FRISCO, Texas — It’s been more than a week since FC Dallas was eliminated from the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Portland Timbers. The season was capped by four straight losses after a strong campaign, which had the team sitting in first place in the Western Conference much of the season.
Now, it’s time for decisions to be made. Vice President of Soccer Operations Luis Muzzi and coach Óscar Pareja will have the offseason to evaluate players and see if they fit in next year’s plans. The team has 21 players under contract for the 2019 season, while others have not had their options exercised. Per the collective bargaining agreement, only those with contracts for 2019 can participate in the after-season training. Let’s review the 2018 performances and look ahead for those who have 2019 contracts in place. All advanced stats are from American Soccer Analysis.
Key: DP = Designated Player; HG = homegrown; TAM = Targeted Allocation Money; GA = Generation Adidas
Jesse Gonzalez: [HG] ($211,500)
Jimmy Maurer: ($122,500)
One of the more interesting questions that can be asked going into the offseason is if it’s time to move on from goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and to start fresh. Jimmy Maurer had a solid start to the season after Gonzalez was unable to play due to injury, but he had a shaky match against Vancouver May 19, which led to a late penalty in a 2-2 draw. However, Gonzalez at times was responsible for some clumsy goals, including costly errors in the first defeat Aug. 4 against San Jose. Consistency is important in a keeper.
Between the two, Gonzalez is marginally better by the numbers and is seven years younger than Maurer at 23 years old. The team does also have Carlos Avilez, who was signed on a United Soccer League contract as a homegrown, but he has not played a game in his career. The future USL team can help with Avilez’s playing time.
Reggie Cannon: [HG] ($67,500)
Matt Hedges: ($525,004)
Moises Hernandez: ($67,500)
Marquinhos Pedroso: [TAM] ($330,000)
Bryan Reynolds: [HG] ($56,500)
Reto Ziegler: [TAM] ($800,000)
If there’s one spot that does not seem to need significant change, it’s the defense position group. Dallas allowed 44 goals, tied for 4th least in the league.
Reggie Cannon had a great campaign, working his way to the national team and cementing himself as a top MLS right back. His game has matured, from being hesitant to push up the flanks to constantly overlapping or underlapping to support the winger in front of him.
Reto Ziegler and Matt Hedges almost instantly clicked, with Ziegler providing some offense with his distribution from the back, as well from set pieces, and Hedges continuing his role as captain and a physical enforcer.
Marquinhos Pedroso was an upgrade from departed left back Anton Nedyalkov, pushing up the pitch and also excelling in one-on-one tackling.
The question will be a matter of players leaving or returning, rather than a needed addition. If Cannon is subject to a transfer bid, will the team let him go in hopes of Bryan Reynolds filling that role? Reynolds has been training as a right back all season. Cannon is good enough to go overseas and compete, but one more year in MLS can help him develop physically and tactically, much like what Newcastle right back Deandre Yedlin did prior to leaving Seattle.
It is unlikely, but there is still a chance that Bayern Munich and FC Dallas cannot agree to a deal for Chris Richards. That would bring the highly-touted homegrown centerback back to Dallas.
Pablo Aranguiz:[TAM] ($459,999.96)
Francis Atuahene: [GA] ($168,999.92)
Michael Barrios : ($400,000.08)
Carlos Gruezo: [DP] ($730,750.08)
Santiago Mosquera: [DP] ($541,400)
Paxton Pomykal: [HG] ($90,000)
Thomas Roberts: [HG] ($88,750)
Brandon Servania: [TAM] [HG] ($186,000)
Ema Twumasi: [GA] ($180,900)
This position is another that may not see much change.
The only thing missing? A box-to-box midfielder, something the team struggled to find after off-loading a struggling Kellyn Acosta to the Colorado Rapids.
FCD missed Acosta’s late runs from deep and his strong set piece ability at times. Brandon Servania was touted by former technical director Fernando Clavijo as someone who can potentially replace Acosta. He got some time with the Tulsa Roughnecks of the USL and played well, showing composure while completing 82.5 percent of his passes in 13 starts. He should be competing for a starting role going into 2019.
