2023 FC Dallas Player Recaps: Nkosi Tafari
Tafari emerged as the club's best defender and is inching his way into the conversation as one of the league's best defenders, too.
Our 2023 FC Dallas player recaps continue with defender Nkosi Tafari.
Going into the 2023 season, Tafari claimed he wanted to be in the discussion as one of the league’s best defenders. As the season wore on, it became clear that he was getting closer to that level as he finished with a career-high three goals and three assists and started a career-high 27 games.
When you look at a stat breakdown like this graphic above, you might think that Tafari is more of a midfield than a defender. His offensive numbers ended up putting him fifth in goals and fourth in assists. Again, for a center back, that is wild.
But his numbers are more than just the goals and assists. Tafari has emerged as one of the club’s better passers from the defensive side of the thing. He compliments Sebastien Ibeagha well in terms of clearances, blocks and tackles.
When he was scoring goals this season, it was largely late in games when the team needed a goal to tie a game (like the San Jose clip below) or go ahead (the game-winner against Austin).
What can we expect from him in 2024?
He didn’t quite find himself in the discussion for the league’s best defender in 2023, but he’s getting closer. If he can start more games, say 30-32 games (up from the 27 he started in 2023), continue to find goals and assists like he did this year, and continue to be a leader on the team, more people will take notice.
What will really set him apart, though, is finding himself on a national team camp in January. Those national team camps are big platforms for young defenders. Getting there is really the key. I think he’s earned that honor after this year.
I think if you are an opposing team fan, you hate a guy like Tafari. He’s physical, he doesn’t give a crap about your team, and he finds ways to annoy you and your team. As a FC Dallas follower, you love him. He does all the little things you want him to do and then some.
One other thing that has stuck out to me is how much he grew during the season. The biggest moment came after he was benched for a couple of games following the red card to Maarten Paes in St. Louis. His mistake on that play likely cost FC Dallas some points, and Nico Estevez put him on the bench for the next couple of games as a result. Some young players wouldn’t recover from that, but Tafari did and only got better as the season wrapped up.