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Should He Stay... Or Should He Go?

This looks like an offseason that will include a lot of movement for FC Dallas.

MLS: Austin FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, again, friends. The end of the season is here and there are lots of questions about the squad and the changes ahead – quite possibly beginning with who will decide the changes ahead. Andres Zanotta? The new gaffer? Probably not me. But I will take my opportunity to make my best guesses.

By my count, there are ten players on the roster who weren’t with FC Dallas last season (though only a few were brought in to make a difference this year). One tale of the season is that several of those players did not have the impact Dallas needed, so this winter may bring more substantial changes. We don’t know who the new coach will be, but he’s likely to have some flexibility when he arrives as current players make way for new faces.

But how many changes are indicative of normal turnover? Dallas said good-bye to eight players last winter (and I’m not including Sealy being on loan or Tessman who was sold later). According to MLS Transfer Tracker, it seems the low end of expected turnover is about 7-8 players and the high end is closer to 12-13. For better or worse, I can count nine players that I don’t expect to see next year without impacting last night’s starting lineup beyond the expected sale of Ricardo Pepi, and I’m expecting they will be joined by two to three others who will cause me to lift an eyebrow.

In addition, more than most clubs in MLS, Dallas’ focus on developing youth has left the team thin at several positions because the kids just aren’t ready (Redzic? Smith?). With so many players out of contract, Dallas has the opportunity to shed some dead weight and find compatible pieces.

The charts below were compiled from information from the players union (I listed their base salary – not total compensation), Transfermarkt, and FIFA. I’ve highlighted my expected departures in bold. My questions are in italics.

Possible Moves Out

Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Andres Ricaurte 30 Central Midfield $450,000 25
Ryan Hollingshead 30 Left-Back $346,500 29 Club one-year
Bressan 28 Center-Back $536,000 22 Club two-year
Bryan Acosta 28 Central midfield $650,000 23
Phelipe 22 Goalkeeper $150,000 11 Option to buy
Brandon Servania 22 Central Midfield $230,400 13
Freddy Vargas 22 Left-Wing $160,000 12 Option to buy
Eddie Munjoma 22 Right-Back $66,724 12 3 club options
Edwin Cerillo 21 Defensive Midfield $95,000 21
Nkosi Tafari 24 Center-Back $66,724 21
Ema Twumasi 24 Right-Back $200,000 22 GA contract ending
Kyle Zoebeck 31 Goalkeeper $85,444 0
Nicky Hernandez 23 Central Midfield $63,547 0
John Nelson 23 Left-back $115,000 10 GA contract?
Kalil ElMedkhar 22 Left wing $63,547 6 3 club options
Beni Redzic 19 Left wing $63,547 0 3 club options
Colin Smith 17 Right-back $63,547 0 3 club options
Caiser Gomes 21 Center-back $81,375 0

He Should Go:

In the first group of players, I don’t expect to see next year I will lump Ricaurte, Acosta, and Bressan. Love them or hate them, my primary issue here is their salaries. While they have all made a significant number of appearances this season (and maybe I should have focused on minutes instead of appearances), none of them have locked down a starting role and they are too expensive to be back-ups. Bressan, for example, has at times been a defensive stalwart, and at other times he’s been a liability. I expect Bressan’s salary to be at least partially offered to Tafari. Similarly, Acosta may have played to DP levels in April and May, but his play has faded, and he just doesn’t offer enough moving forward. Ricaurte is a player without a position. Unless Zanotta brings in a coach to build a system around Ricaurte, the player is surplus. And at 30, he’s too old to build around and he’s too expensive to be surplus. I expect Servania and Cerillo to be re-signed with raises. Not only have they beaten out the likes of Acosta and Quignon for the starting jobs, but they better serve the FCD brand of playing our homegrowns.

Phelipe and Vargas... we’re not buying them. Phelipe is too inconsistent and Vargas... well, that just hasn’t worked out. Kyle Zoebeck has been a good team player for Dallas, but I expect that Antonio Carrera will be the next homegrown in the pipeline and will be receiving the third-string minutes. Similarly, if Ricard Sanchez can lift his game, he can be a serviceable back-up to Maurer (and again fit the homegrown brand) while Carrera learns.

Nicky Hernandez. On the one hand, he’s cheap, and if Dallas lets go of the more expensive options in midfield, the roster is going to be thin. But at 23 he has yet to appear for the first team, which tells me he’s not an asset the team will be able to sell and maybe not one that’s likely to make an impact in MLS, and Dallas needs production from its back-ups.


Caiser Gomes. I know he was signed on an emergency basis because the club was short on healthy center-backs. He’s played 21 matches for NTSC with 19 starts. His age and salary make him an appealing option for a fourth center back, but I don’t know if he has the quality to do the job in anything more than an emergency situation. If the answer is that the new gaffer would rather play Nelson in the center, then Gomes joins the group above because Dallas needs to find its next Tafari.

