Five ways to improve FC Dallas before the next transfer window

The secondary MLS window this year opens on July 18th. That’s roughly 2 months from now with a lot of games in between for FC Dallas, 13 in fact plus at least one Cup game. Yes, they can get some players in that second window but they shouldn’t just be sitting around waiting.

So here are five ways FC Dallas can improve between now and then.

The Assumption

I am writing this piece with one big, fat assumption: that Nico Estevez is still the coach. That means sticking with the 3-4-3. Therefore, one of the suggestions is not “return to the 4-3-3” as I would be tempted to do.

You may draw your own conclusion as to whether his removal would improve the team or not before the next window.

1. The 10

Here’s the front three for FC Dallas.

FCD's Front three May 2024.

Look, we know Petar Musa and Jesus Ferreira are locked into two of the spots. Musa as the high-9 has 4 goals and 2 assists in 10 games. Ferreira is getting warmed up with 2 goals and 2 assists.

But that other spot? Let’s call that Alan Velasco‘s spot. FC Dallas needs more from it. They need more production, possession, and game control.

Because Ferreira is – as Coach calls him – a 9.5, this third position can be much more of a 10-type. Let’s look at the numbers for the people filling this role.

PlayerGlsAstsxGxAKPSCATOW %
Paul Arriola00.09.121.382.6731.3%
Sebastian Lletget10.18.051.452.8750.0%
Bernard Kamungo02.05.080.592.1826.7%
Tsiki Ntsabeleng00.
Eugene Ansah10.
Logan Farrington00.14.060.652.6244.4%
All stats from fbref and are per/90.
KP = Key Passes. SCA = shot creating actions. TOW% = Take On Win Pct.

Even though I included them, I don’t think we should involve Eugene Ansah (who the stats say should perhaps be the choice) and Logan Farrington in this conversation. Both fill more of the high role of Musa and Ferreira.

Putting one of them on would shove Ferreira (by his instinct) back into the 10 role. I don’t want that. Maybe that’s a choice someday, but for now, I want Ferreira as the 9.5. (I’m also not including Tomas Pondeca or Enes Sali cause they have been with NTX.) It’s almost a 3-5-2 formation, but not quite.

It looks to me like Sebastian Lletget needs to be on the pitch in this 10 role… Some. (See the next point.)

2. Replacing Paxton

The next deficiency is the role vacated by Paxton Pomykal. FCD has stated they will seek to replace their two-way energizer bunny 8 in the next window. But is there a way to get more of a two-way player in this spot?

With Asier Illarramendi being 34 and injured more than we like… Because the other two options are both more pure 6s… FCD sometimes has a 7-defender lineup. Add in wingbacks that aren’t ball-hawks and just average passing center backs… And FCD often loses control of the midfield, making it quite difficult to play through there and build out.

This again is where Sebastian Lletget can come into play as he is the most similar to Pomykal as SL can provide a linking two-way game. Having both players in a double-pivot who are two-way capable will go a long way to helping this team link and gain control of the middle. With three CBs behind, a double 8 might could perhaps be the way to go.

So where you put Lletget is a tough call. At the 10 or at the 8? Who else gets a nod? Fraser or Arriola/Kamungo/Ntsabeleng? Ansah?

Right this minute if Illarra is healthy, I vote for Lletget at 10 with Fraser in the double-pivot. I think Lletget is providing way more up-top. If Illara is out, then move Lletget back and bring on one of the others as the 10.

A hypothetical mid-season 2024 XI if Sebastian Lletget and Asier Illarramendi are healthy.
A hypothetical mid-season 2024 XI if Sebastian Lletget and Asier Illarramendi are healthy.

3. Farfan and Junqua Dialed In

Getting Marco Farfan back has been a real blessing for FC Dallas as he’s the only two-way wingback on the left side. Well, except for Sam Junqua, but Junqua is busy being the left center back.

