The 2016 season is done. We are getting that much closer to some new signings as well as the start of the CCL knockout stage. Before we close the book on the end of the season, I want to take a look at the final season grades for each player. Instead of having a hindsight look at each player and grading them accordingly, I have taken each player’s grades for each game and found their season average. By grading the players out this way, it allowed me to not be influenced on all the high points of the season, as well as let me see if I graded too harshly or leniently during the season. Let’s see how the players graded out.
Maxi Urruti (B+) - I feel like Maxi had a very productive season and have already written my thoughts on his season. You can find them here. Maxi was able to score double digit goals in all competitions as well as stayed healthy for the majority of the year. He was one of the emotional leaders and didn’t stop running. A lot of people will scoff at the fact that he only scored 9 goals in the league, but that wasn’t his only assignment. In order for FC Dallas’ offense to work, you need your striker pressuring, which he did, every game. On top of that, the goals he did score were in some of the biggest games. He had a huge hand in the two trophies that were won this year. I am thrilled he is coming and look forward watching him again in 2017. So looking back at all Maxi’s game grades, I feel like ‘B+’ is a fair score. Good season, with areas that could improve in.
Tesho Akindele (B+) - The average score of Tesho was a tricky one for me. At first I felt like it was a bit high. To my memory, he didn’t do a lot this year and it seemed like he disappeared in a lot of games. So, I went back and looked at his grades from earlier in the year. In those first couple of months, Tesho was huge. When the team was struggling and didn’t have a lot of offense, it was Tesho who handled the load. When Barrios, Castillo and Mauro were hurt, Tesho was the one who was playing, and playing quite nicely. If Tesho is with us next year, I really hope he is able to make that next step, whether it’s as a second striker or a winger.
Mauro Diaz (A) - ‘The Little Unicorn’ had his best season as an FC Dallas player. I would say that the team MVP would be between him or Matt Hedges. Mauro was able to stay healthy for most of the year and unlock defenses with his passes on a regular basis. His ability to play people into space between the backline is a gift. He was able to turn that gift in an MLS XI nod as well as help leading FC Dallas to two trophies this year. With the loss of Fabian Castillo midseason, a lot more of the responsibility fell at the feet of Mauro and he was able to still be very productive. Every FCD fan hopes his achilles is healing up alright and can’t wait to see him back out on the pitch.
Michael Barrios (B+) – This was a challenging year for Michael. With the Fabian leaving, it was his position that took on the most change. He became a huge focal point for defenses week in and week out. They weren’t going to let him get the ball in space. Overall, his productions took a hit down the stretch. He wasn’t able to get free on goal that much but was still able to get off some quality passes to help unlock defenses. Looking at the season as a whole, I would say that B+ is a fair rating. If FCD is able to get another speedy winger for 2017, Michael could have a breakout season.
Mauro Rosales (B+) - Definitely the super sub of the team. Mauro might not be able to play at a high level for 90 minutes, but when he is out on the pitch, he is still a difference maker. He single handedly, won a few matches when he came on this year. With Diaz being out until at least the summer, I would love to see Rosales here again. He is able to come in late to a game and either hit a quality free kick or has the ability to unlock defenses with a quality pass. I think it’s fair to say that he over performed our expectations for him this year.
Kellyn Acosta (B+) -Kellyn started the season off pretty poorly. He was in the January camp with the national team, playing FB and didn’t really get any time with Gruezo coming into the season. There were some growing pains for sure. As the season wore on, Kellyn got back to the form that we are use to from him. I would say that from the middle of the season on, Kellyn was one of the most consistent players on the team. I am excited to see what Kellyn is able to do next year, because there is more growth in his game still.
Carlos Gruezo (B+) – Coming into the season, none of us had really heard of Carlos Gruezo. As soon as we heard that FCD had bought him, we all went to Youtube to see what exactly what he had to offer. It seemed like he could potentially be a good fit. Well, now at the end of his first season, FC Dallas fans would probably say that he was great this year. Like the rest of the midfield, it took a little while for him to fit in, but once he did, the midfield was really good. Gruezo was a bull all year. His ability to close down on opposing attacking players was incredible. As the season wore on, Carlos’ ability to start passing out of the back started to be another weapon. B+ is a fair rating for him, especially with the bumps in the road early on. Like Kellyn, I am excited to see what another year in the system does for his ability. I am expecting a few more goals from him next year.
Ryan Hollingshead (B+) - Another year, another new position under his belt. This year was another one where Ryan was asked to play wherever they needed him. He played fullback, on the wing and even goalie for last 10 minutes of a game. With his short stint of playing goalie, Ryan even made a save. Ryan will never blow away the fanbase with his technical ability or prowess going forward. What he will do though is slide into a position and be very steady there. When he is out wide, he does a great job of tracking back and crossing the ball in. Every once in awhile, he will also cut inside and put a nice shot on target. Defensively, Ryan wasn’t needed as much this year as last, but when he played FB, he was very solid there as well. Next year, I do hope that Ryan is able to net a few more goals. It really is the only thing missing from his game.
Victor Ulloa (B+) - With Carlos Gruezo coming in, Victor’s minutes were the ones to dwindle. Even with Vic’s lessened numbers, he was still able to have some very big moments on the year. The two that come to mind are the goal against LAG in the semifinals of the USOC and the screamer against Colorado to ensure a point on the road. With his new role, Victor was still able to help control the match, especially later on in games. In a perfect scenario, FC Dallas gets a lead and needs to hold onto it late in a match. Victor coming into the match around 70th minute was FCD’s type of a closer. With his fresh legs and ability to be a very good midfielder, the plan worked to perfection a lot of times this year. I am interested to see what Vic’s role will be this upcoming season. I assume it will be a lot of the same since there are going to be more games in 2017 than 2016.