Carlos Gruezo was an integral part of the team’s setup, covering much of the defense and looked very strong in a defensive role. And he’s another player that could go overseas this year — if Dallas feels it has an ample replacement for him and the Ecuadorian wants to leave.
Michael Barrios was arguably the primary catalyst offensively when the team needed it the most, even if the basic stats don’t show it. Barrios was expected to get 10 assists, based on statistical predictions, but only got five due to his teammates’ poor finishing. Many times, Barrios played a ball into the box and either Maxi Urruti made a run too late or there was no one there.
Santiago Mosquera began to play better toward the end of the season, but had plenty of shots taken from outside the box. He took the second most shots per 96 minutes on the team with 3.41, behind Urruti, who seemed to take a shot every chance he got.
The question for this group is pretty simple: Are the younger players ready to take a step forward in 2019? Pablo Aranguiz will have an offseason under his belt and is expected to take the reins as an attacking midfielder. Paxton Pomykal has only played 265 league minutes in three seasons for FC Dallas (That includes a grand total of zero USL minutes, unlike his counterparts Brandon Servania and Jesus Ferreira).
It looks like Dallas is taking it slow with Pomykal’s development. Do we even know his best position? Pomykal, 18, has played winger, linking midfielder and has been slated as a potential attacking midfielder. He’s shown talent playing for the youth national team, with three goals and three assists in the first qualification round for the U-20 World Cup. He needs minutes and he should get some with the USL League One team coming into town.
Anyone remember Francis Atuahene and Ema Twumasi? Twumasi earned Pareja’s trust and had a couple of appearances in the league and U.S. Open Cup but didn’t make a sizeable impact. Atuahene was labeled as the “boom or bust” pick of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. This season, not much was learned about them. Depending on who FCD brings back, those two have a shot at competing for gameday roster spots.
Dominique Badji: ($168,750.04)
Cristian Colman: [DP] ($585,000.04)
Jesus Ferreira: [HG] ($54,500)
Maxi Urruti: [TAM] ($781,000.08)
Finishing was a hot topic for Dallas this season. As evidenced by Barrios’ negative Assist-xA number, many chances were floundered by the Dallas forwards. Urruti is included with this group even though for the latter part of the season he was a midfielder.
Colman tore his ACL in October and won’t play for a while. For reference, Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris tore his ACL in February and did not play all year. Eight months later and Morris has just started to train with the team. Eight months from October is June, give or take some time depending on his recovery. Colman was settling into his role as a target man and holding up play before his injury. He still hasn’t reached the production of his price tag.
Dominique Badji struggled. Part of that may be his needing to acclimate after the July trade. It was the first time Badji switched teams, plus the forward was not in the country at the time and was in the process of getting his visa. He scored two goals in his 10 matches for FCD. An offseason coupled with working with Aranguiz may be the medicine he needs to get back into form.
Urruti was a playmaker/forward during the late stages of the season. Pareja felt his team was better with Urruti on the pitch, but not as a forward. Why? Urruti dropped too deep pressing, forcing him to make late runs into the box. By the time he was in the box, he was tired and often either took a very long shot or made a poor decision. Urruti took 117 shots in 2018, the third most in MLS. Here’s the rest of the top five.
|Sebastian Giovinco (TOR)||167||13|
|Miguel Almiron (ATL)||132||12|
|Maxi Urruti (FCD)||117||8|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LAG)||116||22|
|Valeri Qazaishvilli (SJ)||110||10|
FC Dallas President Dan Hunt told MLSsoccer.com he does not foresee major changes to the forward position, even throwing the possibility of playing Barrios in a “Josef Martinez like role.” While that is an interesting idea, Barrios is no Martinez. Dallas does not have a player like Martinez. That’s fine. Other teams don’t, either. Only Atlanta has the current record holder for goals in a single season.
Ferreira obtained some USL minutes with the Tulsa Roughnecks and had six goals, but has limited MLS experience. So that leaves two healthy experienced forwards, yet Urruti drops too deep for Pareja’s liking. That leaves one forward: Badji.
Sure, Barrios had a hat trick against SKC, but what happened when he lined up top again versus San Jose the next week? Not much. Barrios has shown his effectiveness on the wing. Forward has to be a question going into the offseason, especially with the options the team has on hand.