Good news, readers - Big D After Dark will be back in a week or two as vacation schedules slowdown and life gets back to normal. If you are new to the show, After Dark is our Monday evening Facebook Live jam where we break down FC Dallas results, news, rumors, and excitement. You can catch it over at the BigD Soccer Facebook page on Mondays at 8 PM central standard time.
With that said, Chad was nice enough to send me a question about FC Dallas. Let’s get to it:
Chad, thanks for the email, and welcome to the FC Dallas family.
You have a good question. Truly, this is THE question most FCD fans are asking. Though FC Dallas has actually had a solid amount of hardware in recent years, including an Open Cup and Supporter’s Shield, the big one has eluded this franchise. The MLS Cup needs to come home, but when? How? With what players?
After the recent loss against the LA Galaxy, fans feel frustrated. Is this squad as currently constructed truly competitive in Major League Soccer? Why can’t Dan Hunt and company find players who can help this team get over that proverbially hump? Is the strategy the front office taking one that will get us back to the MLS Cup championship? Or will we always be missing that extra bit of quality?
I simply don’t have an easy answer for you. First, there is never a bad time to become a FC Dallas fan. You picked a great moment to see guys like Paxton Pomykal and Reggie Cannon do their stuff. But, you’ve also come on board in the midst of a transitional season when Coach Luchi Gonzalez has taken the reins and is quite literally learning on the job. While he did play pro soccer, he has never coached at this level. I think this contributes to some of the challenges the team has endured as Luchi figures things out.
Second, this transitional year means FC Dallas has been open about changes in their style. Dan Hunt and the entire organization have shifted gears to a development team. They want to bring up exciting young academy players and help them grow into professional, productive players. These players will likely get sold to bigger clubs in Europe and hopefully pay dividends to the men’s national team program in the future as well.
FC Dallas has always been ahead of the curve with its development model, with an academy that is one of the best in the league and maybe even the world. The academy has taken time to mature, and some of the early homegrown players didn’t last long in the league despite showing promise. Lately, that hasn’t been true - Paxton Pomykal, Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira, and Brandon Servania are a few of the names that are getting minutes now. Kellyn Acosta, Chris Richards, and Victor Ulloa are plying their trade elsewhere. The future is truly bright.
Of course, we don’t know yet if an MLS team can win a championship with homegrown players alone. Teams need quality competing for minutes in every position, and attacking talent is particularly challenging to develop. Even if FC Dallas tries to build the roster with homegrowns, they will need to get veteran players to model what it means to compete week in and out as well as smooth over those hard games when the youngsters can’t get it done alone.
In a recent video chat, Andre Zanotta, FC Dallas’ new technical director, made clear that the team is looking at transfers in this lens. Why sign a veteran who is going to take away minutes from a youngster who is playing well enough now to make a difference? How can they find the right talent who can adjust to Luchi’s tactics and improve the team without stunting the growth of homegrowns? I feel like this year has seen an unprecedented amount of honesty and openness from the front office about the direction of this team. We fans need to take note.
Where does this leave us?
FC Dallas will win the MLS Cup someday, but it doesn’t look like this season or maybe even next. I’m hoping year three of Coach Luchi Gonzalez and academy products is when they find the sweet spot and put us in a position with a revamped roster, new signings, and maybe even a big DP splash to take it to the next level. I’m guessing here, because a lot can go wrong in a year or two. It’s clear that during this offseason, there will be a further turnover in the veterans on this roster as the team makes more space for youngsters and finds the specific kinds of players that Coach Luchi needs.
The more important question shifts back to the fans. I know some of you have been watching this team for many years, longer than I have. You are dying for a MLS Cup. You are ready for a big time DP signing. You appreciate the recent success but feel like the team is being left behind as Atlanta and Los Angeles FC spend big to compete right away. But here’s the truth - Dan Hunt and Andre Zanotta have been clear about the direction of FC Dallas. Are you willing to go all in on this strategy too?
If you want your team to spend big on Designated Players, go grab some famous veteran names from Europe, or spend every bit of TAM/GAM/YAM (or whatever) to pad its roster with high-priced talent, you are likely following the wrong team. This is not the FC Dallas way. Again, this doesn’t mean the door closes in the future on those kinds of signings or possibilities, but this is simply not what is going to happen in Frisco on a season to season basis. Dan Hunt has been crystal clear. If you really want to follow this kind of team, maybe go check out Austin FC or become a LAFC fan. Enjoy and have fun!
But if you want to follow a team that is going to continue to emphasize developing and selling players, building up the sport, and strengthening the player pool for future USMNT squads, you are going to have a bunch of fun. We may not get as much hardware as we like, but we will get to say that we saw Reggie Cannon play before he moved abroad and became a fixture on a World Cup qualifying squad. We will help make Jesus Ferreira and Paxton Pomykal household names. We will always have a new set of youngsters to get excited about each season to see what they can do.
And if just a few of them take that next step, FC Dallas will have an edge that other teams don’t.
So, that’s my longer answer to a short question. Yes, FC Dallas is going to win the MLS Cup someday. It may not be as soon as we like, but that day is coming soon. I hope you stick around though, Chad. It’s kind of a strange year to be an FC Dallas fan, but the future is bright. Really bright.