Fabian Castillo (B) - I was really surprised by this rating. I guess thinking back to the performance of Fabian on the field, I thought he played pretty well. On second look, Fabian had some real snoozers early on in the year. There were some games where he wasn’t involved for the majority of the match. On top of not tracking on defense, he was more of a liability than anything else in some of those matches. He definitely had some great moments, the USOC match against Colorado and the rabona assist against Houston come to mind. As was with Fabian, for every great thing he was able to pull off, there were many more moments of frustration. Sure, the rabona assist looks great on a highlight reel. The problem is that he tried that assist how many times before it actually came off? I really hope Fabian get’s it figure out in Turkey. His success will only help benefit FCD and the league as a whole. If young players see that they can come to the club and get sold to Europe and have the chance of being successful, then sign me up. Best of luck to him.
Matt Hedges (A) - Another great year for the captain. Matt received his first Defender of the Year award as well as MLS XI. Aside from a couple of games where the defense was thrashed, the defense became a huge strength for this team. Matt’s partnership with Walker become one of the best pairings in the league. Since the season ended, Matt has signed a new extension to make him one of the better compensated CBs in the league. As long as Matt is around, I will have total confidence in this team’s defense and know that we have a shot in any match.
Walker Zimmerman (A-) - Last offseason, we all heard reports of Walker wanting a new contract because he wanted to start. A lot of us fans weren’t too worried when he went on trial in Europe with a couple of teams. At that time, we had no idea the player Walker would be for FCD this year. Looking back, can you imagine the trouble Dallas would have been in without him this year? There is no way we knew the impact of him staying with the club at the time. Now, we are thrilled with Walker and Matt going into next year. I would put our two CBs against any other pair in the league.
Maynor Figueroa (B-) - I was really surprised by how low Maynor’s score was. To be fair, I thought Atiba would have a lower score than Maynor, but apparently not. Early on in the season, Maynor had some pretty bad games. Well, to be fair, his game in Seattle in the first leg of the playoffs was a real snoozer as well. Looking back over his season, Maynor was pretty consistent for most of the year, but when he had an off match, he went way off the deep end. Those dumpster fire matches definitely had a lasting effect on his yearly score. Overall, looking back over the season, Maynor wasn’t terrible. He offered a lot of good attributes and played a huge role in the team winning two trophies. I wouldn’t be too upset if he was a starting FB next year again.
Atiba Harris (B) – I am an Atiba apologist, I will admit it. I know a lot of people strongly dislike him. For me, he did a decent job at a position that he is still fairly new at. In a lot of ways, similar to Maynor, if things were going bad for Atiba in a match, he usually tended to make it worst. It wasn’t like he had a terrible string of performances. Instead, he would have one bad play a match that seemed to have direct negative result on the match. Whether it would be fouling someone right outside the box, or turning the ball over and allowing a counter attack, or getting lost watching the ball. Again, it would show up maybe once or twice a game, that’s all, but when it would pop it was terrible. I’m interested to see if Atiba will be back next year. I don’t think he is terrible. I think he has a lot to offer if he can eliminate those random misplays.
Chris Seitz (A) – Who had Chris Seitz being the starting goalie this year and doing it really well? I certainly didn’t. As with everyone else, I figured Seitz would get some games in USOC and CCL but not much action in MLS, unless Jesse was either hurt or with national team. Instead, he ended up out playing Jesse and took the starting job. Overall, Seitz had a great campaign. He was one of the best GAA goalies in the league and made some incredible saves throughout the year. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to do a little more in Seattle during the playoff match, but he was really hung out to dry on the goals. I will be interested to see what the goalie situation will look like come next year. Does Chris keep his starting position or does he lose it back to Jesse? Only time will tell I guess.
Jesse Gonzalez (B-) Coming into the season, I was really excited to see Jesse Gonzalez continue his growth into becoming another young stud on this team. Instead, he stumbled coming out of the gate at the beginning season and lost his job. He was never really able to take the position back from Seitz. To his credit though, Jesse did play well once he was demoted to second string. He had some pretty big games in USOC and CCL. He had some huge saves away to help ensure that FC Dallas will be playing in CCL knockout stages. I am interested to see what the next season holds for Jesse. Does Jesse get his job back next year?
Oscar Pareja (A-) - What a year for Papi. He won Coach of the Year, which was very well deserved. He lead this team to its first two trophies in 19 years. On top of that, he also lead the team to another 60 point season and qualifying into the knockout stage of CCL all while losing the most recognizable player on the team, midsummer. Papi did such a good job with this team and has made it very enjoyable to follow it on a daily/weekly basis. We are lucky to have him as a manager and will be relevant as long as he is here. I am excited for the 2017 season to see how the team is able to continue to evolve. Are we going to get to see some of the younger HGs or the draft picks from last year? All I know is ‘In Papi I trust.’
Looking back at the scores for each individual, the scores seem to be pretty accurate. To be fair, if I would have given each one of them grades at the end of the season, I would probably would have graded them a little higher. I tend to remember the all the good things and let all the terrible moments and matches fade away.
This has been fun year and we have had some high highs and low lows. Through it all, it’s been fun bringing game grades to everyone and letting all of us discuss whether I am right or wrong. I look forward to doing it again next year. Thanks again for all the feedback.