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MLS: Los Angeles FC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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Building 2023: Dear Departures

Demo Day comes to the 2022 version of FC Dallas – who stays and who goes?

Each offseason, the average MLS team will jettison players worth about 1/3rd of their minutes played in the prior year. FC Dallas, coming off a season ahead of schedule in the “new era,” must build on their success in 2022 to strengthen the group. That requires pruning.

In particular, that means rethinking how they use many of the deeper positions on the roster. FCD benefited from abnormal injury luck in 2022, which meant their depth was less tested than peers. With the Leagues Cup upcoming for 2023 and the US Open Cup, effective rotation will be required.

Here, I’ve compiled the contract situations for FCD heading into 2023. About 3/5ths of the roster is locked down for next year, and those that aren’t include quite a few players that played little of 2022. In this piece, we list the players we expect to leave the club this offseason: those who will see their loans end, those who are out-of-contract, and those we seek to transfer away. Speaking of…

First, let’s address The Cheetah in the room.

FC Dallas has carried the banner for MLS as the league builds its reputation as a seller in the global transfer market. In the past few years, like clockwork, FCD’s top young talents have left the club overseas: Carlos Gruezo, Reggie Cannon, Thomas Roberts, Bryan Reynolds, Dante Sealy, Justin Che, Tanner Tessmann, and finally, Ricardo Pepi, the second most expensive transfer in league history.

It’s only natural, then, to ask if the same thing could happen with FCD’s favored son, Jesus Ferreira. After all, there may come a time this winter when the value of Zeus’ services on the open market will be the highest it ever will be. He’s maybe assembled the most productive U22 career in MLS history, he’s coming off two years in a row of all-star play, and, barring injury, he may be about to lead the line for the US at a World Cup.

I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of the top outgoing transfers for attacking players in MLS history. Eyeballing it on club achievements, I’d put Ferreira somewhere in the Aaronson-Castellanos range (more/better club track record than Aaronson at an older age; less than Castellanos at a younger age).

Realistically, however, they will demand more (unless Jesus pushes for a transfer, and who knows if he will – he sure seems to like that #ranchlife). Ferreira is the most visible on-field face of the loudly proclaimed “New Era” of the club – he’s the homegrown co-captain and the son of a club legend. For a while, I’ve contended that FCD’s rebuild was targeted at the 2023 season. Selling your best player on the doorstep of that opportunity could send the message that, despite the slick marketing, it’s business as usual in Frisco. For 2023, I doubt there’s another club in the world that would value Ferreira’s services as much as FCD does.

Thus, for the purposes of the analysis that follows this section, we will assume that FC Dallas will keep Jesus for next year. That seems like the most likely scenario. However, for the sake of completeness, here are three possible Jesus Replacements in our usual Stretch/Target/Safe framework (scaled for DPs); the bold letters indicate our top pick.

STRETCH – Alexis Vega, Chivas Guadalajara

I know what you’re thinking. “Are you crazy?? This guy wore the #10 for the Mexican national team! He wears the #10 for one of the biggest clubs in Mexico! Why would he go to FC Dallas!?” The biggest reason? In a scenario where FCD needs to replace Ferreira, they have sold two STs in consecutive offseasons for millions of dollars to clubs in very big leagues (probably). Blow it out at FCD, and you will go to the top. Two? In this scenario, they just turned a hybrid attacker / non-traditional #9 into a huge asset. Not every club knows how to make their offense click with players like Ferreira or Vega leading the line. Anyway, he’s in the “Stretch” category – it’s not supposed to be a layup for Zanotta. You’d probably need to reinvest every penny of Ferreira’s transfer fee into Vega to get this deal done.

Honorable Mentions: Dante Vanzeir (Union St. Galloise), Mariano Diaz (Real Madrid), Shamar Nicholson (Spartak Moscow), Pedro Raul (Goias EC, on loan from Kashiwa Reysol)

TARGET – Facundo Bruera, Brown de Adrogue (though on loan with Nacional through Dec 31)

Think about him like the 2.0 version of PUMAS’ Juan Dinenno – he’s a big ol’ line-leader that has bounced around South America outside of the big two leagues (Argentina and Brazil). While Dinenno flourished in Ecuador and Colombia before going to Mexico in his mid-20s, Bruera has made his leap into the Argentine second division and in Paraguay. Since the beginning of 2021 (his age 22 season), Bruera has collected 40+ goals and assists in 5,000+ minutes. The key issue here? Nacional may have a buy-clause for their loan that would need to be worked around.

Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Ebobisse (San Jose Earthquakes), Ibrahima Koné (FC Lorient), Manfred Ugalde (Twente, on loan from Lommel SK – if it didn’t require canceling the Twente loan midseason, he’d be the pick), Abdul-Aziz Yakubu (Rio Ave FC)

SAFE – Romell Quioto, CF Montreal *cough* IMPACT *cough*

The Honduran hitman saw a career resurgence north of the border after his trade from Houston before the 2020 season. In 68 regular season games for Montreal, he has 46 goals and assists for a per-90 rate of 0.87, very competitive with the best in the league in that span. Because he’s older (31 as of August), Montreal may be willing to part with him for less than his production would suggest. Although he’s no Ferreira-esque “False 9”, Quioto does thrive in the open spaces Coach Estévez schemes up for his forwards and thus would represent a high-floor one-to-two-year solution for FCD. The defense would be a concern, though, for sure.

Honorable Mentions: Patryk Klimala (New York Red Bulls), Lucas Cavallini (Vancouver Whitecaps), Guy Mbenza (Al-Tai)

Okay, with Ferreira out of the way, here are the players I would suggest moving on from if I were FC Dallas.

End-of-Loans

Nanu, 28 years old – More on this when we talk defenders, but I think the front office had the right idea when they brought in Nanu on loan, but he was the wrong player. Expensive, aging, bizarrely terrible at delivering balls into the box, and far too profligate in possession to trust with real volume. He’s not as terrible as some think, but it became clear down the stretch that the coaches trusted Twumasi more.

Quiñonez, 21 – We didn’t get to see much of him in 2022. By far, his biggest moment was getting dunked on by Jordan Morris a few times in his one start in Seattle, but plenty of good MLS players have been dunked on by Morris. Would I be surprised or upset if FC Dallas decided to make his loan from Ecuador permanent? Not awfully, but I don’t think it’s the most likely outcome and assume he goes back to South America.

Out-of-Contracts

Franco Jara, 34 – FC Dallas gets one contract buyout per year, and for 2023 it should be used to close out the final six months of Jara’s contract, which ends in the Summer. While I am sensitive to those who want him to come back on a cut price deal, he just can’t be relied upon to give you 90 minutes at a high level. I’d prefer if his time as a player at FCD is over (but still hope he sticks around in some capacity), and freeing up his DP spot in the offseason would allow the club to bring in and benefit from a new DP six months sooner.

Thomas Roberts, 21 – We’re now going on three top-flight coaches that won’t play him (Luchi Gonzalez, Estévez, and Peter Pacault of Klagenfurt in Austria). It’s tough to say, but if he wants another shot, FCD should let some other club give it to him.

Kalil ElMedkhar, 23 – In 2022, he fell to fifth on the depth chart as a CM and fifth on the depth chart on the wing. Crucially, the coaching staff seems to rate the younger Beni Redzic more highly as a FW. He’s cheap, but there are better uses for ElMedkhar’s roster spot.

Nicky Hernandez, 24 – In his year on loan in San Antonio, Nicky fit right into SAFC’s (almost) anti-soccer style as a key rotational piece for one of the top teams in the league. In my mind, he’s one of the biggest misfits of Coach Estevez’s system compared to Luchi’s. At his age, I don’t think FCD should keep him around.

Lucas Bartlett, 25 – Speaking as someone who watched many NTSC games this season, Bartlett didn’t stand out from the teenagers down there (Amedume and Araneda in particular). Considering his age, it’s a tough sell to trigger his 2023 option.

Eddie Munjoma, 24 – He’s a local legend considering his success in the Academy and at SMU, but Eddie never forced his way into the rotation for FC Dallas, mainly because he struggled to meet the level defensively. At 24, if he wants it, he’s set up for a long career in USL at least.

Transfers / Trades

Facundo Quignon, 29 – I’m probably higher on him than a lot of the fanbase (he’s active defensively and adds a progressive element that Cerrillo doesn’t consistently have yet). Still, he’s an expensive, aging piece that is good in a lot of areas but not Excellent, and he got mostly benched by young Edwin down the stretch. FCD must get to Excellent this offseason. Quignon should still have transfer value in South America from his career down there.

Brandon Servania, 23 – He’s not a very young player anymore, and he probably isn’t going to start more than a few games in 2023 now that Sebastian Lletget’s in town and Tsiki was the revelation of the season. Since his breakout year in 2019, Servania has struggled to stand out for more than a few games at a time. At ~$450k, he’s getting paid like a bigger part of the roster, which means burying him can be painful via opportunity cost. If I were FC Dallas, I would trade him for the biggest package possible or the best player available this offseason (versatile, good, domestic midfielders are always in demand). We will consider a few in-league moves in this series – you should think of Servania as a possible piece of those trades.

Our Blank Slate Roster

So here’s where we end up. Cutting those players opens up ~$5.6 million in salary, ~$2.4 million in cap space, $300k in GAM, four international slots (leaving three open for 2023), and a DP spot. That doesn’t count whatever FC Dallas might recoup in the sales of Servania and Quignon. Besides all that, FCD goes into the building portion of our thought exercise with three U22 initiative spots available.

Now comes the fun part: let’s find some players.

Big D Daily: News for Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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