Replacing Pepi

Reliable news broke this evening that Ricardo Pepi is on his way to Germany to complete a $20 million move to FC Augsburg in the German Bundesliga. That’s $20 million plus addons if you are scoring at home.  

And while most fans won’t begrudge FC Dallas that kind of sale, there are perhaps questions to be asked about the club’s insistence Pepi would be on the Dallas roster during 2022 and the club’s all-Pepi all-the-time-marketing strategy this winter.

Still, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion Pepi would leave by the end of ’22 in any case. Heck, I had conversations with former coach Luchi Gonzalez in the middle of last season about how FCD would replace Pepi this winter. So really, if the club’s new sporting staff had no plans for this scenario and is caught off guard by this sale… well…

Let’s just hope they have a plan.

Alright, let’s talk about the options.

Start Franco Jara

This one’s not ideal in my mind.  Franco Jara‘s 7 goals in 29 games last season isn’t great. But that’s 17 sub appearances and just 12 starts. 

So given the age – he’ll be 34 in July – that’s an acceptable substitute goal rate. There have been seasons 7 goals led the club in scoring.  It’s just the $3 mil per season price tag that’s an issue.

I’m quite certain Jara will be on the roster in 2022 and if he continues to come off the bench that’s fine. Jara starting, other than as a fill-in, isn’t a good idea, I don’t think.  

Let’s hope starting Jara isn’t the answer.

Sign a New 9

FC Dallas is about to have a pile of cash on their hands.  This is more money to spend in their “money in before out” methodology.

Even with this kind of money, the Hunts believe in spending on long-term sustainability, not players. Infrastructure, yes. Academy program, yes. Hall of Fame, yes.

Buying players? Not so much.

So don’t expect the Hunts to drop 10 to 15 mil on a hot young striker.

But might they go after a striker in the market? Yes, I think they will. This club believes in buying players cheaper and younger.  Buy low, sell high. 

Look at past successes like Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, even Michael BarriosSzabolcs Schön fits this same profile and Phelipe was supposed to.

Unfortunately, FCD’s percentage of successes isn’t great here.  I do think they will target someone this way and hopefully said player will contribute to the team this year. But we should think of this player as mostly a backup at this point, in all probability.

You can include drafting a striker in this section. FCD is picking 6th overall.

Look to the Academy

Once again the FC Dallas Academy has come good. This is the FC Dallas bread and butter.  So are there some strikers worth looking at in the Academy?

Yes, but not someone that will help FC Dallas this season or even next.  There are currently three strikers – all in the U17 bracket by age – that I think have MLS potential.  But they aren’t going to be banging in goals with the first team in 2022 and none of them is Ricardo Pepi.

Nighte Pickering (2005), Tarik Scott (2005), and Nayrobi Vargas (2006) all three have pro-potential but all have flaws to overcome and none are sure-fire hits. They are all two to three seasons away from potentially helping the club. Maybe even longer. We’re talking about 15 and 16-year-olds. Banging in goals at 18 isn’t the norm.

Jesus the False-9

This is, I think, the answer. 

Jesus Ferreira has played some false-9 for FC Dallas in the past, most successfully in 2019.  And when we see him with the US Men’s National team – the place his brand new club coach came from – he’s played as a false-9 as well.

So this is the move to replace Pepi that has the highest chance to succeed… because we’re seen it succeed already.

Most people believe Coach Nico Estevez prefers a 4-3-3 anyway so Jesus was going to need to shift positions to a certain extent.  Therefore, moving Ferreria to the 9 makes lots of sense.  In the 4-3-3 you don’t really use the 10 or off-striker that Ferreira was playing in 2021. Instead, it uses a double-8 look. 

The move to the 4-3-3 with Ferreira as a 9 also facilitates moving Paxton Pomykal back into the middle of the park and that’s another win, even if FC Dallas does go out and look for an 8.

