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Taking an Early Look at the 2017 FC Dallas Roster

FC Dallas took their first steps toward 2017 today when the club exercised 10 player contract options, with another 10 players already under contract for the new year. Let’s take a look at how the roster shapes up heading into the offseason:

GOALKEEPERS

Returning: Chris Seitz and Jesse Gonzalez

Out of Contract: Ryan Herman

The Veteran and the Homegrown are both officially under contract for 2017 and that’s a very good thing for FCD. It was said many times during the year that Jesse Gonzalez is a future star for this club and Chris Seitz simply played his was into a starting role, and held onto that starting role after many years as a No. 2 or No. 3. There’s no doubt that either is a viable option in goal and the competition has just proven to make both even better.

As for Ryan Herman, the first round pick last year simply couldn’t crack the aforementioned position above him. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep one young prospect around with another young player still developing into a starter. Herman is still a young player one year removed from school and the future is still bright for the 6-foot, 7-inch keeper. He’ll be best-served getting consistent minutes elsewhere, whether MLS or at a lower level.

DEFENDERS

Returning: Matt Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, Maynor Figueroa, Aaron Guillen, Ryan Hollingshead and Moises Hernandez

Out of Contract: Atiba Harris, Zach Loyd, Aubrey David and Norberto Paparatto

It’s an enviable position to have arguably the best center back tandem in MLS locked up for next year, building your back line around the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Hedges, and one who emerged as a star in 2016 and finished 4th in that award, Walker Zimmerman. On the wings, Maynor Figueroa really emerged as a big threat down the left as the season wore on – something that should continue heading into a second season.

Atiba Harris and Zach Loyd are out of contract, two big names for the club in recent years, but it not outside the realm of possibility that one, or even both, return in 2017. Digging deeper into the defense, Ryan Hollingshead, who played quite literally everywhere on the field last season, emerges as an easy early slot-in on the right side (and why he’s listed with defenders and not midfielders for the sake of early analysis). Aaron Guillen saw some meaningful minutes early in 2016 and the rookie will only continue to develop in his second season, also an option outside. Moises Hernandez spent the entire year out on loan with Rayo OKC, but should have a fair chance in preseason to prove he’s ready to return to the first team.

Aubrey David (on loan) and Norberto Paparatto were positive depth options for the numerous games in 2017, but both were late-season additions who never really forced their way into Oscar Pareja’s lineup. And you can bet that Fernando Clavijo will be looking to bolster the back line this offseason. This is simply a starting point for the 2017 roster (there’s a very promising Homegrown product who just finished a stellar rookie campaign at UCLA who could be a nice addition).

MIDFIELDERS

Returning: Kellyn Acosta, Michael Barrios, Mauro Diaz, Carlos Gruezo, Victor Ulloa, Coy Craft, Timo Pitter and Paxton Pomykal

Out of Contract: Mauro Rosales, Carlos Lizarazo and Juan Esteban Ortiz

Again, the returning midfield depth is strong for FCD. Obviously the biggest question is who fills in for Mauro Diaz during the first half of the year. Fellow-Argentine Mauro Rosales filled that role at times in 2016, and although the option on his contract was not picked up, there is a very real possibility out there that he could return. In conversations with Clavijo, the club is working on filling that hole, either Rosales or otherwise, but someone with experience who can step into CCL play in just over three months. There’s also the promising 16-year-old playmaker in Paxton Pomykal that, although likely not a long-term solution at this stage in his career, you’d love to see what he can do if given an opportunity. No doubt the No. 10 role will be the big conversation over the next six months.

Beyond that, it’s business as usual for Pareja. You’ve got the stellar D-Mid trio of Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo and Victor Ulloa, a standout winger in Michael Barrios and youngsters in Coy Craft and Timo Pitter who benefited from big minutes in OKC last season. There is a focus in the offseason for Clavijo to find a speedy winger to occupy the role opposite of Barrios, but Craft, Pomykal and Ryan Hollingshead (who finished the year there) will have their chances to claim an outside spot as well in 2017.

As for Carlos Lizarazo and Juan Ortiz, with the additions of Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira and potential other offseason moves in the midfield, neither were a viable option heading into 2017. MLS rosters are only so deep.

FORWARDS

Returning: Maxi Urruti, Tesho Akindele, Colin Bonner and Jesus Ferreira

Out of Contract: Getterson and Carlos Ruiz

For as much as the conversation in the early part of the season focused on securing a true No. 9, Maxi Urruti had a very strong season in Dallas (remember: the team never lost when he scored or assisted a goal). Yes, you always want someone who’s going to score 20 goals, but Oscar Pareja’s biggest focus up top was improving the confidence and chip on the shoulder of his top striker. That started to manifest itself over the second half of 2016 and could be a big step going forward in 2017. You’ve also got Tesho Akindele who finished 3rd in team scoring despite starting only 15 games.

Add in another big body like rookie Colin Bonner, who also had a great finish to the year in OKC, and newest Homegrown Jesus Ferreira, who has lit up the Academy ranks over the last two years, and there are plenty of options for Pareja to build on. I think you’re still looking at trying to secure another big threat up top, but it’s hard to say Dallas is in a bad position up top. Don’t rule out another young forward addition either.

Carlos Ruiz did exactly what he was signed to do: score a big goal in a crucial moment (one that ended up clinching the Supporters’ Shield for Dallas). But at the end of the day, it was a last go-round for a legend. The 37-year-old has said he wants to move into a leadership role for soccer in his native Guatemala, and he likely closed out his career with some silverware. Getterson was another mid-season addition who just never could find his role in the Dallas attack. The Brazilian played some meaningful minutes, but just couldn’t find the back of the net – no matter how incredibly close he came during  the second CCL group stage match in Frisco. 

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