We’ve been talking about Reggie Cannon leaving for Europe for about a year now and it looks like he’s on the verge of finally completing his desired transfer. So let’s talk about who the options are to replace him at right back.
Let’s be clear, FC Dallas isn’t a kids team, not everyone gets a turn. Opportunities have to he earned and then you have to hold on to the spot. Competition for places is real.
It’s funny how this list kept getting longer as I wrote it. (It turned into a top 10!) Obviously, the top 2 are by far the most likely.
I’ll list the options in order of how likely I believe they are to happen.
1. Bryan Reynolds
This 6’3” 170 lbs, 19-year-old converted forward/winger most often is Reggie’s direct replacement in training and scrimmages. He’s been pushing Cannon hard this year.
Reynolds has been a pro since 2017, having been one of the first post Weston McKennie protect-the-investment signings from the Academy as a U17.
Reynolds can, and still does, fill in all across the front line, wide in midfield, and at left back. He even gets slotted in at center back occasionally with both FCD and with some of the US Youth National Teams he’s been involved with at US U17 and U20 level.
While he’s not Christian Ronaldo or anything – not many players have the combination of size, speed, and ball skill of Reynolds. He’s got European teams tracking his development and contract situation (like most FCD Homegrowns).
Reynolds has shifted to the backline from the front where he played in the Academy because he’s at his best running from deep to attack back lines and overlap. I think he has more upside than Cannon. Starting about halfway through last season, Reynolds worked his way into the FCD game-day 18.
Reynolds is the more aggressive, risky choice but I anticipate he will be given every chance to lock down the spot. The thing he’s missing at this point is wisdom and game experience. Like Cannon’s rookie year, there will be a few growing pains with Reynolds but it will be worth it to let him play through them.
But in this short season the window of opportunity will be short.
Update 3 pm 8/18/20: I reported on social media that FCD is closing in on a new 5-year contract for Reynolds.
The conservative, “safe” choice. Bressan (6’0” 174 lbs, 27 years old) is, in theory, in the prime of his career. He’s played at some really high levels with his former club Gremio and has bags of experience. The overreactions that got him a lot of cards in the beginning of his MLS days have mostly gone away.
Less athletic than Reynolds, Bressan won’t really be a get forward kind of outside back that Luchi loves. He’s a defense-first, stable choice. The reality is he’s a center back who gets slotted in out on the right. And that’s why he’s option 2.
We saw Bressan at right back last season when, originally, Cannon was going to miss one game. Bressan was the safe pick then. But five games later and Coach Gonzalez kept picking Bressan. He just might keep picking him in 2020.
3. Ryan Hollingshead
Hollingshead (6’1” 180 lbs, 29 years ols) is, obviously, a fantastic part of FCD’s first team at left back and I don’t need to tell you how good he is.
But he’s actually right-footed. So yes, he’s an option to swap sides even though he’s exceptional on the left.
I don’t love this idea of RH on the right for two reasons. 1. It breaks another position to “fix” right back – I’m never a fan of that – and 2. Ryan isn’t nearly as good on the right for reasons.
This choice would also mean Johnny Nelson becomes the left back starter, more than likely.
4. Johnny Nelson
Speaking of Mr. Nelson (5’9,” 160 lbs, 22 years old), he’s another option we’ve seen play right back. Being a lefty, he would play right as Hollingshead does on the left, outside-in. Cutting underneath and combining rather than getting to the end and crossing.
Nelson should be an MLS starter-level player given a little time. Like Reynolds he would need to play into the right back job just as he would at left back position in option number 3 above.
He wouldn’t have the pure pace of Reynolds but he’s still plenty quick and athletic with a good soccer brain and quality touch. He just needs a lot of playing time to mature into a starting role.
5. Eddie Munjoma
Last season, Eddie Munjoma (5’10” 155 lbs, 22 years old) was the best outside back in the college game. He was the kind of modern, get forward with impact, outside back Luchi loves. He was so good, SMU would vacate half the field to him.
But it’s a big step from NCAA to MLS. Maybe even a bigger step than USL-1 is. Munjoma just got here (relatively speaking, cause Covid) and has a lot to learn. I’d love to see him playing a bunch at North Texas SC this season but that’s yet to happen in the pandemic.
Could Munjoma play his way into a starting spot? Sure. He’s probably the most pure Cannon clone on the roster.
What Munjoma should be though is the most direct challenge to Reynolds after Cannon leaves. He should make it his job in 2020 to lock down the #2 spot at right back and go into 2021 pressing Reynolds hard for PT.
6. Ema Twumasi
Remember this guy? Twumasi (5’8” 160 lbs, 23 years old) is still on loan at Austin Bold. But you may recall he went there with the idea that he would play right back. Except he turned out to be too good a winger for the Bold so that’s where they play him.
Still, though, Luchi has that idea in the back of his head: Twuamasi at right back. And FC Dallas has a right of recall on Twumasi. If Reggie gets sold and the Reynolds or Munjoma thing isn’t working, a recall could be in line.
Twumasi would be the kind of modern, get forward and destroy, wide back Coach Gonzalez loves. He’s fit and strong enough to run the field all day and he’s got some pace too. He’s just got little idea how to defend, so this would be a project, to say the least.
7. Kevin Bonilla
Now we’re getting into interesting territory. What if things don’t get well this year with any of those above options?
That brings me to Kevin Bonilla (5’8” 162 lbs, 18 years old). Bonilla is slated to play ball at the University of Portland this fall, which obviously is in high doubt.
Last year as an Academy U19 he took over the starting right back job for North Texas SC and dominated in their championship run. Bonilla is a US U20 and even got called into U23 camp as an extra practice player because of his quality. He too is a modern, skilled, and talented outside back.
I am really high on Bonilla’s future, I think the kid is a stud defender and attacker. The kid’s built like a bulldog.
If things aren’t working in Dallas at right back, Bonilla could be an easy Homegrown pickup.
8. Imanol Almaguer
Another former FC Dallas Academy player, Almaguer plays for North Texas SC. While he was in the Academy I thought he was just an average right back.
But sometime last year FCD started using him as an 8 and he came to life. His confidence came up and his game came up. It’s amazing how often that happens. Now he’s a significantly better right back than he was before.
I do think his future is in the midfield, probably at the USL-C level. But we’re getting into the part of this list where we’re looking for answers and Imanol at right back could certainly be one.
Almaguer a two-way player but he lacks the true dynamic range of guys higher on this list. He can play left back as well as he’s very versatile.
9. Mark Salas
Another potential Homegrown candidate is UNC defender Mark Salas (5’10” 150 lbs, . He’s a three-year starter for the Heels (4th year canceled or postponed?). He and SMU’s Brandon Terwege – who both won the Dallas Cup with FCD in 2017 – top my upperclassmen potential Homegrown list for 2021. Former Denton Diablo.
Mark can play anywhere along the backline but right back is where he’s best I think. Could he be a solution, like Bonilla, for down the line? Sure, he’s got plenty of game. He too is a former US U20.
He’s a little more of a pure defender and less of an aggressive flying wing, but Salas is quality and I think he will be a solid domestic pro at some point.
10. Justin Che
Che is the next Academy defender FCD is investing heavy time in at the North Texas level. He’s primarily been a center back every time I’ve seen him in the Academy but at NTX he’s getting as much right back play as center back.
The 16-year-old Che is a favorite to be the next FC Dallas Academy Homegrown perhaps later next year or the year after. He’s got a lot of on-field growing to do, but if he continues to impress – and if others don’t step up – his progression might get accelerated.
Who you got?