You may be shocked to learn that FC Dallas opens training camp for the 2022 season on January 16th. That’s just 13 days from the publication of this post.
Meanwhile, FC Dallas is out of the train business, lost two in the Re-Entry Draft, hired a new coach, acquired an international slot, and purged the roster.
So with Thomas Roberts and Dante Sealy still on loan and the sale of Justin Che in the cards; FC Dallas is left with 9-11 open roster spots (5-7 senior roster & 4 supplemental roster), 4 open international slots, 2 open U22 initiative spots, and they will soon have 2 open DP spots.
So, now it’s time to build back up.
We’re going to continue to assume Coach Nico Estevez will go with the 4-3-3 that the USMNT used during this time as an assistant there. Until the first shots of training camp are fired that’s as good a formation assumption as any.
Current Depth Chart
Given the 4-3-3 this is what I got, give or take.
|R. Hollingshead||M. Hedges|
|N. Tafari||E. Twumasi|
Again, I’m assuming Thomas Roberts and Dante Sealy remain on loan and Justin Che is sold. Beni Redžić and Collin Smith should, IMO, spend all of 2022 with North Texas SC so I’m leaving them off the chart.
Most of the Homegrown options I mention below aren’t likely to help FCD all that much in 2022.
In Order of Importance.
And let me also remind you, that the offseason is the time to be absolutely brutal in roster decisions. It’s not someone else’s turn. This ain’t rec soccer.
1. Central Midfield
The club jettisoned Bryan Acosta, presumably, for underperforming. As much as we like the future of Paxton Pomykal and Brandon Servania, asking two twenty-two-year-olds to carry you to MLS Cup is a bit much.
Not to mention the depth issue as you can see in the above chart or health issues of Pomykal. Nicky Hernandez could use more PT at North Texas just maybe not a whole season’s worth. Leave Blaine Ferri at North Texas for now. Do it again, take another step, and he’ll be up.
I think a linking-8 and an attacking-8 should both be high on the club’s list of signings and I would bring in a DP in this area.
Homegrown options: Not really any in college right now although I am watching a few. Diego Hernandez in the Academy I really like. He’s a U17 who plays with the U19s and is their best player. Jared Salazar and Ale Urzua also U17s are both exciting as well.
Jader Obrian put up some pretty big numbers at right wing last year and I’m certainly excited by Szabolcs Schön ability.
But Schön will get called up a fair amount and the only other wingers right now are the unproven Kalil ElMedkhar and Beni Redzic who, as I mentioned, should be with North Texas (particularly after he missed almost all of 2021 due to injury). There’s also no depth on the right at all and I believe leaving Pomykal on the wing would be a mistake.
So FC Dallas should go after a top-flight win to mix in with Schön and Obrian and a backup on the right.
Gibran Rayo deserves a chance in camp to win a backup spot after his strong season at North Texas.
College Homegrown options: Daniel Evans (Kentucky Sr), Jalen James (Campbell Jr), Brayan Padilla (Maryland Sr), and Malik Henry-Scott (Tulsa Fr). The best Academy HG wing options need another year (Tarik Scott, Kevin Kelley, and Anthony Ramirez) or two (Kris Kelley or Malachi Molina).
3. Two Goalkeepers
FC Dallas only has one keeper on the roster, Jimmy Maurer. So they need two more.
The club was today linked on a possible loan move for Spanish keeper Christian Rivero from Valencia, he’s 23.
Update: Looks pretty done 18-month loan. $500k buy option.
Maybe Richard Sanchez was with North Texas SC last year as a possible 2nd or 3rd keeper this year? Although I think if that were the case it would have happened by now.
If not those two, then two others. An MLS club should have 3 keepers.
Homegrown options: 6’3″ U19 keeper Antonion Carrera, who we expect to sign, should probably spend all of 2022 starting for North Texas. Maybe he could be your 3rd as that would give the club more options. Julian Eyestone, the 6’6″ U17 keeper needs more time in the Academy but should see NTXSC time soon. keepers.
4. Defensive Depth
Ryan Hollingshead and Ema Twumasi are the presumed starters at outside back but Ryan is long in the tooth and Twumasi is in the final year of his contract. On top of that, depth is a problem right now.
Eddie Munjoma remains on the team and can play either outside back position but he has yet to prove he’s MLS level. So the club should go for a backup piece on both sides. I don’t think Homegrown Collin Smith is ready to fill this need. He needs to stay with North Texas again in 2022.
