FRISCO, Texas – It’s only been two and a half weeks, but FC Dallas have already had a busy offseason.
Technical director Fernando Clavijo has made two trades and acquired one potential impact player, Maximiliano Urruti, along with a handful of picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
“I’m sad to see a quality individual and a quality goalkeeper leave the team. I thought it was a good thing for all the parties involved,” Clavijo told MLSsoccer.com. “We didn’t plan it that way when in the dispersal draft we picked him up. We have a very young goalkeeper that we didn’t know the direction it was going to go.”
Kennedy started 16 games for FC Dallas in 2015, posting a 7-5-4 record with five clean sheets and 30 saves. Most of his playing time came in the middle of the season, sandwiched between a late arrival after CBA negotiations and nagging injuries in his back and knee at the tail end of the year.
The injuries gave the Homegrown Gonzalez a chance to seize the job permanently – something the 20-year-old did by going 7-3-1 in 11 regular-season starts and playing a key role in FCD's run to the Western Conference Championship round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“He grabbed it, and now that’s the future of FC Dallas. Dan realized that – he knew that,” Clavijo said. “We had conversations, and it made sense for him and it made sense for us, where he wanted to be at the end of his career. At 32 or 33, he needed to play. We couldn’t offer that opportunity because Jesse has done well. So we tried to make a deal that was fair.”
Clavijo confirmed that Kennedy approached the club about a potential change of scenery, but didn’t hesitate to praise him on his exit. Clavijo said Kennedy played a huge role in Gonzalez’s development this season, referencing a couple of times when Kennedy would push the youngster when he became careless in training.
“He’s a quality individual. It’s sad to see him go because of that,” Clavijo said. “The leadership in the locker room was great. It’s hard to be positive and be a professional when a 20-year-old is in front of you playing the finals and the semifinals of the conference [playoffs] and not be able to participate. But he stayed in line as a true professional, great human being. I think it was a decision that benefits all the parties.”
When asked if he was concerned about sending a former MLS All-Star to an intra-conference rival, Clavijo dismissed the notion.
“If it wasn’t Kennedy, it was going to be somebody else. They’re going to always find a goalkeeper,” Clavijo said. “I think a professional like Dan Kennedy needed to be treated well. We had a couple of other teams interested in him. But at the time, the best situation for FC Dallas and for Dan was just to make the deal.”
While Kennedy’s move to LA yielded a second- and third-round draft pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, the most immediate impact is the salary-budget space freed up for FCD. Kennedy's departure could pave the way for Dallas to address one of several needs on the roster.
One of those could be a third ‘keeper to compete with Chris Seitz for the backup job, but Clavijo said the team would likely look for that in the draft. The most glaring hole, to many observers, is at the striker position.
Clavijo thinks he’s solved part of that puzzle with the addition of Urruti in Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft.
“Urruti gives us something we didn’t have a little bit in 2015. He’s somebody who has speed up front, is used to playing as the lone striker, is going to score some goals,” Clavijo said. “Players sometimes go to different teams and they really didn’t perform for whatever reason.
“I think bringing Urruti here, he’s going to perform, he’s happy to come to a different environment. He needed the change, and I think it’s going to help us get the goals we probably didn’t get this year.”
Dallas lost two strikers, declining the options of both Blas Perez and David Texeira after the season ended. So even with Urruti en route to Frisco and a handful of moves already made, Clavijo is only getting started with his quest to build a squad that can reach the MLS Cup.
“We’re not done yet, for sure,” Clavijo said. “We’re looking for strikers, we’re looking for help in the midfield, we’re looking for central defenders. So we’re not done at all. This is the beginning.”