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Building for 2023: Looking at the FC Dallas midfield

The midfield was a strength of the club in 2022, but can it be taken to the next level in 2023?

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a week since the second section of our annual roster-building series. Last week, we dove into the easy defensive situation for FC Dallas.

While last week’s assignment was tough, its going to get a whole lot more interesting today with a look at the club’s midfield.

Background information

For starters, I like to point out the salary cap: the 2022 season was at $4.9 million and will go up in a decent way to $5.12 million.

As most of you know, MLS teams can buy down a player's salary with allocation, either of the general or targeted variety. Those ‘Garber Bucks’ as some like to call them, help bring a player's salary cap hit down. In recent years, FC Dallas has received a lot of extra allocation from selling some of their Homegrown players to European teams.

Typically, returning players see an increase in their salary each year 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

A couple of weeks ago, FC Dallas made their end-of-year roster announcements. After the dust settled, the bulk of what made the club good in 2022 will remain on board for another season.

(Note: for these purposes, we’re using the MLSPA’s salary guide for positions, so while a couple of these guys may be more attacking-minded, they’re listed by the league as midfielders)

Only HGPs let go - The first thing you see when looking at what has left last year’s roster and what is going into 2023 is that only some back-end roster guys were let go. Gone are Nicky Hernandez, Beni Redzic and Thomas Roberts (you could also lump in Kalil ElMedhkar but he’s listed as a forward). Three HGPs that saw little to no action for Nico Estevez in 2022. For me, trimming that fat, if you will, is more about getting the right type of depth in these spots. I guess the bigger question is, who will fill these spots? More than likely, some draft picks will go here.

Who really steps up at #6? - Once again, we’ll have a positional battle on our hands between Facundo Quignon and Edwin Cerrillo. The two split time in 2022 as the starter for the club, with Quignon appearing a little more once the playoffs came. I’d still love to see the club go out and use the soon-to-be-open DP slot that Franco Jara is occupying at this position, but for now, it appears we’re locked into another season of these two trading time on the field.

Should the club find a new home for guys like Brandon Servania? - We all really thought that 2022 was going to be the year that he steps up and takes a big leap on the field. Instead, it felt like he regressed the more we saw him. Either he was picking up quick yellow cards (or sometimes double yellows) or taking some wild attempts on goal (a la Bryan Acosta). With Sebastian Lletget on the roster now for the long haul, it feels like Servania could be better served elsewhere than on the bench. As much as I hate seeing some HGPs go to other clubs in this league (we’re looking at you Kellyn Acosta), I can’t help but feel he’d finally progress professionally outside of Dallas.

Is the depth behind Arriola an issue? While the club really uses Arriola in a more advanced role (ie: his counterpart Alan Velasco is listed as a forward), you do wonder if the depth behind those two is good enough at the moment. The answer probably is no. Should Arriola (and Velasco for that matter) go out for an extended time, it could make matters dicey. Jader Obiran (another listed forward) is one option, but he’s probably a better late-game option than a starting option for an extended time.

The money

Here is what our guys made against the cap in 2022:

Brandon Servania - $455,833*

Facundo Quignon - $840,627

Paxton Pomykal - $700,000*

Tsiki Ntsabeleng - $65,500**

Sebastian Lletget - $1,023,750

Bernard Kamungo - $84,000**

Edwin Cerrillo - $145,000*

Paul Arriola - $1,130,000

Total midfield - $2,994,337

Total with defense & goalkeeping - $4,395320

* HGP salary does not count against the salary cap

** Supplemental roster player does not count against the salary cap

^ Generation adidas player does not count against the salary cap

Money moving forward

We know one thing is certain: the Lletget numbers will probably look a lot different in 2023 as the club reworked his contract when he signed an extension with the team this offseason.

We should also point out that the club will still be paying D.C. United some allocation money for Arriola in 2023. That doesn’t really go into the salary cap here, but it is worth pointing out.

Also, how the league and club truly handle the HGP numbers after their original deals are up is still a bit of a mystery. Still, looking at a section like this and realizing some things aren’t against the salary cap is nice. It's basically three expensive players and a bunch of guys that don’t count against the salary cap.

Final figures and thoughts

I think the club has come a long way in this area in terms of spending from the years when it was focused purely young transfers (think guys like Santiago Mosquera). FCD went out and snagged two in-prime midfielders in Arriola and Lletget in 2022, guys who can be the cornerstones of the roster for years to come. Not to mention two guys that truly want to be here. You love to see it.

I think the biggest concern I have in this area is surrounding the #6 role. I like both players, but I’m not sold on either as the everyday starter just yet. I would still love to see the club go after a guy that could be a Diego Chara type-figure for the team. A true midfield destroyer that takes the pressure of the defense behind him and also helps facilitate the attack in the middle of the park when necessary.

How do you think FC Dallas will handle their midfield group for 2023? Let’s discuss it below.