Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Stephen Keel

USA TODAY Sports

Stealthily lurking in the FC Dallas bench is a man whose place in the team seems safe.

Time for another name on the year-end roster evaluations for FC Dallas. We're going with the Roman theme of thumbs up or thumbs down for this series.

Today's subject is midfielder Stephen Keel

This could be miscontrued as a cop-out answer, but there isn't a single negative thing that I can think of to say about Keel considering his price to performance ratio.

When Keel was picked up in the re-entry draft in the preseason, there wasn't much reason to get excited. It was nothing more than a depth move, but it's these kinds of subtle, quiet moves that often have a much bigger impacted than predicted.

Keel is a solid player. He won't shatter any records, he won't out-muscle or outsmart every attacker that comes his way, but he also doesn't make many mistakes. It seems faint praise to make those comments about him, but considering his salary is a measly 46K, that is a great, great bargain.

Keel came into a couple of games when one or both of FCD's centerbacks were injured. Of course they were injured. For various reasons, the back line is a bit injury prone, and so having reliable depth at that position is critical. Keel came in a couple of times early on in the season and impressed fans with his hard-nosed work ethic and his careful approach to tackles. He minimized the amount of danger created by the absence of George John or Matt Hedges, and limited the over-exposure of the not-quite-ready-for-90-minutes London Woodberry.

When you lose a potential team MVP like John and plug the hole with a low-cost but solid player like Keel, that takes a lot of pressure off Fernandez, Hedges, and the rest of the backline. They know they're in capable (if not necessarily gifted) hands, and as such they won't alter their tactics too much. Changing the way the team covers on the fly is nice when making adjustments but also carries the potential for miscommunication. With Keel in, the team can keep focusing on their individual jobs instead of worrying over the mistakes he might make while constantly looking over their shoulders.

Locker room impact has also been a bit of a recurring theme in the roster evaluations, and Keel is a very positive influence. He is a very upbeat guy who doesn't (visibly or audibly) mind being a role-player on a team. It makes sense, considering the ladder he has climbed. While he has spent some time in MLS (mostly with reserve teams), he dropped as low as the USL (playing with the Portland Timbers). Climbing one's way back up from the USL to being an important depth player for an MLS team is a nice way for a player to gain some perspective and patience.

His level-headedness sets a good example to the rookies on the team, who have had to witness more than a few bust-ups in the Hyndman era.

If you don't want Stephen Keel back, feel free to go kick a puppy on your way out of the office.

Now that there has been an emphatically made case as to why only criminals and brigands would want to replace Keel, how do you feel about him?

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