For the last year and a half, FC Dallas has partnered with the Oklahoma City Energy FC for their USL affiliation. During that time, the club has only sent a small group of players up to OKC to help further their development.
So far this season, FC Dallas has only sent one player, Coy Craft, to OKC. The longer this current season goes on, the more our staff has been asking ourselves, is this partnership working? We discuss that below.
El Chico Carmona: Absolutely a bust
I'm convinced that the affiliation is a bust. At this time, this affiliation feels not much different than the prior affiliation with Arizona United.
Maybe I expect too much from this affiliation, but as a fan, I expected more than the single player loan so far. I expected to see more of the teams younger players going to the teams affiliate. Right now, Devin Vega is getting more playing time in San Antonio FC than Coy Craft got in OKC. And that just doesn't sit right with me.
Sure FCD will likely loan a couple of players come July or August, but this somehow feels like a misuse of the affiliation. FCD should be loaning young players to their affiliate early in the season in hope that they develop in time to help the team in the second half of the season.
Instead FCD will dump players on OKC in the second half of the season, and it almost feels like FCD is giving up on those players. Think I'm exaggerating, then allow me to point out that every player not named Craft that has been loaned out in the past four years, was released the following season.
FCD needs an affiliate where a young player can spend multiple seasons to develop if need be. The Oklahoma City Energy FC is not that team. They're just a stopgap. Everyone knows what FCD really needs, and it's not a different affiliate.
Jack Hazzard: It is what we expected
Is the affiliate what we expected? I’d say yes. If we look back to previous seasons, we can see that the Energy have taken FCD youngsters such as Colin Bonner, Timo Pitter, and Coy Craft. All three of these players were given proper time and training by head coach Jimmy Nielsen. As a result, the players came out as stronger athletes and better soccer professionals - a part from Pitter and Bonner retiring. Also, we can’t forget about goalkeeper Jacob Lissek joining FCD on loan from OKC.
Affiliations are a tricky case. They do not always mean giving a ton of young players to a team. Affiliations comprise of passing notes, sharing scouting, and creating a family relationship between clubs, something that FCD and OKC has done. Using players as a way to see if the affiliation is going right isn’t the best way to measure success.
Could a straight up FCD2 be a better affiliation than the OKC Energy? Of course it would be, but that’s not in the cards for FC Dallas at the moment.
Has the affiliation deal worked out this season for FC Dallas? I’d believe so.
Nathan Hill: At this point, no, I don’t think it’s working.
I finally caught an OKC Energy game on ESPN3 a couple of weeks back, and as I watched the lineups being announced, I realized that the USL may not be interested in being a development league. The Energy did not have a roster filled with young 20-somethings, eager to put in minutes to show what they are capable of, but rather lots of 25-28 year olds who were likely playing for one more chance at a contract somewhere or for pure love of the game. Granted, there is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a realization that the OKC Energy are trying to grow their brand in a city as a prime sports entertainment option. They want to build their team around solid talent, not just give youngsters a chance to shine without the potential to have them around.
On so many levels, the Energy are a great fit theoretically for FC Dallas. It’s a growing sizable market just up the road. The franchise is aggressive in its marketing and outreach to the community. They seem to have a decent enough coaching staff.
But they also have dreams of someday being a MLS franchise of their own. In the short term then, the linkup with FC Dallas gets them access to a couple of players to deepen their roster for cheap but does nothing for them long term. Likewise, unless FC Dallas was going to buy OKC Energy outright and dampen those MLS hopes, I don’t see how this is going to work out for either team.
I could be persuaded that this partnership is low risk, high reward - but I can’t at this point until FC Dallas is willing to put a little more skin in the game and the Energy would be willing to commit to developing some youngsters. Could it have been an intriguing signal to see Mauro Diaz get some minutes in OKC as a marketing ploy to grow both fanbases? What if FCD sent Javier Morales to OKC for the rest of the season?
My hunch - FC Dallas talks with San Antonio after this season to develop something with them next year until FC Dallas II/Dallas Burn emerge as a future USL franchise.
Jeff Loftin - Not What I Wanted
The partnership is certainly not what I wanted, but that does not mean that it has been a bust. It is important to remember that OKCE is not a franchise that we own, and that they want to win on their own. Because of that, it can be hard sometimes to not see us sending more players up I-35, but the reality is that the ones we have sent we have not tended to keep. The relationship is what it is and while I would not call it a bust, I would hesitate to call it a success.
What I wanted from the partnership is our own USL franchise, which was a pipe dream. That was never going to be the case here and it was my own projection that caused me to have such a dislike for the situation. I do think that OKCE would benefit from a change in manager because they certainly have far more talent than one would assume based on their record. If this does continue for another year, I hope that next year will be the last - and only because FCD is starting their own USL team based in Dallas (what a concept). I think that our own franchise is coming, but my fear is that it will not be until my newborn daughter starts kindergarten. My fingers are crossed...
Drew Epperley - It is doing what it is suppose to do
I know this isn’t going to be a popular thought but after discussing this subject with Fernando Clavijo after last season, I know where the club stands on this sort of thing more so than I did when I thought it wasn’t working well around this time last year.
I’m like some of you, I’ve been disappointed in the number of players going up to OKC through this deal but at the end of the day it all makes sense. It is a numbers game. The club only has 29 players on their roster. For daily training, they need nearly all of those bodies, or at least as close to that number as much as possible. So sending two guys up north for the week when you have say two guys out injured, another two on national team duty just doesn’t add up well.
That is where FCD is at with this deal. Sure, it would be wise to get a Jacori Hayes up to OKC for a few games. Or even someone like Bryan Reynolds or Jesus Ferreira. But at the end of the day, those numbers don’t work out for either side as OKC doesn’t need the younger players on their roster and a guy like Reynolds is actually getting better playing time with the youth national teams like he has all spring.
At the end of the day, this deal has helped this club when it has needed to like when Chris Seitz went down earlier this season. Or when Craft needed some minutes following his time with the U-20s.
All will be forgiven in the end too when the day comes that FCD has their own team to call upon for development reasons.