FC Dallas returned to the playoffs in 2022, but after a disappointing loss to Austin FC, the offseason has begun.
As we begin to dive into the offseason fun, let’s dive into three big questions we have for the club heading.
What can this group do to take the next step?
Let’s face it, year one of Nico Estevez was probably better than most of us expected. Not only did they have the biggest point increase from one year to the next in club history, Estevez showed he was the right choice for this position.
But where do we go next? Is this an MLS Cup contender yet? It weirdly doesn’t feel like they’re that far away right now. Maybe that is too optimistic here but I’m looking at how this team could use this playoff experience to their benefit as we get a busy 2023 calendar that has the US Open Cup, the Leagues’ Cup and all of the regular season as well.
Can/will they open up a Designated Player slot?
There are two options here to open up a DP slot this off-season. One via Franco Jara and buying out the remaining six months of his contract. The other is with what happens to Jesus Ferreira after the World Cup.
Let’s discuss the Jara one first, though. Normally an MLS contract runs from January to December. In recent years, however, there has been a growing number of June-to-June deals for players coming in from overseas or Mexico. If you recall, Jara came to the club in the summer of 2020 from Pachuca. Meaning his deal doesn’t end at the end of this season but instead will end next June.
FC Dallas does have a couple of options here, though, to open up that DP slot. One is the obvious contract buy-out teams are allowed to do once a year. The other is to find a way to buy down his DP slot with allocation for the six months of the 2023 season. My gut tells me they’ll like go with the ladder of the two options here and find some way to give a maximum senior-level contract instead of a TAM or DP-level.
Jara hasn’t been called to be ‘the guy’ this year in Dallas under Estevez. That has been fine for the most part, but it is super hard to stomach a 30-ish minute-a-game guy making over $2 million. If he could be a six-month senior contract guy, sure. I would take him back for those six months or even all of 2023 if he had a third of his current contract.
The other option is Ferreira being sold this winter after the World Cup. By all accounts, he should be on the roster for Qatar with the USMNT. Let’s say he starts two group games and a game or two in the knockout round, scores two goals, and helps contribute to another two. His value would likely be higher than it is now for FC Dallas to hold on to. Could he go for higher than Ricardo Pepi? Maybe, those World Cup values always tend to be crazy if a young player like this goes off on the world’s biggest stage.
That is a bigger ‘if’ in my mind than the club buying out Jara’s DP contract this winter. Either way, they’ll need to do something positive with this open slot like they did going into 2022 with Alan Velasco.
Has the Homegrown talent dried up for the time being?
Honestly, this could be a full post this off-season. But considering how FC Dallas hasn’t had a new Homegrown player emerge into a potential start for a couple of seasons now kind of says a thing or two about the talent pipeline. Yes, we’ve had Ferreira become an MVP candidate, Paxton Pomykal has been back to the levels we expected from him a few years ago as a teenager, and Edwin Cerrillo is proving to be a solid weekly starter.
But outside of those guys, the other HGPs on the roster haven’t made that same jump and, in some cases, have regressed. Brandon Servania feels like a likely trade candidate this winter, as his time feels limited now that Sebastian Lletget is on the roster. Eddie Munjoma never made that leap we hoped for out of SMU. Thomas Roberts has now failed to find the field under another head coach. Then there is a slew of North Texas SC guys that seem almost stuck on that level.
Beni Redzic is probably the one player I have the highest hopes for finding more minutes in 2023. Estevez showed a willingness to give him minutes and reward his hard work.
The era of this club signing 15 and 16-year-olds appears to be over for the time being. And that is okay. Unless a guy can contribute at that age, the club doesn’t need to waste roster spots on those kinds of projects when North Texas SC is there for them to get that professional experience.
Saying all of that, I still believe this team will still take a chance at some young academy guys this winter like they always do. We’re going to see more guys get deals that Colin Smith and Antonio Carrera keep them at NTSC for a season or two rather than ones that end up wasting away in the backend of the roster. Maybe the club will take a chance on Tarik Smith, Anthony Ramirez, or Nolan Norris this winter.