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Building for 2018: How FC Dallas can retool their thin defense

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When the defense was on their game, it was fun to watch. But when it wasn’t, it was damn ugly.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As the offseason rolls on for FC Dallas, we continue our annual look at how the roster can be constructed for the next season with a look at the defensive group that is currently on the team.

Background information

For starters, I like to point out the salary cap, which this season was at $3.8 million. So for our purposes in this series, we will use a baseline cap of $4 million as the cap is expected to slowly reach $4.2 million by 2019.

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 money for not reaching the postseason, as well as some for earning a spot in the CCL again.

Typically each year returning players see an increase in their salary unless it has been agreed with the club that they make less, as in the club and player worked out a deal.

Five defenders and lots of questions

Right now we know the defense is incredibly thin. Oddly enough it was just this way last year with the group the team kept.

  1. To re-sign Figueroa or not? We know the club is currently working to potentially bring back the Honduran veteran for another season. While I would hope his salary can be brought down, I’m all on board having him back as a depth piece in the central defense in 2018. You want a guy like this on your roster that can fill in off the bench or in spots for eight-15 games.
  2. Will Chala actually return? It is funny how this entire thing with Anibal Chala has gone in 2017. There was much hype surrounding his arrival as a Young DP but then it quickly turned dark with his injury and slow recovery. That all lead to some homesickness and then a loan back to Ecuador. Over the summer and into the fall it appeared that Chala was doing well in Ecuador and was looking forward to coming back to Dallas. But the big question remains, will he? And if he does, can the team get him off the books as a DP? My gut still tells me he might end up being sold this winter and remain in South America but he could end up being a big x-factor if he does return to Frisco.
  3. Can we get the old Hedges and Zimmerman back, please? Something about this past summer really changed these two as Walker Zimmerman got hurt and never really seemed to recover (more mental in my mind) and Matt Hedges came back from national team duty as a completely different player. The good news is, the offseason is here for their full recovery and I would be a bit surprised if we saw them called into the national team camp in January again. Basically, the club needs them back more than ever.
  4. More Reggie Cannon please and thank you. Based on the current roster, the time is definitely now for Cannon to shine. We know he can do it based on the brief amount of time we saw him play in 2017. But will Oscar Pareja continue to hold him back and play a veteran player in his place at right back? For his development, let’s hope not. Cannon needs the minutes and the ability to get on the field to actually prove himself.
  5. Add depth through the league or through transfers? We’ve seen over the last two years that the defensive depth has mostly been done through drafts, transfers and academy products. That is all good for the most part but given the current list of players out there available, I would love to see some depth brought in or even a starter like Andrew Ferrell at right back (yes I know this would kill the Cannon minutes but Ferrell can also slot in at center back). Gideon Baah is also another intriguing prospect if he is healthy.

The money

Here is how the team looked against the cap in 2017:

  • Reggie Cannon - $53,000*
  • Anibal Chala - $333,000^
  • Matt Hedges - $424,000
  • Ryan Hollingshead - $132,500
  • Walker Zimmerman - $205,000

Total towards the cap: $961,500

Total with the goalkeepers: $961,500

* Homegrown player, salary does not count towards the cap

^ Young DP - $200,000 salary only counted against the cap

Money moving forward

We should expect some raises to be handed out to each staying. Obviously, the big question mark continues to be Chala and whether or not he actually returns to Dallas. It could be a little higher if you factor in Maynor Figueroa returning, he made $343,000. Given that the two sides are working on a new deal, it is possible that figure could be lower in 2018.

Either way, the money spent on this group right now is rather low and will need to be better in 2018.

Wants and needs for 2018

Obviously right now the depth behind Hedges and Zimmerman is thin. Razor thin if neither of them comes into 2018 at 100%. It feels weird knowing that we were in the same position this time last year but that is just where things are at the moment.

Also adding some fullback depth will be big but it may all depend on what kind of formation Pareja wants to run in 2018 too. If he sticks it out in the current look, both fullback spots need help. Maybe another HGP in the wings? We’ll see.

Final thoughts and figures

I said it last year and I will say it again, I want this club to spend well in the back. If Chala doesn’t return for some reason, I do hope to see a TAM-level signing in the back to replace him. Same could be said should someone come in and scoop up Zimmerman this winter. Defense wins titles in this league (or at least gets you damn close), so why not spend for it?

The defense carried this team through the first half of 2017, but they need help to do it again in 2018.

What do you make of how FCD is spending on the defense? Would you like to see more money allocated in this area?