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Building for 2022: How will the FC Dallas forwards look next year?

The attack was better in some spots in 2021, but can it improve even more under Nico Estevez?

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

The final chapter or part of our roster-building series is here. After going through the rest of the FC Dallas squad based off recent roster moves and salary figures from 2021, we will now dive into the attacking portion of the roster with a look today at the forwards and wingers.

Background information

For starters, I like to point out the salary cap, which the 2021 season was at $4.9 million and will be again for the 2022 season.

MLS teams as most of you know can buy down a player’s salary with allocation, either of the general or targeted variety. Those ‘Garber Bucks’ as some like to call it help bring a player’s salary cap hit down. In recent years, FC Dallas has received some extra allocation for either earning a spot in the CCL or by not reaching the postseason. This year, they will have to be crafty in getting more through trades.

Typically each year returning players see an increase in their salary unless it has been agreed with the club that they make less, as in the club and player worked out a deal.

Current status and questions

So far, there isn’t a ton of change to this group from 2021. Dante Sealy is still going to be out on loan as the club probably expects to sell him at some point in 2022. The same will be said about Ricardo Pepi. We know he wants out, it is only a matter of time before he is granted that wish. Outside of that, the club is spending rather large in this area.

Will another DP be brought in to balance things out? Given the two open Designated Player slots at the moment, and potentially a U-22 slot or two, the club has a lot of options here to go out in the international market (hello new international roster slot that was acquired) and make an impact here. I think a lot of us would like to see another DP-level winger brought in to help make the wings balanced in terms of depth.

When will Pepi really be sold? I’ve said for a while, as have others, that it is a matter of when and not if the club will sell Pepi. There have been a ton of different clubs rumored to be interested in him but until some actual offers come across the Hunts’ table, the timetable for this move is really going to come down to some time in January when the international transfer windows are back open. Until then, it will all be a bunch of talk.

Will a new system actually benefit Jara? Honestly, I’m not holding out a ton of hope for him to get magically better under Estevez. Still, down the stretch in 2021, he did look better and more comfortable on the pitch with the team. Not enough that we all immediately forgave him for looking like trash earlier in the season. If Pepi is actually sold next month and Jesus Ferreria moves back into a striker role, that could actually free him up to be the poacher in the penalty box that he is meant to be. That is a lot of ‘ifs’ though.

The money

Here is what was spent in this department in 2021:

  • Jesus Ferreira - $550,000
  • Franco Jara - $2,290,000 &
  • Jader Obrian - $360,000
  • Ricardo Pepi - $200,000 *
  • Szabolcs Schon - $300,000 %
  • Dante Sealy - $100,000 *^

Total: $1,722,500

Total with the entire team (goalkeepers, defense, midfield): $5,585,400

* Homegrown players don’t count against the salary cap

^ Sealy is on loan through 2023

& Jara’s DP status only counts for $612,500 of the salary cap

% Schon’s U-22 status only counts for $200,000 of the salary cap

Money moving forward

As much as we’d love to see Jara take a massive salary cut, that isn’t going to happen in 2022.

It may be safe to say that based on how the rules are written for 2021 (and likely 2022), that Pepi may actually fall into the U-22 category after signing a new contract this past summer. Or the club could be using one of those available slots on a guy like Ferreira too. MLS Commissioner Don Garber did recently say that there were a lot of U22 slots being used this past season, I believe the number he said was close to 40 or so, well above what had previously been reported. Just something to keep in mind. Most clubs were only announcing those U-22 players as they were signing them and not if they used those slots on existing players (which they totally were able to in 2021).

Also, one thing I should stress here is that the club probably does a good bit of paying down salaries here with their allocation money. Given all the sales in recent seasons, plus not making the playoffs this year (you get a little extra Garber cash for not being good), there is plenty of flexibility here in terms of paying down salaries.

Final figures and thoughts

You want to see improvement from 2021, that much is obvious. Out of all of the groups we’ve gone through, it does feel weird to say that this one may be the most solidified going into 2022. I think if Pepi somehow stays on board in 2022, that is even more accurate.

Either way though, I do think getting a DP-level player in this group would still be good if the club can swing it.

Overall, the club has a lot of work to do this winter to get this roster ready for 2022. There are four international roster slots open, that will go a long way in filling those seven-to-ten spots (three players are currently set as “on loan”, so if any return early that means they need one of those spots).