I would sign Kevin Bonilla from U of Portland and USYNTer as a Homegrown. Naturally a righty, he can play both sides. A left back college Homegrown option might be Holland Rula from Wake Forest.
Outside the box Homegrown idea: Eric Centeno (Pacific Fr) joined FCD for one season (was it even a complete season?) before returning to the Sacramento Republic. He was just named WCC Freshman of the Year for Pacific… Is he even FC Dallas Homegrown eligible? He’d been invited to the MLS College Showcase. He was recruited to play right back but Pacific made him a winger.
There are three starter grade center backs already in Nkosi Tafari, Matt Hedges, and Jose Martinez. So they need two center-backs reserves.
I am a firm believer that due to injuries and other unforeseen issues a team should carry 5 center backs. Perhaps a more veteran backup and a young player from the college ranks. If Justin Che isn’t sold, then Justin is the 4th CB.
If NTXSC brings back Caiser Gomes then that will suffice for the 5th CB cause he can be signed as an emergency player like last year.
If you want to go the Homegrown center back route, Josh Ramsey had a phenomenal season at Notre Dame as a freshman (23 starts, 24 games) earning ACC All-Freshman 1st Team and an ACC title.
5. Third Striker
Moving Jesus Ferreira to the 9 seems an easy choice. Franco Jara can be the primary reserve. But Jara will turn 34 and Ferreira will likely get more USMNT call ups.
So FC Dallas needs a third striker. Perhaps someone on the younger side like a Homegrown from the Academy or college or perhaps a foreign signing like they often target from South America.
Maybe take a flyer on former Academy and NTX product Ronaldo Damus who just won a title with Orange County in the USL Championship?
Homegrown options: Not much right now other than Reed Berry (Oral Roberts Jr) and he was a premier player (can premier be Homegrown? I need to ask). Academy standouts Nighte Pickering and Nayrobi Vargas both need more time.
I hope FC Dallas will go ahead and use the third DP signing. The question is where?
I already made one suggestion of central midfield above.
Wing is a high-profile position and the most likely where a DP-type signing might do some serious good. The Dallas offense was fine last year but Ricardo Pepi is going, going, gone. Ferreira can solve the 9 position and Schön is quality, but a top-tier wing can go a long way.
2. Holding mid.
My personal choice would be at the 6. Yes, they have two holding mids in Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo. Right his minute I would rate Cerrillo over Faco with the understanding the latter was injured in late 2021 and might still rise up.
But I think that holding mid is one of the most important positions in the team. It’s no coincidence that the club won Supporters Shields and Open Cups when Carlos Gruezo was here. I wouldn’t mind a world-beater in this spot.
Sell Faco for whatever you can get and splash on a stud. Bring back Gruezo!!
3. Center back.
Center back is the sleeper. Nkosi Tafari is a legit MLS caliber starter. But Jose Martinez, perhaps due to injuries, undelivered, and Matt Hedges, the defensive GOAT of this franchise, will be 32 in April and also struggled with injuries.
A Reto Ziegler level signing wouldn’t be amiss, although, to be fair, I think that’s what Martinez was supposed to be and time may yet tell. I’m mostly willing to take a wait-and-see attitude on Martinez but the club may not agree.
All of which would leave us something like this.
|30 Man Roster||Position||Who|
|3||9||Young Player (Ronaldo Damus?)|
|15||LB||Signing, Draftee, or Homegrown|
|19||CB||Vet Reserve Signing (Or Justin Che)|
|20||CB||Young Signing or Draftee (free spot if Gomes at NTX)|
|22||RB||Signing or Draftee (Kevin Bonilla?)|
|25||GK||Signing (Antonio Carrera?)|
|28||Extra||Another wing (Girban Rayo or U22 int. player?)|
|29||Extra||Homegrown or Leave open for returning loans?|
|30||Extra||Leave open for returning loans?|
|31||Out on Loan||Thomas Roberts|
|32||Out on Loan||Dante Sealy|
|33||North Texas Loan||Collin Smith|
|34||Pending Sale?||Justin Che|
|35||North Texas Loan||Antonio Carrera?|
|36||North Texas Loan||Beni Redzic|
My problem with investing a DP spot on the #6 is that it almost guarantees that some starter-level player ends up never playing (unless you think either of Cerrillo or Quignon can give you high quality minutes at the #8, which I don’t). Having one of Quignon/Cerrillo as your backup #6 is a luxury. Having one as your 3rd-string #6 is a misallocation of scarce roster resources. Better to use the DP spot at the Wing or the #8 (my choice for the 3rd DP spot after getting a winger) where there’s need for more bodies AND better quality.
