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FC Dallas roster review: players not under contract

Jun 2, 2018; Frisco, TX, USA; Los Angeles FC forward Shaft Brewer Jr (28) and FC Dallas midfielder Victor Ulloa (8) during the second half at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas — There are many FC Dallas players with options not yet exercised, whose statuses with the team are up in the air. Eleven players are not currently under contract with FC Dallas for 2019. Some have had impacts on the squad, others not so much. Here’s a recap of their 2018 performances and what their futures could hold in 2019.

Abel Aguilar (Midfielder, $328,127.24)

Aguilar was a solid late-season signing for a team that needed a closer off the bench. The departure of Kellyn Acosta pushed midfielder Victor Ulloa into the starting XI and left a hole on the bench. Aguilar brought World Cup experience and proved to be valuable immediately, even in his limited action of four matches. 

At his salary and his age — 33 going on 34 — returning to the squad in 2019 would be a surprise. Jacori Hayes or Ulloa are both players who cost less and are younger. 

Tesho Akindele (Forward, $122,500)

Coach Oscar Pareja brought Akindele off the bench, either to provide energy with his work rate on the wing or to be a more defensive substitution. It was almost a guarantee to see Akindele subbed on late. His two goals against Atlanta in FCD’s 3-2 win on the Fourth of July were monumental, but outside of that, his production was very quiet.

Akindele, 26, is one of Pareja’s favorite players and FCD President Dan Hunt talked about wanting to bring him back. At his current cost, why not? He can provide that late game energy on the bench and has been a good teammate. 

Jordan Cano (Defender, $54,500.04)

Cano was signed as homegrown out of Southern Methodist University to provide some relief and youth to the Dallas backline. The result? A U.S. Open Cup match against San Antonio that had a goal-line clearance. Cano also had five United Soccer League appearances with the Oklahoma City Energy in the centerback role.

Cano and homegrown Kris Reaves were the two older homegrowns signed out of college. Cano has fallen behind Reaves in the pecking order. FCD’s USL League One side may be a good place for him for the time being.

Maynor Figueroa (Defender, $250,000)

The main defensive backup struggled while playing left back for Dallas. It happened many times throughout the season, including in the Open Cup match against San Antonio FC. During that game, SAFC winger Omar Gordon dominated Figueroa. At centerback, Figueroa was the stronger option out of the reserves, putting in solid shifts. Having experience and composure was important, and those characteristics helped him earn a start in the knockout round match against Portland. 

Bringing back a healthy Reaves may be enough to move on from Figueroa, who is 35 years old. He’s had his strong moments for the team, but isn’t one of the biggest assets on this list.

Jacori Hayes (Midfielder, $75,750.04)

Hayes was arguably the team’s best player for the first part of the season. Flying everywhere for the ball, being composed and even scoring the game-winning goal at New England April 14. His struggles began April 29, in the team’s 3-1 loss at New York City FC. The small pitch and pressure from NYCFC got to him and Hayes lost the starting spot after a poor performance. His performances never returned to the strong level it was at earlier in the season but the potential was shown.

Hayes should be back on the team. If played in the right role, he can be a strong bench player or even compete for a starting spot. The question is, what is his right role? Is it as a box-to-box mid, with his attacking experience from his Wake Forest days? Or is it more defensive minded as he is currently for the team?

Ryan Hollingshead (Defender, $145,000)

The versatile Hollingshead was thrown in at multiple positions, including left back and midfielder. When chasing a match, Pareja subbed on Hollingshead to provide some offensive edge, while being able to track back. His ability to go up and down the pitch like a wingback allowed Pareja to place midfielders Mauro Diaz and later, Pablo Aranguiz as false wingers to exploit the space. 

Hollingshead’s versatility provides the team with two positions for one spot. Dallas would be silly not to retain his services.

Roland Lamah (Midfielder, $818,500)

The most efficient scorer on FC Dallas had eight goals this season, and when fully focused on the offensive, provided excellent play. He also emerged as somewhat of a leader with his veteran experience. However, Lamah was a liability defensively, not tracking back and often allowing offenses to take advantage. 

With all the wingers FC Dallas has, including Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi, Lamah at his current salary should could move on. He has provided sparks and has been solid offensively but his salary is just too high for a player with his production. Why use TAM to buy down Lamah’s contract when he can be replaced with a smaller salary?

Kris Reaves (Defender, $67,500)

Reaves actually started two matches for FC Dallas this season and looked comfortable in them. He put on a very strong performance against Minnesota June 29, a 1-0 victory, dealing with lots of pressure in his first career start. He was injured with a stress fracture and did not play the rest of the season.

The good thing before his injury, Reaves was climbing up the depth chart. He made bench appearances and was winning over the coaches with his play. He is also versatile, something Pareja likes in his players. Reaves can play right back or centerback. He can be the new Maynor Figueroa in terms of being the first man up from the bench. He showed his potential and now it’s time for him to take the next step.

Victor Ulloa (Midfielder, $182,500)

Talk about a comeback story. Ulloa earned a starting spot this season and held it, consistent with his play for much of the season. He was more of a closer in 2017, but in 2018, he started 25 matches.

Ulloa’s option needs to get picked up. He’s a leader on this team, not only on the pitch but in the locker room. Even if he doesn’t start all the matches, Ulloa is the essential locker room veteran that every team needs.

Kyle Zobeck (Goalkeeper, $67,500)

Zobeck is a player who won’t get much appreciation outside of people who watch him in training. He didn’t play, but he did what a coach wants from a third keeper — he pushed Jesse Gonzalez and Jimmy Maurer and worked hard during drills, helping improve those around him. Homegrown keeper Carlos Avilez will probably get a year of USL play before getting a chance at the first team. Why not keep Zobeck, who is good at his role and comes in ready to work every day?

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