Tuesday’s news of Oscar Pareja becoming the next manager of Club Tijuana in Liga MX came with an additional nugget of information:
It's official. Next step? #Xolos and Pareja are working on bringing "at least" three players from FCD over to #LigaMXeng, as well as a former FCD player and current #USMNT man. https://t.co/paWkWFwqq7— Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86) November 27, 2018
Naturally this got our group pondering out loud as to who those players would be. Let us know what you are speculating below in the comments section.
Jack Rouse- Walker Zimmerman, Maynor Figueroa, and Carlos Gruezo
It sounds like the cat is out of the bag for the first two players. But that leaves the third up to our rampant speculation. When you look at the roster and think about which players are Liga MX quality and would be worth bringing to Xolos, Gruezo jumps out at me. He has experience outside MLS and is established with the Ecuadorian national team. Most importantly, given Dallas’ glut of young central midfield depth, they may be willing to part with him. If Dallas pockets 2 million for Gruezo, he can take the next step in his career, allowing FCD to start Hayes, Servania, and Pomykal, with Ulloa as veteran depth, does anyone really lose?
Nathan Hill - Maynor Figueroa, Carlos Gruezo, Michael Barrios, and Maxi Urruti?
I’m not exactly sure if Maynor Figueroa will count as one of the official players that Pareja plans to make a play for. Maynor is out of contract, and he’s likely ready to hang up his boots. Reports already indicate that he will be used as a coach, so the question is how to interpret rumors of who Pareja is going to bring.
Walker Zimmerman, who is out of contract with Los Angeles FC, is likely that former FCD player, and the finances probably make some sense as opposed to going after Kellyn Acosta.
That leaves three current FCD players who Pareja might want to grab. Rumors are what rumors are, so even those three may simply be transfer targets for Xolos to consider. For me, I immediately think of some of those guys who have been mainstays for Pareja over the years. Carlos Gruezo, even though he would step into a crowded midfield, seems to do things that Pareja loves. Papi trusts Gruezo, even when Gruezo hasn’t been at his best. (While Victor Ulloa has locked down a spot more recently, that’s not always been the case, although Ulloa would undoubtedly be the cheaper of the two.) Michael Barrios is another fast, speedy offensive player who could find this a great time to make a move and land one more big contract. Pareja loves him and his flexibility, and Barrios at the very least could envision reuniting his Castillo/Barrios pairing or having Michael as an important offensive weapon to deploy off the bench or in certain scenarios. Finally, while it would be a surprise, Maxi Urruti could be a final target. He has experience, a work rate, and flexibility that Pareja returned to throughout dry spells for his recent teams, even if it did not always contribute to high scoring seasons. Urruti signed a new contract not long ago, but with rumors already exploring a return to Argentina, maybe the door is open.
Other names are entirely question marks, unless a recent signing who hasn’t made a splash, like Santiago Mosquera or Pablo Aranguiz, is high on Pareja’s list for their emerging potential. Tesho Akindele is out of contract and would be an easy signing, but is he really ready to make that jump? How about a youth player? I find it hard to think a deal for a promising youngster gets done, unless it’s a loan or something really beneficial to both sides.
Jose A. Carmona - System guys
We've seen this many times before, a manager moves, and inevitably brings some of his former players with him. We all have our picks of players we'd like to see leave, and players we would hate to see leave. In reality, the manager will look to bring players who best understand the system he is trying to implement with his new team.
These are players that won't necessarily move the needle when it comes to excitement. These are players that will be counted on to help Xolos players learn how Papi likes to operate. Players who will be spot starters at best, and will be very affordable.
Victor Ulloa - A player whose career was revived by Pareja himself. He's the ultimate team player, and a person who is equally capable of starting or coming off the bench. He also won't take up an International spot for Xolos.
Ryan Hollingshead - No player embodies Papi's "Busca La Forma" motto, more than the living Swiss Army Knife himself. A player who can and will play anywhere he's needed, and even has a save from playing goalkeeper for FCD. A former recipient of the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year award, he's also willing to help anywhere off the field. Ryan has family in California (Sacramento), and attended college at UCLA.
Reggie Cannon - Another player who attended college at UCLA, he will command the highest fee of the threeplayers by far. While many here will expect FCD to demand a lot for the 20 year old USMNT right back, if anyone knows exactly what it would take to acquire Cannon, its Papi.
Jason Poon - Urruti, Hedges and Ulloa?
I’m not counting Figueroa or Zimmerman as “FCD guys”, so here’s what I’m thinking if I’m in Pareja’s head:
Urruti - I don’t know for sure, but I think Xolos needs a striker. Cristian Colman is recovering from injury and Dominique Badji seems like a poor fit to play in Mexico, so the natural selection here would be Maxi.
Hedges - This would be a pretty big slap in the face, but it also makes sense in my head. Matt Hedges has been a stalwart for FCD and though he should’ve been given more chances at the national level, potentially a change of scenery would change how people look at him. Hedges has been FCD’s best defender for the better part of half a decade. He gets Pareja’s system and could be up for a challenge abroad.
Ulloa - This was actually the first name that popped into my head. If Pareja is indeed going after guys like Zimmerman and maybe Hedges, which player on this roster is bilingual? Also, which player here basically embodies the essence of “Busca La Forma”? I actually think Ulloa would thrive in a more technical league.