It only works if you get rid of Quignon.
Whoops, missed that caveat.
No worries. You were on the money.
It’s not likely anyway, I don’t think.
I would love to see them bring in ol “Nostra” Damus as a 3rd striker. I really liked him for NTSC, and he seems to have kept up the scoring pace moving up a level. A front line of Schon, Damus and Obrian would be pretty fun and pesky from time-to-time. Smaller guys who can carve up a defense.
I hope Estevez stays with the 4-2-3-1 with Ferreira as the 10 but if he does move to the 4-3-3 and the Hunts don’t expand the budget i think the top three needs are:
1. CB – none of the CBs that Dallas has are MLS average level. Tafari could reach that and beyond but he isn’t there yet. Expecting to get 2018 Hedges again is wishful thinking. I would go out and get a $1M/yr CB – top of the line CBs in MLS are making that much. DP lite or TAM buy down.
2. GK – A $600K GK should get you a top-5 to top-10 GK. When you are a bad defensive team you need a good GK (Marcinkowski, SJ) to give yourself a chance. Maurer’s underlying metrics show him to be a below average GK, which is no surprise since he was brought in primarily to be a backup. Unfortunately, bringing in the Valencia GK probably means this option isn’t a possibility anymore.
3. CM(8) – Relying on Paxton to be a starting 8 is foolish based on his play last year. Even Vargas outplayed him at the wing position (look up the stats). Expecting Paxton to come inside and suddenly be MLS starter level after a short 3-month layoff isn’t realistic. A journeyman like Kelyn Rowe is probably the smart play – he starts early in the season and if Paxton progresses like you hope then he becomes a substitute later in the year.
Dallas can’t fix the roster in one offseason unless the Hunts are willing to blow the budget (and i think that is fantasy). So i think the best you can do is some incremental improvements and then look to spend big in 2023 when Jara’s contract comes off the books.
If Estevez plays a 4-2-3-1 with Ferreira at the 10, then striker becomes a huge hole, and one that is really hard to fill. At his age and with his style of play, Jara isn’t a lead the line kind of striker, he’s more a combine and arrive to finish kind of striker. Which would put him in the same area of the pitch as Jesus. So arguably FCD has no suitable strikers on the roster if they play a 4-2-3-1. Maybe they sign someone, but until then, it’s probably more reasonable for the club to plan on a 4-3-3. And considering has been coaching under Berhalter for some time, that’s probably the safer bet.
I think it’s a bit harsh to say that Hedges and Tafari aren’t MLS average. I agree that even a healthy Hedges isn’t MLS best 11 anymore, but I do think he’s at least average if healthy (admittedly a big if). He wasn’t healthy really at all in 2021. FCD definitely needs depth and could stand to improve at the position, but there are a decent number of teams that are in even worse shape at CB.
I agree with you about what it costs for a top-10 MLS keeper. Finding one is the problem. The teams within MLS aren’t going to give them up. And if you’re bringing someone in from outside MLS, they are either (1) unproven or (2) probably aren’t coming in for $600k. And while I agree that FCD could get better here, I think the club can get better more quickly by improving at other positions.
I disagree that it’s foolish to pencil in Pax as a starter based on his performance in 2021. For one, he was being played out of position on the wing. But more importantly, he was coming back from injury, and it showed at times. When Pax is healthy and in the middle, he is a difference-maker. He’s a guy you try to build around. But I do appreciate your thought about having an experienced player available. I would agree that it is foolish to count on Pax to start every game. His injury history isn’t great, and although he was pretty durable in 2021, it makes sense to continue to manage him (and with five subs that’s doable).
For me, I think that the number 1 need and the area that has the greatest ability to increase the team-wide potential is a quality starting wing. Schonn is unproven (and will miss time) and to me Obrian looks like a really good backup at the MLS level but below average starter (I tend to discount his stats toward the end of the season as more of an unsustainable hot streak although I admit his play was better than at the beginning of the season). Assuming everyone is healthy, that’s the one position where I think FCD is missing a starter-level player. Getting a real DP-level player there would help in many ways (and also doesn’t block any youth as Kalil and Schon and Obrian still have the other spot to fight for).
Past that, I think FCD needs depth and quality just about everywhere and just about to the same degree. It’s hard to determine whether depth at CM or CB or outside back is the greatest need. We need a lot of help across the board.
