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FC Dallas and their weird history with the Designated Player

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Let’s take a quick look at who has earned a DP tag in club history.

MLS: New England Revolution at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

As the offseason rolls on and MLS and its players begin to work on a new CBA this winter, I felt like this was the time to dive into a bit of a history lesson with regards to FC Dallas and their spending. In years past, I’ve done roster build-type posts that break down the roster and what could be to come in the new year. With FC Dallas retaining 27 players for 2020, that series felt like it was a little rougher to do.

So this time around I want to focus a little bit on what higher profile-type players or in this case Designated Players the team has tried out over the years. For those who don’t know the Designated Player rule came into effect in 2007 when David Beckham joined the league with the LA Galaxy. It allowed clubs to spend over a certain threshold against the salary cap.

Most teams tend to use their DP slots as center pieces of their roster. They’re meant to be high-quality players that you build your roster around. In some cases, FC Dallas has done that. As you’ll see below, in other times they have not.

After a decade-plus of the DP rule, we’ve seen the league expand the slots to three per club, with some various wrinkles depending on age and time of year when they are purchased (ie: summer signings tend to be a little more cap-friendly for teams in that season).

Here is a look at FC Dallas’ slightly troubled history with the DPs.

All-time FC Dallas Designated Players (both regular DP and Young DP):

  • Denilson - 2007
  • David Ferreira - 2009-2013
  • Fabian Castillo - 2011-2015
  • Julian de Guzman - 2012
  • Eric Hassli - 2013
  • Mauro Diaz - 2013-2016
  • Andres Escobar - 2014
  • David Texeira - 2014-15
  • Carlos Gruezo 2015-18 (he was a TAM player in 2019)
  • Anibal Chala - 2017
  • Cristian Colman - 2017-18 (he was a TAM player in 2019)
  • Santiago Mosquera - 2018-present
  • Bryan Acosta - 2019-present
  • Pablo Aranguiz - 2019

What’s been (mostly) bad

Maybe it all begins with the start of FCD dipping into the DP waters with Brazilian star Denilson back in 2007. That was the first year of the rule when Beckham came over to MLS to play with the Galaxy and only a few teams opted to try their hand at the DP rule. Outside of Beckham and Denilson, only two other teams tried their hand with a DP (Chicago had Cuauhemoc Blanco, New York had Claudio Reyna).

Denilson set the stage for FCD to be super cautious with bringing in a ‘big name’ too. He only played in eight games that season, scoring just one goal from the penalty spot no less. By 2008, he was gone.

Since then, Dallas has taken calculated gambles/risks with their DP slots, mostly going for younger South American players that could turn out to be something special and hopefully earn the club a hefty transfer fee in return. They’ve also taken on some weird rentals in the form of de Guzman (though I would argue that was a clever playoff push move in 2012, and Toronto also paid most of his salary that year too), a player that never saw the field in Dallas in Chala, and now a guy that likely won’t return in 2020 in Aranguiz.

DPs have been a mixed bag altogether for FCD but I think they tend to be more on the bad side of things than the good. Let’s look at the production out of these players for further explanation so to how bad it has been:

  • Denilson - eight games/seven starts, one goal
  • Eric Hassli - 15 games/four starts, zero goals, one assist
  • Andres Escobar - 23 games/18 stars, two goals, four assists
  • David Texeira - 41 games/28 starts, ten goals, three assists
  • Anibal Chala - Loaned for two seasons
  • Cristian Colman - 41 games/16 starts, four goals, one assist
  • Pablo Aranguiz - 20 games/10 starts, zero goals, zero assists
  • Santiago Mosquera - 52 games/29 starts, nine goals, seven assists

* I purposely left out Ferreira, Castillo, de Guzman, Diaz, Gruezo and Acosta as I’ll get into them here shortly.

All but one from that list are attacking-style players. Some players were young and ready to be moving into the next stage in their careers, while others were on the down tick and past their prime. If you look at the names above though, all were gambles that failed pretty miserably. For me, Mosquera is probably the only one on the list that I debated about where to slot him in this discussion. In the end, his stats and injury history led me down the path that we’re on. His numbers for one line up nearly the same as Texeria, who was largely a bust under Oscar Pareja (unless you count a Houston game where he went off).

Either the player didn’t fit system (Aranguiz), got hurt at the wrong time (Colman), or just never fully adapted to MLS (Denlison, Escobar). One could point at how FCD scouted these players as a logical reason for their rough history too, but the more I dove into this, the less I really could fully blame the scouting and really put more blame on the player and possibly how the coach at the time handled the DP.

What’s been good

I mentioned above that I left off five names from the production list for a reason. Mainly because out of those five, three were really solid at what they did over a long period of time (in Ferreira and Castillo’s case), they weren’t called in to score a ton of goals (Gruezo and Acosta), or again, they were a decent rental at a late stage in the regular season (de Guzman).

Here is a quick look at the massive difference in production out of Diaz, Ferreira and Castillo (again, leaving off de Guzman and Acosta since they were more defensive-type signings):

  • David Ferreira - 113 games/108 starts, 24 goals, 29 assists (2010 MLS MVP, 2010 Best XI)
  • Fabian Castillo - 159 games/139 starts, 34 goals, 30 assists (2015 Best XI)
  • Mauro Diaz - 109 games/ 84 starts, 23 goals, 44 assists (2016 Best XI)

I know there were issues at times with health for guys like Diaz or Ferreira (both had major injuries that de-railed a season for them). Or their willingness to be in Dallas in the case for Castillo...or Diaz. But it hard to deny what those three players did for the team during their time in Frisco. One brought a league MVP trophy and a trip to a MLS Cup. The others helped bring in a domestic double in 2016. And crazy as it seems, the list of duds above combined for 26 goals and 16 assists, while these three all nearly bested that on their own in their time in Dallas.

I also don’t feel it is fair to really lump Acosta in with the problem bunch just yet either. Sure, he he launch a shot deep into the upper deck of some MLS venues when he is five feet from goal but he’s not a goalscorer. We know that. If 2020 is a down year for him, then sure, lump him in with the rest above. That is fine.

Final thoughts

2020 is still a bit of a mystery as to who will be a DP and who will not. We don’t know if Aranguiz will be loaned back to Chile or if he will return to Frisco (gotta think that is one of the top priorities to sort out this winter). We also don’t know if Mosquera will be bought down with TAM to open up another DP slot or if he’ll remain as one.

Either way, Dallas could have all three slots filled come First Kick in 2020, or they could have one or two open. The key will come down to who fills an open slot, how well they were scouted, whether or not they can arrive in Frisco by the start of training camp, how quickly they’ll adapt to MLS (and Texas for that matter), and in my mind, most importantly, if they’ll be the right fit in the locker room with the rest of the team.

Overall, Dallas has a weird history with the Designated Player rule. Its great at times and it is seemingly terrible at times. Maybe they’ll eventually turn a corner on it in 2020.