The offseason is really taking shape here now that FC Dallas has a new manager in place with Nico Estevez. Today we will continue on in our offseason series that looks at the roster construction for next season with a look at the defensive group.
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
Right now there are eight players signed to the roster for next season. Even with that number, there are some depth questions to be asked of this group.
What will the depth look like? Right now, the team isn’t two-deep at each spot. The closest we may have is with one of the two center back spots when you consider that we have Tafar, Hedges, and Martinez. You could make the case for Che in there as well since he is technically more of a central defender. But so far, in a Dallas uniform, we have only really seen him on the wings.
Can Hedges, Hollingshead, and Martinez stay healthy? We always say that 34 games is a marathon and not a sprint and we saw in a big way for at least Martinez and Hedges this past season as both missed a decent amount of time due to injuries. Hedges saw himself out for career-high 14 games in 2021, while Martinez also missed 15 of his own. Not ideal for two guys that are making nearly $1.5 million between them. Hollingshead on the other hand had some injuries pop up as well but not nearly to the same level as the other two. With all three in their 30s, getting the right level of depth around these guys is key.
Will they keep Che? The biggest question this offseason in the defensive group may be whether or not the club can retain Justin Che for another season or if he will be transferred out for a nice fee. The club was able to keep him this summer when rumors were swirling that he would join Bayern Munich, but due to the injury issues the club was facing, they demanded more money for him from Bayern and their German partner held off in the process. Che got a callup to the national team for the December camp, which could bring more eyeballs his way from European suitors (that German passport makes a move very easy for him).
Can the young guys progress more? We saw that Tafari can be a guy that you could potentially build the entire defense around. He’s athletic enough to be a threat in the penalty box on corner kicks and his passing improved a lot with each game. Che also had signs of progression once he was a regular starter as well. Twumasi now looks to be the guy at right back. But outside of that, we didn’t see Munjoma progress as much as we probably would have liked, though I do believe his time with North Texas SC was good for him, similar to what Tafari had with that side in previous years.
Here is what was spent in this department in 2021:
- Justin Che - $80,000*
- Matt Hedges - $850,000
- Ryan Hollingshead - $346,500
- Jose Martinez - $600,000
- Eddie Munjoma - $66,724*
- Colin Smith - $63,547*
- Nkosi Tafari - $66,724^
- Ema Twumasi - $200,000 #
Total with goalkeepers: $2,246,500
* Homegrown players don’t count against the salary cap
^ For 2021, Tafari was on the supplemental roster, which does not count against the salary cap
# In 2021, Twumasi did not count against the salary cap due to his Generation adidas contract. Unlike the others marked, he was counted in this total.
Money moving forward
With the salary cap being the same in 2022, we’ll see some players get some modest bumps in pay. The more expensive guys will likely still be paid down with some form of allocation money.
The big move will likely be Twumasi and possibly Tafari moving off of the supplemental roster and into the senior roster. Twumasi will likely be coming off his Generation adidas contract, which didn’t count against the salary cap. Given that the team moved away from Johnny Nelson, it appears the Twumasi is their option at right back moving forward.
Final figures and thoughts
I’d always rather a team spend well on defense than to not. Right now, FC Dallas is in a weird spot where they need to improve this portion of their roster after a rather dismal 2021 season that saw them give up goals in bunches far too many times to even count. The high figures for the veteran guys is going to be tough to get behind if they don’t find a way to be healthy and produce like we’ve seen them do in years past.
We know that the club will likely have a high draft pick in the SuperDraft, so I would expect them to fill some of the depth there this winter. We know the team has had a ton of success over the years in drafting defenders, so that seems like a logical place to find a cheaper talent that can be groomed. Along with that, maybe finding a quality defender through one of the league’s offseason drafts or through trade to add to the depth would be nice.
Outside of that, and given the salary cap restrictions for 2022, we may just need to see some of the younger guys continue to step up. Munjoma had his moments with the first team but also look good at times with North Texas SC. Seeing him progress would be a positive thing for the outside back depth. The same could be said for Smith, who spent all of 2021 with North Texas SC.
How do you see the defense shaping up in 2022? Can they actually improve under Estevez? Or will the age of some key players be too much to overcome at this time?