I’m building for 2023 not 2022.
Chuy at the 9 will touch the ball less than Chuy at the 10 and he showed how effective he was at the 10 last year. Who’s going to get him the ball at the 9?
You’re reliance on ifs seems unreasonable to me – If Hedges is healthy, If Paxton is healthy they will do X, etc. Sorry, but Hedges play at the end of the year was not good, there was no mention he was playing hurt, and he is 32. The likeliest scenario is he’s done as an upper level MLS CB. Paxton’s playing history is nothing but one injury after another – to count on him to not only to recover fully but to reach a consistently high level of form at a position he has not consistently played at for the FCD first team is wishful thinking. Maybe it happens but counting on it would be foolish from an organizational point of view.
Getting a $600K keeper is not as hard as you think. You can always shop for a good backup in a European league that wants to get consistent playing time and bring them over on a loan. GKs are desperate for consistent playing time because it tends to be a position with little rotation.
Finally, The Hunts will only pay for so much talent – difference making wings cost a lot more money than a difference making GK or CB. If they go the wing route then you’re stuck with the same old back four and GK – thinking your defense will improve with that unit is, again, wishful thinking.
I’m with you about building for 2023 and not for 2022.
Re Chuy, I take your point. Wherever you put him, it leaves a hole somewhere else that has to be addressed somehow, either tactically or with another player.
Re if’s, you’re right that they’re if’s. But so is bringing in new players. Particularly with Zanotta’s track record at FCD, the if’s associated with new signings seem to be at least as risky as the if’s of Hedges and Pax. But particularly for Pax, considering what FCD has into him salary wise and his potential and that he went through 2021 playing more minutes than ever before in a single season and without injury, I think he should be plan A but considering the injury history the club should be working on a strong plan B.
Re GK, getting a $600k keeper isn’t the issue, it’s finding the one that is elite for MLS. If it was that simple, lots more teams would do it. As it is, many teams in MLS pay far more than $600k for keepers that are average or below average in MLS.
Re the Hunts spending and priorities, I agree with your broader point that FCD cannot fix every area of need by bringing in top-level talent because the Hunts won’t pay for it (and assuming that Zanotta can pick the right players). And I take your point about running back the same defense and hoping for better results (though I do think that what we look at now as the likely first choice defense didn’t get to play more than maybe a few games together last season). I agree the defense needs to get better. For me, improving the defense should be one of the top priorities, although not THE top priority. That said, I see the argument for defense first, and it’s a good argument. I put GK way down the list because I disagree that GK’s can really win you a bunch more points. Bad GKs can definitely cost a lot of points, but take any GK in MLS and put them on FCD and how much difference will that really make in terms of points? For me, a lot less than the difference in points you would get improving other areas. As Buzz’s article shows, the FCD roster overall is not good, so you could pick just about any spot and make a credible argument for making it the highest priority for improvement.
To expand a little on why I think wing is most important, it has to do with playing style and game state. If FCD is going to go to a 4-3-3 that looks and plays something like Berhalter’s 4-3-3, then I think another wing is critical. If FCD is going to try to disorganize opponents with possession, then Obrian is a bad, bad fit, and FCD is basically missing a starter at that spot. Moreover, if you have better quality there and, frankly, more consistent finishing, FCD will be ahead earlier and in more games, which helps everything, particularly the defense. Early in the 2021 season in a handful of games Obrian had an opportunity to score the first goal of a game and missed clear chances (though to be fair, so did Jara). And throughout the season Obrian had a lot of chances to make a simple pass to create a really good chance for a scoring opportunity. Even though Obrian got better at finishing toward the end of the season (or at least in a couple of games), his decision making was still not great. If you can turn what I think is an area that is negative into a positive, it helps team-wide. It certainly doesn’t solve the defensive issues, but it does help reduce the pressure on the defense to be near-perfect game in and game out. In fairness, I am kind of presuming that Estevez is going to try to play a system somewhat like Berhalter’s, and we don’t have much of any idea of whether that is the case. Maybe Estevez wants to use false wingers and sees Pax playing there (a la Gio Reyna). Or maybe Estevez will go 4-2-3-1 and adopt a primary style that Obrian is a better fit for, making wing less of a need. So I reserve the right to change my admittedly ill-informed peanut-gallery opinions on what the club should do (it’s my right as a long-suffering FCD fan isn’t it?).
Bro you don’t know nothing about the academy just to let you know