It's been slow around these parts lately for sure. The first 1/3 of the off-season, the worst 1/3 of the off-season has passed for FC Dallas without much incident. Let's recap what's happened and then look towards the future.
Addition By Subtraction?
The only two official transactions have been the waiving of defender Edson Edward and the trade of Jeremy Hall to Toronto FC, however you can expect that Josh Lambo doesn't return while Maykel Galindo may be a non-roster invite to pre-season camp but is not expected to be back.
Maicon Santos is certainly a candidate for coming back at a reduced contract or he could head off to another country. I think it'd behoove Dallas to get him back at the right price as I've said many times I believe he's got something to offer in a backup role. The bottom line, however, is that all these moves are periphery deals that won't have a huge affect on the opening day starting XI.
Daniel Hernandez has been inked to a smart, long term deal that will see him with this club for many years to come. Whether he's a player or coach in 2013 and beyond remains to be seen, but he's still the captain come opening day 2012, for better or worse.
Open Roster Spots
Through these moves, Dallas currently has 15 senior roster players that are pretty much slam dunk to return in alphabetical order: Jair Benitez, Fabian Castillo, Marvin Chavez, David Ferreira, Jackson, Bruno Guarda, Kevin Hartman, Daniel Hernandez, Ugo Ihemelu, Andrew Jacobson, George John, Zach Loyd, Chris Seitz, and Brek Shea.
Should Dallas choose to bring back Daniel Cruz, Ricardo Villar and Jack Stewart, that brings the senior roster to 17 players, but all three of those guys will likely be fighting with others for the 5 senior roster spots up for grabs in pre-season 2012. There is a question of whether Bobby Warshaw is senior roster or off-budget, but I think he could be on either one that works best for FCD.
The 10 man off-budget roster(contracts that don't count against the salary cap) looks as so: Moises Hernandez, Bryan Leyva, Ruben Luna, Richard Sanchez, Jonathan Top, Victor Ulloa, Andrew Wiedeman and Bobby Warshaw. That leaves 2-3 positions up for grabs depending on the status of Warshaw, meaning there will likely be 2-3 Superdraft picks with a decent chance of making the roster. It also means FCD has some wiggle space if they want to sign another homegrown, though I believe that is unlikely to happen in the next 6 months.
What this all means is Dallas has potentially 7 roster spots to play with, 4-5 on the senior squad and 2-3 on the off-budget roster. Probably one of Ricardo Villar and Daniel Cruz returns, though there's certainly a scenario where they both realistically come back, a situation I disagree with. Still, even 4 spots on the senior roster is a lot of room to work with for a team that needs quality depth.
Schellas and Company have been holding their cards very close to the chest so far. They're one of four teams(RSL, Portland, Houston) to have not brought in a player yet, and they're tied with Portland for the least transactions made with just the two players officially let go that we already mentioned.
Things are happening, we just have no clue what they are right now and maybe that's a good thing. Schellas has a pretty good record among trades and international signings(at least the deals before Barry Gorman was TD), so I have a lot of trust in the gaffer but it certainly does make for some uncomfortable days as an FCD fan when your team is so silent through the middle of December.
Where do we go from here?
The $1million question is what is the Dallas brain trust thinking about the forward situation. It's been pretty much 3 seasons since Dallas had a slam dunk, starting forward that you can write his name on the lineup sheet in pen. We know Schellas and co are looking internationally for a striker, but what scale they're looking is unknown. Is it a starting, big money guy or simply depth to add to a squad that has Castillo and Luna waiting in the wings?
I think the MLS Superdraft is vitally important for Dallas this year as well. The team needs good, solid depth to bring off the bench and finding the right player to come in and make an instant impact is vital. Whether it's trading their #11 overall pick for an already proven player or even potentially trading to move up/acquire more picks, I think FCD should be a big player in the draft.
The bottom line is FCD fans need to be patient. The moves that have been made within the league so far, while fun to discuss, are not moves that make teams a whole lot better. The potential international signings that will be revealed in January and February are the moves that will turn Dallas from the MLS also-ran it was this season, into the MLS Cup contender we want them to be in 2012.
Just three weeks and change until the MLS combine, a little longer than that for the Superdraft and just a few days after that the 2012 pre-season gets started.