This left-side duo has struggled a bit in their coverages, along with the 6/8 on that side. When to shift or not, when to cover or not. This has caused some defensive lapses and the tactical shift at halftime against Austin to the 5-4-1 came as a result (although, IMO, Illarramendi going out was also a factor in that despite what Coach said).

Playing together will improve this issue. They have only made two starts together. So this one is a “keep going” fix. Just wait and it will get better game by game.

4. Offense from Wingbacks without Sacrificing Defense

We talk about tactics being fluid a lot. And for this coach, the attack in the final third should have a shape like this…

The FC Dallas front 5 in attack mid-2024.

We talked about this a lot in the spring.

In the 3-4-3 FC Dallas is playing, with two under-10s, the offensive width has to come from the wingbacks. They need to take up the wide spaces so the opposition defense can’t collapse centrally and smother the attacking trio. (A 10 drifting wide and a wingback or 8 taking up the under position is also fine but not preferable)

Right now, FC Dallas is using two defense-first wingbacks. Both need to be better offensively or at least occupy the outside backs to a greater extent.

The return of Geovane Jesus – a more attacking wingback option – may come before the next window and Herbert Endeley has been doing some intriguing things on that end even if his defense is more suspect. However, the latter is a tough pill for Coach Nico to swallow (See Farfan > Sealy).

For Coach Estevez, defense will always come first, so make sure to factor that in.

Let’s look at some stats again.

Marco Farfan00.
Dante Sealy11.092.900.13.53
Ema Twumasi01.051.460.65.16
Herbert Endeley00.134.801.25.00
Geovane (2023)
Paul Arriola00.122.671.38.53
Bernard Kamungo02.
All stats from fbref.
CrPA = crosses into the penalty area.

I know 2023 isn’t a great comparison for Geovane because of the shape change but it’s what we have. Also, Arriola and Kamungo are skewed a bit, to be fair, cause they play as 10s too.

Farfan’s numbers are solid but could be improved. Twumasi needs to make a leap or his spot will be in danger from Arriola, Endeley, and Geovane. All three have much better attacking stats. When Twumasi was with the Austin Bold, he led them in chance creation. So we know he can do it.

Perhaps the answer is just to be brave. Try some things. Go at people. That high up the field there should be plenty of cover behind. Endeley at least seems to be willing.

Kamungo would be the most dangerous if he can figure it out.

5. Get Healthy, Stay Healthy

Sure, get healthy. Easy peasy, right?

In 2022, FC Dallas had an amazing run of good health and rode up the standings with it. Since then, the club has been crushed under a wave of bad luck on the injury front. The club should be looking at every phase of their operations to see if they can improve the club’s health.

Let’s be real. If FCD can’t get healthy and stay healthy, this will be a long and painful season.

Yes, the age of many key players is a factor. So is the history of injury of a couple. Is there a route cause to the trend? Is the team over-training? Is training too intense? How is the strength and conditioning program? What about medical staff and trainers along with the recovery program?

When you have an insane run of injuries like this, you look at everything. It has to be better.

You’re not getting Velasco back until after the window. But Lletget and Arriola – heck, even Geovane – should be able to make important contributions.

In Conclusion

We’re not talking about massive strides here and becoming a Cup contender. But improvement in this area can keep FCD in the playoff hunt.

The stated center back and two-way midfielder transfer window targets that should come in late July or August should help FCD take a larger step. Lots of factors will have to be revisited when that happens.

In the meantime, FCD can and should get better.


I still wish they would swap back to a 4-3-3 for which the roster was built.


  1. Unless this team abandons the 3-4-3 formation, the season is lost. The players just don’t fit the system. There’s no way they can bring in enough new players to make the 3-back system work. Better to start fresh for 2025 by 1: change the coach; 2: buy out Areola this summer and replace with effective 2-way midfielder, and 3: buy out SL and replace with a game changing 6 this offseason.

  2. What is club likely to do in the window? Do you think we’ll see a CM and CB with this being Nico’s last season?

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