996: 31 games, 31 starts, 1.46 GAA, 6 shutouts) Dodd also played under Dir with the Foxes and in 1996 was drafted by Dallas in the 6th round of the MLS Launch Draft (A.K.A. Inaugural Player Allocation Draft). In 1996 Dodd was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, MLS Best XI, MLS All-Star, and Burn Defender of the Year. Played for the Burn from 1996 to 1999 making 92 appearances and 88 starts in the regular season. Dodd remains the franchise leader in saves (495) and save percentage (72%). A member of 3rd Degree’s All-Time FC Dallas Best XI.
18 – Richard Farrer
(1996: 31 games, 31 starts, 1 goal) A forward in his career prior to MLS and blessed with lots of soccer smarts, Farrer was converted to a defender as part of the plan to replace Soehn. Farrer played a fairly clean game with only 35 fouls committed and 1 yellow card that season. He played some sweeper for the Burn later in his career but in ’96 was mostly a center back. Drafted in the 12th round of the 1996 MLS Launch Draft. Played 158 games for the club in his career. Got a law degree from UT after college and is now a U.S. Magistrate Judge in San Antonio.
11 – Lawrence Lozzano
(1996: 31 games, 31 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist) A wide midfielder/defender/wingback in the single season he played for the Burn. Selected in the 3rd round of the 1996 Launch Draft. Released after the ’96 season by mutual consent he played for the San Jose Clash, LA Galaxy, and the MetroStars over the next three seasons. Capped 7 times for the United States.
13 – Brian Haynes
(1996: 26 games, 23 starts, 4 goals, 3 assists) A midfielder, usually wide, with an attacking bent. Haynes took about half the corners for the Burn in ’96. Another player from the Colorado Foxes, Haynes won three APSL titles, two with the Foxes and a 3rd with the Seattle Sounders, before he was drafted in the 4th round of the 1996 Launch Draft. Haynes played 77 games for Dallas through the 2000 season. Haynes started his career in 1989 playing indoor with the Kansas City Attack (formally Atlanta Attack) where he scored 201 goals in 170 games. A T&T International with 21 caps Haynes was later an FC Dallas assistant coach.
14 – Leonel Alvarez
(1996: 22 games, 22 starts, 3 goals, 5 assists, 14 yellow cards, 2 red cards) One of the most important players in franchise history and an original Burn Allocation Player. One of the best players in the World around the time of the 1994 World Cup. 1996 Burn MVP, MLS Best XI, and MLS All-Star. Alvarez was arguably MLS MVP and I believe he would have been if he played a sexier position that holding mid. Moved to Veracruz for the 1997 season but returned to the Burn for ’98 and ’99. Traded to the NE Revolution for Ariel Graziani during the 1999 season. This short blurb can’t even begin to convey the enormity of this man’s career. 101 Caps for Colombia. A member of 3rd Degree’s All-Time FC Dallas Best XI.
15 – Jason Kreis
(1996: 31 games, 29 starts, 13 goals, 5 assists) Our choice for the best player in franchise history. Selected in the 5th round of the 1996 Launch Draft. Played mostly as an off-striker and led the club in scoring. 1996 MLS All-Star and MLS Player of the Month that July. Scored the first goal in franchise history in the club’s 2nd game in 1996 (would later score the first goal in Real Salt Lake history as well). Later in his career named MLS MVP in 1999 with the first 15/15 season in MLS history and the ’99 MLS Golden Boot. 14 caps for the USA. With RSL he became the younger manager in MLS history to win MLS Cup. A member of 3rd Degree’s All-Time FC Dallas Best XI.
9 – Hugo Sanchez
(1996: 23 games, 21 starts, 6 goals, 3 assists) Another of the Burn’s inaugural Allocation Players. 1996 was the only season Sanchez played for the Burn. Arguably the greatest Mexican and Concacaf player of All-Time, Sanchez was late in his career when he joined the Burn. Sanchez actually played in the NASL in ’79-’80 for San Diego Sockers making him one of two players along with Roy Wegerle to play in NASL and MLS. 400 career goals in 684 games (according to Wikipedia), including 164 goals in 207 games for Real Madrid winning 5 straight titles. 58 caps and 29 goals for Mexico including the ’86 World Cup. Has had a fairly successful, if somewhat controversial, managerial career.
