FC Dallas spring camp started last Friday and spring camp is the time when many of the questions of the offseason will be answered. While a few of said winter questions have been resolved already, there are a handful of big ones that remain unanswered.
Let’s dig into the five biggest.
With the sale of Franco Jara, FC Dallas is in need of a third 9. Jesus Ferreira will miss some time this year with USMNT call-ups, and as interesting as Jose Mulato is, he’s an unproven kid.
Sure, a Jader Obrian, Bernie Kamungo, or Tarik Scott could factor but all are more natively wings than high strikers.
So FC Dallas has a hole to fill and is active in the market for a striker.
Perhaps it would be good to get one with a change of style from Jesus? One with more experience than Mulato but also a player that understands his role in backing up Ferreira.
I would like to see FCD target a veteran player who plays a traditional post-up, in the box-9 style. Similar to Franco Jara but not that old and slow. That kind of player would give the club a change of style when needed.
Ok, clearly this one isn’t a question but rather a glaring roster need. Stay tuned as I believe they will try and fill this position before the season starts.
Thankfully, the MLS spring window doesn’t even open until February 10th.
Starting Right Center Back
There are two real choices right now: Nkosi Tarafri and Sebas Ibeagha. Which one is it going to be?
Let’s be real, it should be Tafari. It should have been a year ago. It’s long past time to give the kid the starting gig. Review at mid-season or deep in the summer window.
We know Tafari is good enough to hold steady. The real question is can he still progress? He’s 25 years old, is there time for him to be better than he is now? Does he have a next level?
Ibeagha is 30. Spot starts are fine. If the back half of the year it’s him, so be it.
But Nkosi needs to take the bull by the horns here and settle this one. It’s Tafari-Time.
Starter at the 6
Last year, Edwin Cerrillo won the opening day starting 6-job and looked pretty good in the early phases of the season. Then came a mid-season lull, a bounce back, and an end-of-season surprise benching. Facundo Quignon ended up making 14 starts – including both playoff games – and came off the bench another 11 times.
So which one will it be in 2023?
It better be the 22-year-old Cerrillo. If it’s not we will have to ask some serious questions. Barring injury, Cerrillo should progress up to starting 25 to 32 games. If not… questions. Cerrillo is in the final option year so he’s playing for his new contract (2022 base $130k) and deserves a raise even if he’s just a backup.
Facundo Quignon is 29 going on 30. He’s fine as a serviceable 6 even if I don’t think he’s good enough to win MLS Cup. He would be ok for 2023 if necessary. He too is in the final year of his (much higher at ~$800k) contract.
But Cerrillo should grow to be more than just serviceable. And soon. Then it’s time for that new contract.
How Big is the Need for a Center Back
There’s no question FCD needs a center back. Along with the 9, this is one of two positions FCD is actively in the market for.
I have long felt MLS clubs should carry 5 center backs. It seems Coach Nico Estevez agrees with me, as he called new center back signing Amet Korça the “5th center back” even though they only have three others on the roster.
I think the club can upgrade over Jose Martinez at left center back. JAM is the only lefty prime CB on the team (other than eventually Nolan Norris, more on that in a minute) and he has a recurring leg issue.
Yes, Nkosi Tarafri and Sebas Ibeagha can and have played left side but both are right-footed.
Coach Estevez talked about a veteran, smart player with the right mindset. One who can pass on game experience to the young CBs. But also one with strength and power, cause this is MLS. Think Matt Hedges age 27 or something. Or someone like Reto Ziegler when he first arrived.
That’s a tough find. Perhaps an expensive one. Even more so if you want a lefty. Maybe the kind of player they can’t find till summer.
So questions remain. Can Martinez’s legs hold up? Is Tarafri ready to start 30 games? Is this Ibeagha’s peak and will he take one of the starting jobs? Is Korça good enough right now for minutes?
If the answer to all those is no it may be time to panic in the search for a center back.
Left Back Backup
Who the backup left back is may not seem all that important. But I assure you, it is.
We know who the starting left back is, Marco Farfan. But Farfan wore down at the end of last year and his performance suffered. FCD doesn’t need him to start 32 games again in 2023. Or if he does, they need to reduce his overall minute load which 2nd on the team behind Maarten Paes.
Farfan’s backup needs to be ready to make 5 starts and/or take up a 500’ish minute playing load. Right now there are two backup left back candidates: Isaiah Parker and Nolan Norris.
The candidate ready for minutes is last year’s Generation adidas #3 overall draft pick Parker. Parker reportedly won the “young players” beep test at the start of camp, that’s a great sign.
But I think Parker has progressed past North Texas SC. The club needs to balance his progression against covering Farfan. A loan to USL-C for a good stretch of starts, if not an entire season, would be really good for Parker. That’s an important balance for them to get right. Can Parker get enough PT at FCD or does he need the loan.
That brings us to new homegrown Nolan Norris.
Nolan is being worked in training and games at LCB (his potential long-term future) and LB (where he plays more now). Nolan should be starting every game for NTX at either of the two positions but he is more game-ready at left back. Is he also good enough now that he can spot start in MLS?
This battle bears watching.
Any Other Questions?
Yes, there are many. But these are the biggest five for now.