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Building For 2013: Defenders

Part 2 of a series that goes into building the 2013 FC Dallas roster.

George Frey

And we're back on this subject. I had meant to get to this earlier in the week but certain things took my time away from this project.

Today we're going to focus on the defensive unit of FC Dallas going forward into next season.

As I mentioned in the keepers part of this series, the rest of the groups like the defenders are a little tougher to forecast since there are a lot more than just three of them. Still, hopefully this will give you all a little insight to where things could be going next season.

Background information

For starters, something I would like to point out with is that the MLS salary cap this year was a little over $2.8 million and given how it should climb a little in the next year, I'm going to estimate that it goes somewhere between $2.9 million and $3.1 million in 2013.

MLS teams as most of you know can buy down a players salary with allocation, a number that seems made up on a case by case basis in some ways. But in all reality it is real and it does have a lot of meaning. FC Dallas will be getting some extra allocation this winter due to the fact that they failed to reach the post season. This is also known as the "you suck money" from the league.

In 2012, if you include the salary of Julian de Guzman, FC Dallas spend $4.8 million on their roster. This was all based on total compensation per the MLS Players Union. Those numbers are a tad rough and since Toronto was said to be paying de Guzman's salary. FCD paid about $3.5 million in 2011.

Typically each year returning players see an increase in their salary unless it has been agreed with the club that they make less, such in the case of Daniel Hernandez when he re-signed before 2012 to be a player-coach. His player salary dipped considerably from 2011 to 2012 because of that. Most returning players however will see a slight bump.

The Players

Based on where things are going with contract talks, who FC Dallas has and who they've already waived this offseason, we should see a fairly stable group of defenders return in 2013.

Naturally a couple things need to happen to make it all work out properly.

1. Re-sign George John. Based on a few talks I've had with folks at the club and others close to this matter, the talks are going pretty well. As we all know John is paid pretty poorly compared to most of the top defenders in the league. Getting his numbers up is something both sides are working hard on. I'll have more on those numbers in a bit.

2. Will anything happen to Ugo Ihemelu's contract? I've gotten this question a bunch over the last few months but given the possibility of a healthy return to the field next season, we shouldn't see anything drastic happen to Ihemelu's contract or salary. Typically players get a bump in pay but I doubt we'll see his salary go up any higher than it is.

3. Another loan for Moises Hernandez? For now the Home Grown Player isn't counted on the FCD roster. He is but he isn't in some eyes. He's on loan in Guatemala and he will be until the end of this calendar year. The next question will become, does he head back there in 2013 or does he go somewhere else in the States on loan? Honestly, the answer should be yes. This kid wants to play and improve his game, and more than likely the club will get him in a position to get minutes in 2013 somewhere.

4. More Home Growns? You'll see more below but after someone like London Woodberry, will FCD bring in more than one HGP this winter?

The Money

This is where all the fun really starts, for every club. Going over the salary figures for every team you do see a big correlation between the clubs that are successful and the ones that are not when it comes to spending money on defensive players.

For instance, Real Salt Lake has two well paid defenders in Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers. They also have a couple role players in defense that get a good salary as well. Seattle, another quality defensive team doesn't have a single defender above the $200k range but they do have a strong collective group that is making a hefty amount just below that number. Vancouver is also another good defensive team that pays their defenders well.

There were a couple exceptions to this. New York actually pays the most for a defensive group due to Rafa Marquez's hefty DP contract. Sporting KC actually spends pretty cheaply for their top notch defense. I'd imagine that will change in 2013 though as some of those guys like Matt Besler will deserve a pay raise.

Okay, now let's look at FC Dallas in a player-by-player mode. For this I've eight defenders that are currently on the roster (and one that should be after this winter). I went back and forth on two other players as defenders, namely HGP Kellyn Acosta and Carlos Rodriguez. I moved them both to the midfield area as Acosta is listed a such by the team and Rodriguez actually played more minutes as a midfielder in 2012 than as a defender.

(Note: I've included some potential raises for some players below, it's not exact so don't get attached to those numbers!)

Ugo Ihemelu - $190k

George John - ~$200-300k

Zach Loyd - $120k (previous number was $118k)

Jair Benitez - $90k

Matt Hedges - $64k (previous number was $59k)

Hernan Pertuz - $90k (previous number was $84k)

Moises Hernandez - $35k - HGP players do not count towards the salary cap

London Woodberry - $50k - HGP players do not count towards the salary cap.

Total towards the cap: ~$830k

Extra thoughts on the money

1. Woodberry - I am projecting FCD to sign him to a HGP deal this winter, likely after the College Cup.

2. John - His number is a bit of a range at this point. He obviously needs to be paid better than he is at this point in his career. He likes Dallas and seems eager to stay on board here. If Dallas is serious about keeping him, which they are, they know they have to get his salary up.

They will have some allocation this winter to use for not reaching the playoffs and should they sell a player or make a trade to get allocation, they'll be able to work this out. My gut tells me he gets something around the $280k range, though which would only put about six defenders above him in most paid defenders list (Marquez, Chad Marshall, Marvell Wynne, Heath Pearce, Richard Eckersley, and Jay DeMerit)

3. Team total - With John making a rough salary in 2012, FCD was a club that was well below the league norm for defensive groups. Most clubs spend between $750k and $1m on their defensive units. Again some of the weaker defensive teams in the league like Chivas spent significantly less than good defensive teams like Seattle. Coincidence? I think not.

Needs and wants for 2012

Depth is always a concern and after 2012, you gotta believe that Schellas Hyndman and company will be looking to improve their depth as much as they possibly can.

For me, I think the needs are still fairly simple in the defense. While Rodriguez provides cover on the flanks, Woodberry and Hernandez are also solid cover as well, the team will need some proven depth at the flanks behind Loyd and Benitez.

Should everyone be healthy in 2013, the center of the defense should look fairly strong with Ihemelu, John, Hedges and Pertuz. That is a solid four that most teams would love to have.

Final thoughts

I'm a guy that loves a good defense. I played defense during my playing days so my mind always gravitates towards this area of the game more. I see the value in it probably more than some and I do believe that defense wins championships in Major League Soccer. Simple as that.

FC Dallas has some work to do to improve their defense and it really starts and ends with re-signing John. You sign him up long term, get him paid and add in some depth and this group will be good for years to come.

Together with the keepers, my projections may see a tad high for keepers and defenders to be collectively making over a million towards the cap but sometimes that is what it takes to win in this league. With the salary cap likely to get close to $3 million or even a bit higher in 2013, it makes sense to use a third of that on defense.

After this we really get into the meat of it all. The midfielders. After these two parts, there are 19 more spots to cover. I did three in part one and eight more today.

What do you all think? Will FCD keep the same core this winter in defense or blow it up a bit by not re-signing John, trading away someone like Loyd or Benitez, or something else entirely? How much are you willing to pay for a top defender in this league too? Let's hear it.