He Should Stay:

Ryan Hollingshead. If Jonathan Gomez were still in Dallas, Ryan would be gone and Gomez would have the starting job. But Gomez left years ago and there isn’t another homegrown ready to make this jump (the next left back in the pipeline is ‘06). Munjoma has been getting starts on the left for NTSC and may earn this spot down the road, but I think Hollingshead has one more season in Dallas.

Brandon Servania and Edwin Cerillo. They may never rise above the level of MLS, but if they can continue to grow and perform as they have recently, then they’re starting-caliber and promote the brand. Similarly, Tafari has shown that he can play in this league, and Dallas needs his athleticism.

Ema Twumasi. I’m not clear on his contract situation, but he seems to have won the starting job at right back over Che and Munjoma. The front office will likely be looking for lots of help across the frontline, so I have Twumasi safely returning.

Munjoma, ElMedkhar, Redzic, Nelson, Smith: Young and cheap. In the short term, they’re all inexpensive back-ups. I expect Munjoma and ElMedkhar to get at least one more year to show that they are worth keeping. As Dallas Academy products, Redzic and Smith likely have several years to prove themselves.

Under Contract Through 2022

Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Franco Jara 33 Forward $2,290,000 28
Matt Hedges 31 Center-Back $850,000 19 2 Club Options
Thomas Roberts 20 Central Midfield $150,000 0 On loan
Dante Sealy 18 Wing 6 3 Club options

Many of us would like to see Jara bought out of his contract, but I don’t see it happening. I’ve been a Dallas fan for too long to be hopeful of things like this. And at the end of the day, the guy has done his job as well as he is able. If he were on 20% of this salary, I’d be more than happy with him.

Barring a ridiculous offer, Hedges will be back. Last I heard, Thomas Roberts was struggling for minutes in Europe, but I do have a dream in which a Dallas player returns after an unsuccessful loan spell in Austria and plays significant minutes down the stretch. Servania this year. Could be Roberts next year.

Sealy may still be on the roster next season, but he’ll be on loan.

Under Contract Through 2023

Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Player Age Position Base Salary (2021) Games Played Option
Jimmy Maurer 33 Goalkeeper $158,125 23
Jose Martinez 28 Center-Back $600,000 19
Facundo Quignon 28 Defensive Midfield $786,000 18
Jader Obrian 26 Right Wing $360,000 33
Paxton Pomykal 21 Central Midfield $600,000 30
Szabolcs Schon 21 Left Wing $300,000 23
Jesus Ferreira 20 Forward $550,000 26
Justin Che 18 Center-Back $80,000 15
Ricardo Pepi 18 Forward 30

We all know that Pepi is moving on.

This group of players has two years remaining on their current contracts, so barring unforeseen circumstances, they will return (whether we want them to or not). Given Bayern’s interest, I expect that Justin Che will make his departure this winter, and he’s the last of my expected departures. Injuries and lack of production make it unlikely that teams will be trying to pry the others loose from Dallas... except for Jesus Ferreira.

While the spotlight has mostly been on Pepi, Ferreira has had an outstanding season (Team of the Week this week). There have been rumors of interest from Europe and rumblings that he may be happy to go - especially since Luchi Gonzalez was relieved of his duties. If Ferreira does go, that opens space in the middle for Pomykal to return to central midfield in a 4-3-3... but it also leaves Dallas precariously thin upfront and leaves precious little goal-scoring.

So this is my current depth chart for next year. It’s scary thin. The team is likely to have a good draft pick, but hopefully, Dallas has sold enough players that they can afford to go shopping – and not just in the bargain bin. We need two strikers, a goal-producing winger, and quality depth in midfield and the middle of the defense. Should be an exciting off-season.

Final thoughts:

1) The returning defense looks much like the starting defense of opening day 2021. That’s cause for concern. As I mentioned before, I expect Hollingshead to return, but in the interest of shaking up the defense, the front office may seek an upgrade and let him go. However, at the end of the day, there are simply too many other holes to fill to create another one now.

2) So many holes to fill means at the very least a lack of familiarity and cohesion next season. If Dallas hits on half their winter signings, the squad will still have issues. If the club hits on their usual number of signings, we will be competing for the Wooden Spoon again and possibly replacing a technical director at this time next year.

3) Coming into the start of this season, Dallas obviously had Homegrowns who had contributed and who were primed for sale: Pepi, Ferreira, and Tessman. Assuming Pepi and Ferreira are sold and given that Sealy is already on loan, I don’t see who the next group of significant 18-19 year olds from the pipeline will be. Maybe Pomykal gets healthy and tears up the league next season. But that’s a huge maybe. Redzic has been injured much of the year as well, but I’ve not heard the same level of hype about his play as I did about Ferreira, Sealy, and others. This again points to Dallas desperately needing to hit on their signings... and our record in that regard is poor.

4) Expansion Draft: They’ve been off my radar... but Charlotte is joining the MLS party next season, right? I assume we’re having an expansion draft. Who will Dallas expose? My guesses: Hedges, Hollingshead, Jara, Quignon, Nelson... Just a little more chaos.

What do you think?