12 – Brandon Pollard
(1996: 10 games, 9 starts) The Burn’s 1st round pick, 3rd overall, in the 1996 College Draft out of the University of Virginia. Mostly a role player and spot starter in 1996 he became a stalwart left back for the Burn over the next few years playing 114 games. Retired prior to the 2001 season. Had his leg broken by the Chicago Fire’s Dema Kovalenko in the 1999 playoffs. Went on to become a professional beekeeper.
3 – Ed Puskarich
(1996: 18 games, 14 starts) Drafted in the 15th round of the 1996 Launch Draft after already playing 12 years as a pro, mostly indoors but including the old Houston Dynamos of the USL. A sometimes starter in defense in 1996, his only season with the club. An assistant coach under Dave Dir from 1997 through the 2000 season he was briefly the un-official interim Burn head coach before Mike Jeffries was hired. Puskarich now runs the Texas Spurs youth soccer club.
4 – Diego Sonora
(1996: 31 games, 31 starts, 2 goals, 7 assists) Another of the Burn’s original Allocation Players and ubiquitous starter in the defense under Dir, mostly on the right side of defense. 1996 and 1997 MLS All-Star. Started his career with Boca Juniors where he won 5 titles between 1988 and 1995. Sonora played for the MetroStars, DC United, and Tampa Bay Mutiny after leaving Dallas at the end of the ’97 season.
1996 Players of Importance Not in the Picture
The picture was just a starting XI pic so a few players got left out that deserve recognition.
12 – Ted Eck
(1996: 26 games, 16 starts, 2 goals, 6 assists) The Burn’s 1st overall pick in franchise history in the 1996 Launch Draft. Played some as a striker in ’96 and some as a midfielder. Notably changed to jersey #14 in 1997 to honor Leonel Alvarez then to #41 when Alvarez returned in ’98. Played 156 regular season games for Dallas through the 2001 season. Had a substantial playing career prior to MLS, including with the Foxes under Dave Dir. 13 caps for the USA. Finished 2nd with the USA at the 1992 FIFA Fustal World Championship. Currently an assistant coach with Real Salt Lake.
8 – Gerell Elliott
(1996: 20 games, 16 starts, 5 goals, 7 assists) 8th round pick in the 1996 Launch Draft. An attacking mid or forward. A player with some creative flair with an established pro indoor career before the launch of MLS. Played for Dallas through the 1998 season.
10 – Washington Rodriguez
(1996: 14 games, 9 starts, 4 goals, 2 assists) The 5th original Burn Allocation Player. A wide midfielder from Uruguay, Rodriguez’s impact wasn’t quite what was expected with Dallas. Out of Liverpool in Uruguay where he was MVP of the Uruguayan First Division prior to coming to MLS, he only played 14 games for the Burn.
17 – John Kerr Jr.
(1996: 12 games, 10 starts, 3 goals, 1 assist) 9th round pick of the 1996 Launch Draft. A striker who had played in England with Wycombe Wanderers and Millwall before joining MLS. Was part of the 1st in-season trade in MLS history when he was sent to the Revolution for Zak Ibsen. 16 caps for the USA. Currently the head coach of Duke men’s soccer program.
4 – Chad Ashton
(1996: 23 games, 10 starts, 1 goal) 2nd round pick of the 1996 Supplemental Draft and was also injured playing indoor prior to the season. Another Colorado Foxes player. Most of his appearances for the Burn came off the bench as a midfielder or defender making only 10 starts in his only season in MLS. Another former Foxes player under Dir. He’s been an assistant coach at DC United since 2007.
17 – Zac Ibsen
(1996: 16 games, 14 starts, 1 goal) Played 16 games for the Burn after being acquired for John Kerr Jr. He was brought in as part of Dir’s continued efforts to shore up the back line. Ibsen played for Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, and San Jose Earthquakes in his MLS career. 15 caps for the USA.