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Building for 2023: Looking at the FC Dallas defense

Will Matt Hedges return? Will the group improve even more in 2023? Let’s dive in.

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

It has been a week since the first section of our annual roster-building series. Last week, we dove into the easy goalkeeper situation for FC Dallas. Today gets a little tougher as we dive into the defense that was the best in the Western Conference in 2022.

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 and we were left with some familiar faces and one giant hole to fill.

Will Hedges return? We have to start here with Matt Hedges. His option was declined as the club didn’t want to foot the bill for a $1 million-plus defender for one season in 2023. So far, Hedges has been courted by a couple of Eastern Conference teams. Knowing how Hedges is, I could see him landing with a club in the East instead of staying with a Western Conference team that isn’t FC Dallas. But as Aaron Long is getting courted by a decent chunk of the league right now, we may have to wait on Long to sign somewhere before we see Hedges sign. Long will set the market; Hedges will come in somewhere below that.

If not Hedges, then who? Yeah, should Hedges sign elsewhere, it may be the time of the Jose Martinez-Nkosi Tafari duo in the Dallas defense. Honestly, that wouldn’t be terrible. Many of us have wanted Tafari to get a chance as an everyday starter. But the depth behind the duo must be filled through free agency or the SuperDraft in late December. I’d love to think Andres Zanotta could land a quality center back in the transfer market this winter, but I don’t believe he’s shown enough in his scouting talent in the defensive side just yet to make me feel confident here.

Will the RB situation get fixed? Nanu certainly wasn’t it in 2022. Ema Twumasi kind was it, but he also kind of wasn’t it. Could it be former FCD HGP Bryan Reynolds? Doubtful. That rumor felt shaky at best. Reggie Cannon? Yeah, I think that bridge has been burnt on him returning to FCD any time soon. So then, who? Maybe it is time to give HGP defender Colin Smith a chance. Or maybe getting Justin Che back could be the magic fix. There are options here but finding the right one that fills that need is going to be key this winter.

The money

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

Ema Twumasi - $309,300**

Nkosi Tafari - $197,950**

Colin Smith - $93,000*

Isaiah Parker - $77,500^

Jose Martinez - $723,000

Marco Farfan - $225,000**

Justin Che - $109,209*

Total defense - $910,950

Total with goalkeeping - $1,400,983

* HGP salary does not count against the salary cap

** Supplemental roster does not count against salary cap

^ Generation adidas player does not count against the salary cap

Money moving forward

As we’ve discussed, we should expect some modest bumps in salaries across the board for 2023. How the club pays down salary through allocation isn’t really factored in here, either. The one guy that would require some allocation to help offset their salary is Martinez. Hedges would certainly join Martinez if he does re-sign with the club for 2023.

Final figures and thoughts

Right now, the depth is lacking in this area, including Hedges. If he re-signs, there is still the need for a center back to go with either Tafari or Martinez on the bench. If he doesn’t re-sign, then the club needs at least two center backs this winter. The right-back situation is still a bit dicey right now too. A lot of questions in that area that I covered above. If that gets solved and the depth in the middle gets solved, this group could easily improve on the one that was the best in Western Conference in 2022. If none of that is solved, or only one part gets solved, I imagine we’ll see this group regress a bit in 2023.

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