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FC Dallas has a USL problem

No full fledge USL team and a half-used partnership is not working for FC Dallas.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Oklahoma City Energy at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tell me if you have thought this before: “FC Dallas fielding a reserve team in the USL makes perfect sense.” Yeah, you aren’t alone in that thought as many of us have been clamoring and wondering when it would happen for the last five years.

Yes, five years. Think about that for a moment as many pundits and folks from around the country always assumed and expected FC Dallas to be one of the first MLS sides to dip their toes in the USL pool like the LA Galaxy.

Instead, they’ve been one of the few that have gone the partnership route each year, with limited success. First, it was a meager partnership with Arizona United FC (now Pheonix Rising FC), then to our current deal with Oklahoma City Energy FC.

On paper, the deal with OKC made plenty of sense both years that we’ve had it. The geography made sense, the coaching on the OKC end made sense, everything about it just added up nicely. But in the end, it has not. Both years it has been sparingly used by FC Dallas.

So what really is going to come of FC Dallas and the USL?

Right now, it is hard to tell what exactly is going on with this potential reserve team. Is the club that scared of losing revenue on it? Are they so afraid that it is a path that could see them lose out on future stars by signing them to the USL too early (yes, I’ve heard this one before, and I still don’t get it)? Or do they know something that no one in this entire country knows of here with regards to the USL?

This year was pretty evident that FC Dallas was reluctant to use their USL affiliate in Oklahoma. After sending Coy Craft there early in the year, the team ended up using loans with Orange County and Tulsa towards the end of the year to get Jacori Hayes, Walker Hume and Aaron Guillen minutes.

Craft has gotten the most minutes in the USL over the last two years with his time in OKC, playing 16 games and scoring three goals along the way. We thought after the 2016 season that his time would finally come with FCD after a strong showing in the USL. Instead, Craft spent more time this season in the USL and failed to see the field with FCD.

Now I know there is more to this as to why he didn’t appear on the field for FCD outside of an 11-minute stint in KC. Personally, I’ve said all year long that the writing was on the wall for Craft and that his time could be up with the team.

But that is more of the issue here. If the minutes aren’t adding up for them in the USL and they aren’t breaking through on the MLS level, then there is a deeper problem to address.

For other guys, the minutes in 2017 were valuable. I’d be willing to bet that Jacori Hayes wouldn’t have seen the minutes that he did with FCD had it not been for his time in Tulsa. The other rookie on the team, Hume, also needed those minutes, even if they were on the west coast and far away from FCD.

So what is next?

One thing we do know is that OKC announced this week that they have parted ways with head coach Jimmy Nielsen. That could spell danger for the partnership with FCD or it could ignite it once more for another year.

Obviously, we’re all frustrated by the lack of a USL team for FC Dallas. We see new MLS teams like Atlanta step up and sign on with the USL. We see others do the hybrid model with a USL team, like what Houston does with Rio Grande Valley (Houston runs the soccer end of things, while RGV runs the business).

So why isn’t FC Dallas dipping their feet fully in the USL pool? That continues to be the million dollar question that we’ll continue to ask until Dan Hunt gives us a good enough answer as to why the team has waited this long or will continue to not do it. Unfortunately, waiting even longer continues to delay progress for young players that could end up being great for this club one day.