FC Dallas reasserts its status

Of Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (May 18, 2022) US Soccer Players – If the end of Major League Soccer’s 2021 regular season didn’t pose an existential crisis for FC Dallas, it raised questions that leaned in that direction. The club’s reputation as the best football talent developer in the country has been built through years of work. FC Dallas invested money and attention to create a structure that promoted players through its ranks. The club invested and built into its culture a willingness to give this young talent a chance with their first team. While this is no longer unique in MLS, FC Dallas remains a standard-bearer for its dedication to the cause of player development.

Proud of the ability to produce top professionals and serve the USMNT, a stated goal of Club President Dan Hunt. That did a lot to help the club’s owner weather the occasionally poor season. Throwing young players onto the pitch to better prepare them for their future as stars for club and country has of course brought growing pains. Sometimes those growing pains meant missing the playoffs. Or worse, ending up at the bottom of the overall standings.

There always had to be a moment when the fans didn’t accept more failure, kids or no kids. It didn’t help that the Philadelphia Union had appeared to have surpassed FC Dallas’ model, despite a commitment to similar development principles and a modest payroll. Philadelphia was a contender while Dallas struggled.

Head coach Luchi Gonzalez’s split in September 2021 was described by Hunt as trying to make a push for the playoffs. Although the club didn’t make it through the postseason, the move hinted at a renewed winning intent at Frisco. The club brought in USMNT assistant Nico Estevez, who brought a strong resume from his days in his native Spain and with Columbus Crew.

As attention turned to 2022, FC Dallas didn’t hesitate to make big roster changes. It traded a fortune in allotment funds for US international Paul Arriola. The signing of 19-year-old Argentinian forward Alan Velasco broke the club’s transfer record. The signal to the league and the future stars currently progressing through the academy that the club are ready to pay their best young talents when they signed USMNT striker Jesus Ferreira to a designated player deal. Ferreira is the first homegrown player in La Liga history to sign a DP deal with the club that developed him. It’s no surprise that it was Dallas FC that wrote this part of history.

Ferriera is the perfect focal point for the club’s new focus on winning. Nobody expects FC Dallas to change their priorities. Hunt’s consistent abstinence from the club’s academy and the number of big dollar transfers from Frisco suggest it would be bad for business. Retaining a player good enough to make the national team at 20 while making better use of player acquisition mechanics allows FC Dallas to remain true to themselves while improving their chances of trophies.

It takes both good work and luck to lead Ferreira and FC Dallas to this moment. The son of a former Dallas player comes through the academy and proves good enough to earn ‘franchise player’ status as the club shift to a more aggressive approach to winning.

“Jesus is getting better and better every year,” FCD technical director Andre Zanotta said in announcing Ferriera’s new contract. “It’s a World Cup year and he’ll be called up to the national team. It’s really exciting for us to see how he’s developing and how mature he is right now. It’s great to have Jesus here on a long-term basis and he deserves this new deal to be one of our designated players and carry the number 10 on his back.”

The decision is already paying off. With the help of new head coach Nico Estevez’s system and a move to the position of centre-forward, Ferreira makes the leap to stardom. Last year he put up good if not spectacular numbers: eight goals and nine assists in 27 games behind Ricardo Pepi.

Ferreira set a new career high for goals with nine to 11 games in 2022. That’s good enough to lead the league and put Ferreira in contention to win the first American Golden Boot since Chris Wondolowski in 2012. His goal per 90 minutes is behind only DC United’s Ola Kamara, although Ferreira has played 450 more minutes than Kamara and at least 100 more minutes than any other player in the top 9 in this category.

The additions of Velasco and Arriola have made Dallas a dynamic attacking team that keeps defenders on their toes. The club’s 3-1 win over Galaxy in California on Saturday resulted in three goals in the first 23 minutes of the game, two of which came from Ferreira. With the speed available on the wings, Ferreira will get his share of taps, like his first goal in LA.

The second goal, FC Dallas’s third, came from a loss of possession which FC Dallas used to force Ferreira behind a raised Galaxy defence. The young DP kept his composure, hitting Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond on the ball and putting the ball in the net. The record was a perfect summary of Ferreira’s season so far: he made everything he did look easy.

FC Dallas’ second goal came from Arriola, who looks invigorated by his move to Frisco. The USMNT winger’s qualities are well known, but an injury-riddled 2021 and the pressure of working under a first-year head coach at Hernan Losada dampened his performance. So far, Arriola has looked dynamic and dangerous at FC Dallas. The 27-year-old is leading a squad with a core of young players like Ferriera, Brandon Servania, Paxton Pomykal and others.

The consequence of Ferreira’s quick start, Arriola’s quick adjustment to Texas and the other positive signs for FC Dallas is that the team’s position in the table is nothing to nag about. Saturday’s win put FC Dallas in 2nd place in the Western Conference, just a point behind 1st place LAFC.

If a visit to Vancouver goes well on Wednesday night and the LAFC-Austin result isn’t a win for the Californians, FC Dallas could wake up Thursday morning as league leaders. It would be a well-deserved achievement built through a change in attitude at Frisco.

Of course nobody would party in Frisco. The season is long and nothing is guaranteed. It is also unlikely that they will make the playoffs. Still, for the first time in years, fans in North Texas have reason to believe their team hasn’t just had a good patch of the season. FC Dallas is a contender.

Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: matchfitusa@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Photo by Bill Barrett – ISIPhotos.com

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