After the loss in Vancouver this weekend (and some other results around the league), FC Dallas’ odds of making the playoffs this season fell to 2% from 4%, per 538. Although the club may not (and, to be fair, cannot) have started looking past the post-season to next year, I have. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if they somehow slip in the backdoor of the playoffs, but in the meantime, I’ll be watching for individual performances and thinking about how FC Dallas can rebound in 2022.
Recently, FCD’s performances have been poorer in defense than attack. However, I, like most, chalk that up more to the carousel of injuries back there than to some fundamental deficiency in the roster. Keep some combo of Ema Twumasi, Matt Hedges, Jose Martinez, Nkosi Tafari, Ryan Hollingshead, and Jimmy Maurer healthy and the defense will sort itself out.
On the other hand, with a fun new wad of transfer cash on hand, FC Dallas has the opportunity to parlay this year’s prolific offense into a much higher attacking floor for years to come. The biggest part of that plan will be finding new, high-level starters at ST and on the wing, but today I will propose two relatively cheap, lower-profile moves that will substantially improve FCD’s chances of fielding a quality attack into the middle of the decade.
TRADE 1: BRANDON SERVANIA TO NASHVILLE FOR DANIEL RIOS AND EXTRAS
Premise 1: FCD will be in need of strikers for 2022
- Ricardo Pepi will probably leave this offseason for many millions of dollars;
- Franco Jara is old, and, while details of his deal were never made public, 2022 may be his third and final guaranteed year;
- Jesus Ferreira has turned out to be a very nicely productive player in a #10ish position, which means that, while FCD could move him to ST next season, it may not be optimal;
- Those three points mean there is only one, aged option at ST for 2022 prior to any additions;
- Are other additions likely?
- If Pepi leaves, FCD should absolutely buy a DP ST;
- This guy Gabriel that NTSC signed on loan from Portugal got into Eric Quill’s graces very quickly, but seems to have fallen down the pecking order a bit;
- While FC Dallas has gotten by with only two strikers in 2021, you really shouldn’t bank on perfect health at such an important position; they must roster three #9s.
Premise 2: FCD will have a surplus of CMs again
- Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo will be back at the very least;
- Bryan Acosta, though at the end of his third year with FCD, seems like a prime candidate to be re-signed to a TAM deal to open up a DP slot and keep playing for the club for another few years; a mid-six-figures contract for a player who I rate as an above-average MLS CM who’s also apparently a good guy in the locker room is totally reasonable, in my humble opinion;
- Paxton Pomykal should absolutely be moved back into the middle too;
- Twumasi is making a strong case for a new contract as a utility guy, and he’s shown he’s more than capable cover in midfield on several occasions;
- For 2022, then, in my opinion, Servania would be:
- Third-string in the more progressive deep midfield role behind Acosta and Pomykal; and
- Reasonably expensive (~$250k annually) for someone who wouldn’t play much outside of injury crises or hefty international windows;
- Maybe you can sign someone like Blaine Ferri on a minimum deal if you need deep midfield depth - find 90% of Servania for 40% of the cost.
Premise 3: Nashville SC will have a surplus of strikers
- At the very least in 2022, they’ll have:
- CJ Sapong, coming off the back of a very nice little season where he’s been a top scorer league-wide;
- And Ake Loba, a new DP from Liga MX;
- It’s also possible they’ll have Jhonder Cadiz, another DP who has also been very good in more limited minutes, and for whom Nashville has a buy-option on a loan ending this year;
- Daniel Rios, despite producing quite a bit in his few opportunities, would be fourth-favored for a team that normally uses one striker at a time.
Premise 4: Nashville has need of long-term signings at CM
- Dax McCarty is 34 and has played a ton of minutes for them in 2021;
- Anibal Godoy is 31 and has played a ton of minutes for them in 2021;
- Brian Anunga is 26 and their primary backup for that spot;
- The only other name on the CM depth chart is Matt LaGrassa, 28, who they took up from USL to MLS with them and has played about 800 minutes over the club’s first two years.
Premise 5: Daniel Rios is good, and similar to recent FCD strikers
- You may remember Daniel Rios, 26, as the other unknown to pop up with all the MVPs and Golden Boot winners when I looked at Pepi’s game last winter;
- Before moving up to MLS with Nashville, he was a two-time 20-goal-scorer in USL with two different clubs;
- He’s from Mexico (a former MEX YNT regular) and he holds a green card, so he won’t take an international slot;
- When his team has the ball, he closely resembles the FCD model for a striker from recent years, with all of Kobra, Jara, and Pepi popping up as close comparables per FBref: big, physical, and good at finding service in the box;
- With the ball, the stats leave little doubt that Rios is a starter-level MLS player, of quality similar to late-2019 Kobra;
- One key question: Nashville asks different things of its strikers defensively than FCD, but Rios is not super active defensively – can he do more to work inside of FCD’s press?
