In the most frustrating times of being an FC Dallas fan over the last 12 months, it has been helpful to think about the long-term for this club rather than stewing over recent failures. After all, the United States Soccer Federation ranked FC Dallas Academy as the best development program in the country, and academy prospects and graduates are routinely called into youth national teams. Not enough pedigree for you? Check out Top Drawer Soccer's national youth player rankings. FC Dallas has at least one player in the top fifteen for graduation years 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2016 (their highest player in 2014 is "only" 31st nationwide).
With that in mind, let's look at all the players who have a real chance of being MLS contributors in 2015. First, a list of everyone under 27 who is either a current FC Dallas player likely to stick around until 2015 and/or an FCD Academy product with youth national team experience (2015 age in parentheses). The oldest of this group shouldn't decline much, and it is likely that some of the youngest will improve greatly over the next 3 years.
Forwards: Ruben Luna (23), Jonathan Top (22), Daniel Garcia (21)
The first two have experience on their youth national teams and show real promise in reserve matches. Both could well be dangerous MLS strikers by 2015, and it would be quite surprising if neither panned out. Garcia has been in multiple youth national team squads, and has good odds of being at least a useful sub in a couple years.
The rest of the potential 2015 roster and analysis after the jump:Midfielders: Andrew Jacobson (29), Jackson (26), Bobby Warshaw (26), Fabian Castillo (22), Bryan Leyva (23), Victor Ulloa (23), Bradlee Baladez (23 or 24?), Michael Ambrose (21), Flavio Guzman (22), Martin Salas (18)
The spine of the midfield is pretty well covered here, though the attacking position is highly dependent on Leyva's developing into a starter there. Hopefully a youngster or two develops fast enough to provide depth on the wing, since might-be-a-forward Castillo, hopefully-a-CAM Leyva, and could-want-out-again Jackson are the only candidates to start there. I left off Guarda, Wiedeman and Marcelin because at their ages they just don't look likely to overtake anyone ahead of them now or hold off the academy kids as they develop. I include Salas because he was in Under-15 and Under-14 USMNT camps in 2011 and 2010, but it would be very impressive if he had an impact by 18.
Defenders: Zach Loyd (27), Carlos Rodriguez, Hernán Pertúz, Matt Hedges (25), Moises Hernandez (23), Boyd Okwuonu (22), London Woodberry (24), Alex Lee (25), Kellyn Acosta (19), Vernon Bailey (19), Fernando Laverde (19)
A wonderful foundation in the back. The first four should have years to develop excellent chemistry, and the next 2 could well push them for playing time in a couple years. Matt and Boyd played together for a year at UNC. Woodberry and Lee were teammates Maryland last year, and while neither is probable to overtake the others, I don't think they can't be written off as young as they are.
Goalkeepers: Chris Seitz (25), Richard Sánchez (21)
Don't forget that Seitz was a very highly regarded prospect, and sometimes it takes a little while for goalies to come into their own. This position is of little concern going forward.
That's 26 players, only 4 of which will occupy international slots, and very few of which will decline between now and 2015, and some are bound to substantially improve. A couple of the older guys currently on the roster might still be contributors, too. Ugo Ihemelu will only be 32, Blas will be 34, and Hartman 41. All of them might be able to hold down a spot through experience and know-how. Heck, if they get and stay healthy, you can't say for sure that Villar or Ferreira won't be useful at 35.
I held George John off the list because he seems very unlikely to stick around beyond 2012. With the wealthy of young CBs listed above, it seems FCD would be wiser to trade GJ than extend him anyway. Likewise, Brek will likely be sold at some point in the next couple years. The price of that transaction is vital to the red stripes. Bring in 8 figures and the resulting allocation and boost to the bottom line of the organization could set the club up for years.
Inevitably there will be some young guys that won't live up their potential (or get injured badly), and the Brek money will help fill out any holes in the roster with a high-quality import or two. I've heard people complain about Red Bull buying a star-stacked roster for NY in a salary cap league, but I think it was the sale of Jozy Altidore for $10mm that allowed their current approach.
Between the 26 players listed above, a couple older veterans that stick around draft picks, and a couple more homegrown signings, Dallas' roster for 2015 is close to spoken for, and it could well be stocked top to bottom with players capable of contributing in this league. What it doesn't have (barring a big leap forward from Leyva, Castillo, or someone else) is a game-changing player capable of making something out of nothing when necessary. Finding the next David Ferreira for this team should be the main task of the front office as it prepares for a seemingly bright future.
Given this player pool, 4 free international spots, and likely cap space supplemented by sizable allocation money, what XI would you hope to see on the field in 2015?