Many Parts

So really, the likely scenario is a combination of the above. Ferreira to the false-9, bring a youngish striker from South American in their usual style, with a little Jara here and there. Maybe a Homegrown striker later this year or next winter.

Pending other new signings – and remember FCD now has 11 open roster spots – here’s what an XI would look like in the 4-3-3 if they had to play a game tomorrow.

An FC Dallas 4-3-3 based on the roster post-Ricardo Pepi sale.

7 Comments

  1. Maybe they could look to their diaspora in the college game. One name that jumps out at me is Malik Henry-Scott. He had a good season with Tulsa. Brayan Padilla is another name but he had a rough time while at Maryland.

  2. I don’t think CF was a position that Nico mentioned as a position of need in a recent interview. I think they definitely need a CM and W . I don’t trust Paxton to last a season without getting hurt and we need depth out wide with Schon going on International Call-ups.

  3. Any chance Bayern will do a swap deal and cash with one of their prospects that they’re not projecting to go to the first team for Che? There are also a couple of prospects in the Valencia B team that could work out with the U-22 initiative. Not sure if Nico could bridge some type of partnership between the clubs. I think it would be awesome to have a Bundesliga and a La Liga Partner Club.

    Bayern II
    RW/LW- Oliver Batista Meier- 20y

    Valencia B
    LB/LW – Jesus Vasquez- 19y
    CM/CDM- Koba Koindredi – 20y

  4. Gotta be Jesus for the reasons you set forth. The only other realistically viable option is signing someone, and considering that FCD tends to go outside MLS for nearly every signing, it’ll involve the inevitable period of adjustment to MLS (so it’s not all that realistically viable and also assumes that FCD can select and sign the right player).

    I like the lineup you made, except I would start Cerillo (more range and more upside and fewer critical turnovers than Quignon in my view). That said, the lineup, if healthy, is at best a lower-end playoff team in 2022. But if you get an upgrade at the wing to start over Obrian, and start to find replacements for the left side of the defense, that lineup could really develop. FCD would have to commit to it and take the long-range view, but I think that’s the best way forward.

    On the podcast you mentioned the possibility that FCD tries to paper over the cracks in an attempt to be “competitive” in 2022. I take your point that it’s possible that is what FCD might try to do, but I just don’t think that’s a realistic option. For one, we have a new coach who is (effectively) in his first year coaching at the first-team level. He’s going to have some growing pains. But more importantly, FCD doesn’t have a roster that is even remotely at the level of those competing for MLS hardware right now. FCD definitely has some talent, but the players aren’t there yet. If you’re making lineups from players across MLS, how many teams down do you have to go before you have a single FCD player? Maybe Hollingshead on the third or fourth team (though even that is debatable and it says more about the availability of LBs in MLS than it does about Ryan in my mind). Jesus is probably FCD’s best player right now and if he’s playing striker, he’s a ways down the list. At some positions FCD is, at best, middle of the road and at the rest, FCD is below average to way below average. Of course no team is going to be entirely stacked across the board, but you’re just not going to be competitive if you are mediocre to below-average everywhere. So unless FCD signs at least 2-3 guys that are home-run signings (and based on recent history the chance of even a single home-run signing is very low) and also gets the 2-3 of the young guys to level up (Pax, Jesus, Schon, Cerillo, Servania), FCD isn’t going to be in any position to fight for hardware. I think that if FCD tries to paper over the cracks (e.g., by playing Quignon over Cerillo), it isn’t going to be successful and hinders the long-term chances for success. Trying to paper over the cracks ignores that the club needs a 2-3 season plan for improving and upgrading the roster. Going for it in 2022 just digs the hole a little deeper. I know that a build isn’t what the Hunts want to sell, but it’s not like they’re in danger of selling out the stadium with season tickets anyway. Trying to paper the cracks insults the knowledgeable and long-term fans, and does nothing to substantially increase interest in casual fans. At this point, I think the only reasonable thing to pursue and to market is the youth (including Estevez) and a build toward a truly competitive team. But I’m not holding my breath.

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