Premise 6: Servania is good and might offer a nice balance to Anunga for the next-gen Nashville midfield
- Don’t forget that Servania was a key player for the US U20s in 2019 and stabilized the FCD midfield in late 2019; although injuries made him a non-factor in 2020, his play on-loan in Austria earlier this year re-established his ability to make a difference in new environments;
- Servania’s key trait is his roundedness: he’s fine at basically everything at an MLS level; the crucial exception to that rule is his facility inside the opposition’s box; he’s unbelievable at timing his runs to find service and strikes the ball hard and true;
- That said, he’s not necessarily the volume passer that McCarty and Godoy are; in fact, his off-ball movement to open space for his teammates is a strength; I think he can be an MLS-level metronome, but would have to grow into that role (and having a season or two to learn from McCarty and Godoy would help with that);
- Alongside a destroyer like Anunga, Servania becomes an intriguing long-term piece for Nashville’s future in MLS.
In conclusion, this offseason I suggest the following:
Nashville gets: Servania (22) to support the twilight years of their bedrock midfield duo and to seed the beginning of the next gen.
FC Dallas gets: Daniel Rios (26) to spend his prime as a high-quality backup ST, stabilizing a problem position for FCD in the medium-term. FCD also gets $350k in GAM or an international slot or something as a makeweight. They also find a good landing spot for a HG deep on their roster, and it’s not a Western Conference team so it’s unlikely to come back to bite them directly.
Ideally, the 2022 FCD ST depth chart looks like (1) new DP, (2,3) Jara and Rios, and the 2023 depth chart looks like (1) new DP, (2) Rios, and (3) [insert prospect, either Gabriel or one of the Academy guys: Pickering, Scott, Vargas, Padilla, Miller, etc.]. Rios raises the floor of that position for FCD through 2025 or so.
Both Rios and Servania have a single year left on their contracts, so both would have to earn longer-term extensions with their new clubs, but I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t think they would.
Could this still work if you wanted to get rid of Acosta instead of Servania? Sure, but likely without the add-ons given Acosta’s age and wage demands relative to Servania.
TRADE 2: GIVE UP SOME GAM TO BRING JARED STROUD UP FROM AUSTIN
Premise 1: FCD will need more starter-quality depth on the wings
- Freddy Vargas probably won’t be back;
- Having seen him play to start the year with FCD and with NTSC, I maintain that Vargas is everything he was billed to be as an on-ball danger-man, but the light never came on in the other parts of his game; if you think that it will, keep him;
- Pomykal had to play a lot of winger in 2021 in part because FCD lacked quality there; allowing him to move back into midfield is a key goal this offseason;
- A new DP will probably be brought in;
- That leaves the DP, Obrian, and Schön as bodies you trust in the rotation for next year; if ElMedkhar or Redzic play their way to that level, great, but you can’t rely on it;
- So, if FCD wants to be two-deep on both wings with starter-quality players, they will need another winger.
Premise 2: FCD will need starter-quality depth at the #10
- Jesus Ferreira’s play in the hole behind Pepi has been a revelation - he may be getting more call-ups from the USMNT during the 2022 season;
- Even if Andres Ricaurte’s loan is made permanent at the end of the year, he’s best used as a Gregus- or Joao-Paulo-esque deep distributor; his service into the box is fantastic but his performance in and around the box isn’t;
- “Tricky” Nicky Hernandez, for all the super fun things he’s doing at NTSC, should not be the only devoted depth at the 10 on the roster; Pomykal and Servania can both deputize in that spot, but we’re trading Servania for Rios and Pomykal is much better further back in midfield;
- So, FC Dallas needs another body who can spell Ferreira when he’s injured or away.
Premise 3: Jared Stroud is an MLS starter-quality winger and #10
- Stroud is a 25-year-old attacker who came up as a standout through the NYRB youth system and Colgate University before starring with the Baby Bulls in USL-C to the tune of 22 goals and 19 assists across two seasons when he served as the sometimes captain;
- NYRB elevated him to MLS before 2020, he played 1,000 good minutes in the pandemic-shortened season, and then was expansion-drafted to ATX, where he put up similar underlying numbers as at NYRB;
- Coming from NYRB, he’s obviously a smart and effective defender, but he also has consistently created danger for his two stylistically polar-opposite MLS teams, accruing xG and xA at rates very much in line with Obrian and Schön;
- In his professional career, he has played tons of minutes as both a winger and an attacking midfielder, with little difference in performance between each;
- Stroud is also on an MLS-minimum contract, making less than $100k annually, great value for any attacker worth minutes.
Premise 4: Austin FC has signed players over him, bumping him out of the rotation
- Prior to July 4, Stroud started 10 of 13 possible games for ATX and played about 700’; since, he’s started two of 13 possible games and only played about 200’;
- In July, ATX added two multi-million-dollar attackers in Moussa Djitte and (more importantly) Sebastian Driussi, who have mostly pushed Stroud out of the lineup and the rotation;
- Between those two, Dominguez, and Redes, ATX has far more invested in its other attacking options than Stroud, and would likely be willing to part with him.
In conclusion this offseason I suggest the following:
Austin gets: $100-300k in GAM.
FC Dallas gets: Jared Stroud (25) to serve as a rotation winger and second #10. He would average 700-1,500 minutes a season for FCD through 2026.