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A deep dive into the new FC Dallas backline

FC Dallas’ defense is getting some new and returning faces in a winter offseason that promises stability and competition on their vaunted backline. What does it mean for 2021?

MLS: Cup Conference Semifinals-FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Each offseason promises some level of transition for MLS teams. Reto Ziegler, a stalwart on the back line in recent seasons, had his contract end. Bressan, locking down the spot next to Matt Hedges late in the season, entered into contract negotiations with the club to remain with the team. Bryan Reynolds, FC Dallas’ latest star right back, is likely heading out to Europe in a matter of weeks to the right situation and highest bidder. Callum Montgomery, initially figured as a potential starter next to Hedges, was traded to Minnesota United.

Turnover happens, but for a team with intentions on achieving its goals in 2021, what could these changes mean?

The renovation isn’t quite over yet, but FC Dallas announced this week some excellent news, resigning both Bressan and welcoming a new center back altogether.

Let’s break down what it means for FC Dallas in the short term (until further signings and faces get added).

Returning: Bressan

There is always a chance a player can say no to good faith efforts to resign him, but in this case, Bressan is back. On December 21, FC Dallas announced the news that they had resigned their veteran Brazilian CB to a one year deal with two option years. This makes a lot of sense in this very unusual market, as it gives Bressan another year to make his case as the de facto No. 2 on that back line and gives FC Dallas an out if Martinez, their other new signing, wins the job.

Bressan had flirted with minutes in the starting lineup in his time here, but he also showed some recklessness in his play. That energy is great, and you can tell Bressan loves to play the game and compete. A strong case can made that Dallas improved its defense and was able to secure its postseason birth with his performances in the first XI over the last few games of the season. His confident penalty kick helped the squad past Portland, but you also hope he can figure out how to manage that over-the-top passion a bit in tense situations. Think back to that quasi-orange card late against Seattle, where Bressan was lucky not to get sent off. Can he continue to adjust to the speed of the league?

New Face: Jose Antonio Martinez from Eibar

On December 21, FC Dallas announced the deal that had been rumored and well reported on Big D and other places that Jose Antonio Martinez, a veteran left-footed center back from Spanish team Eibar, is the latest athlete to bolster this backline. Martinez is an interesting story largely because he has oodles of experience but wasn’t able to break the starting XI for his most recent club. His previous two seasons were spent with Granada, where he helped them earn promotion into La Liga. That’s a good sign for his quality and his familiarity with intense competition.

The left foot is key, as this makes him a more natural fit in the style of Reto Ziegler for distribution of the ball on the back line.

And it also seems like Dallas’ preference lately is to have three solid veteran center backs in the mix, rather than throwing out a youngster like Nkosi Burgess too early, who probably deserves a little more time with North Texas SC to develop his game.

We don’t know enough yet if Martinez is going to compete for the starting spot outright or if Dallas is going to continue to tinker with a 3-5-2, maybe using Hedges, Martinez, and Bressan together. Preseason will give Luchi and company a lot of opportunity to see how best to use these guys and fit them in.

Right Back: An Open Battle

The other big change happening that we have covered already is the imminent departure of Bryan Reynolds. Sure, until that contract is signed, there is still some chance that Bryan sticks around in Frisco a little longer, but if the rumors are true that Roma has offered something close to $10 million for the exciting young right back, it’s going to be hard to say no to that opportunity. The right back spot might be an open position battle in 2021 with names like Eddie Munjoma, Ema Twumasi, Justin Che, Ryan Hollingshead, or, heck, Bressan given a shot to lock it down.

What does this mean for FC Dallas’ defense in 2021?

Here are a few thoughts that even this early are sure bets.

  • Luchi Gonzalez wants stability, and that’s hard to argue with. FC Dallas had one of the strongest defenses in the league in 2020 in a year when their offense struggled. Losing out on Reto meant that Dallas could have turned to a youngster to step up, but instead, they chose stability. With Bressan back, we can argue that only one starting spot in defense up for grabs will be right back. That’s a good place to be if a team wants to continue to progress in the league. Furthermore, if Hollingshead wins the right back spot and John Nelson slots in at left, there’s a real shot that this back line will be ready to go out of the gate.
  • Formational flexibility is what Luchi wants. It’s clear that Dallas want athletic players who can provide their head coach with options. If the rumored offensive additions also come to pass, FC Dallas could roll out a 4-3-3, 4-2-2-2, or 5-3-2 in the coming season. That’s a nice thing to have. Luchi wants that flexibility even in these defensive additions, including another true left footed defender.
  • The team is built to win now. 2021 isn’t going to be a rebuilding year, despite Dallas potentially saying goodbye to a number of young players including Bryan Reynolds, Tanner Tessmann, Ricardo Pepi, Thomas Roberts, and Paxton Pomykal, especially if they have great Olympic experiences and solid seasons. All of that turnover could mean the team needs a year or two to restock, but instead, they are targeting their needs with veterans to fill the gaps and keep that first ever MLS Cup in sight. Martinez isn’t a young prospect who might pay off in another year or two - he is a professional defender who has competed in a top flight league and can help Dallas achieve its goals. The back line will have a great mix of youth and experience in 2021.

What do you think? What do you think these signings mean for Dallas’ back line in 2021?