FRISCO, Texas - The 2023 MLS season is still over a month away but FC Dallas' preseason is up and running in Frisco. As a fun exercise, I'm going to take a stab at plotting out FCD's depth chart before the club plays any preseason matches.
As a disclaimer, this chart is purely my own speculation based on last season and FCD's transfer movements so far. So, take it with a grain of salt. I'm also assuming head coach Nico Estévez sticks with his favored 4-3-3 formation. As of now, none of FCD's SuperDraft picks have been signed so I'm leaving them out for the time being.
Let's have some fun!
Barring any major surprises, Dallas' goalkeeping core is set for 2023. Presumed starter Maarten Paes had a fantastic debut season after joining Dallas from FC Utrecht one year ago. He's still only 24, has an extra year of experience and more familiarity with his backline, there's every reason to expect Paes to improve even more in 2023. Veteran Jimmy Maurer would be a starter on plenty of other MLS teams in my opinion and FCD is lucky to have him pushing Paes for the #1 spot. Nineteen-year-old Homegrown Antonio Carrera is a top tier prospect (who was just called up to the U-20 USMNT) and will serve as the team's third-choice shot-stopper, while also starting for North Texas SC in MLS NEXT Pro.
This is where it gets tough. Dallas had the best defensive record in the Western Conference last season but the departure of club legend Matt Hedges really shakes things up. Dallas added former LAFC defender Sebastien Ibeagha from free agency which, to me, is a savvy signing. Ibeagha performed well when called upon by the reigning MLS Cup champs, but will he step in and immediately fill the void? That remains to be seen. He'll be competing predominately with fourth-year CB Nkosi Tafari for a starting spot as the right center back alongside the left-footed José Martínez. If I had to guess, it's Tafari who has the advantage since he has two seasons playing alongside the Spaniard already. But Ibeagha has the pedigree and a full preseason to make his argument. Regardless, Tafari, Ibeagha and Martínez should all see plenty of playing time - especially with the addition of the Leagues Cup. Younger center backs Amet Korça and Homegrown Nolan Norris may see some minutes in the early round of the U.S. Open Cup but will definitely continue their development with North Texas SC.
I think FCD is in a great place with its current full backs. Marco Farfan was among the best left backs in MLS over 2022 and is still only 24. Second-year SuperDraft pick Isaiah Parker spent last season with North Texas SC while transitioning from left wing to left back. He's still young (20) but has all the tools to become an MLS-level starter. He's a great backup for Farfan and I'd expect him to make his first team debut this year. Parker may still see some time with North Texas, unless Nolan Norris (mentioned above) spends more time at LB instead of CB.
The right back position is a little murkier. Ema Twumasi battled loanee Nanu for the starting spot in 2022 and performed admirably. Dallas added Brazilian Geovane Jesus to challenge him and strengthen the position. Can Twumasi win another positional battle in back-to-back seasons? Again, time will tell. Geovane Jesus had his visa process delayed so will arrive late to preseason, which may give Twumasi the edge to start the year. FCD Academy product Collin Smith showed a lot of promise with North Texas in 2022 but he’s still just 18 and likely will continue his development in MLS NEXT Pro.
Dallas' midfield is one of the most exciting but contentious areas of its roster. Paxton Pomykal is really the only nailed-on starter. Sebastian Lletget arrived midway through 2022 and continued to prove he's one of the top midfielders in the league. He'll likely be the first-choice option next to Pomykal but Homegrown Brandon Servania has the talent to be a starter in his own right. There's also second-year SuperDraft pick Tsiki Ntsabeleng who made a great account of himself in his rookie year, often providing a spark off the bench. That group of four gives Estévez plenty of options for his two advanced midfielders.
Behind them is the bigger question: Defensive midfield. The role was filled by a combination of Homegrown Edwin Cerrillo and veteran Facundo Quignon. Cerrillo started 20 games last year while Quignon started 14 (he had a short-term injury midway through the year). But, importantly, Quignon was given the nod for both FCD's playoff games. In my mind, this is the most interesting positional battle heading into the new season.
The front line is one of the more settled areas of Dallas’ roster. The undisputed front three of Jesús Ferreira, Paul Arriola and Alan Velasco is among the best in the league. But there are some more questions behind them this year. The departures of Franco Jara, Beni Redzic and Kalil ElMedkhar this offseason give more opportunities for up-and-comers José Mulato and Bernard Kamungo (both signed from North Texas), as well as Jáder Obrian, who often featured as a super sub last year.