12.4 Thiago Santos DL

New Signing Thiago Santos Could Be the Player to Replace Carlos Gruezo in FC Dallas' Midfield

FRISCO, Texas—FC Dallas’ new midfield signing Thiago Santos could well be the player to fill the defensive midfield role vacated by Carlos Gruezo five months ago.

Signed from Palmeiras in Brazil’s first division, Santos helped anchor the club’s midfield for five seasons and contributed to two Brazilian championships in 2016 and 2018. The 30-year-old’s ball-winning and natural defensive awareness will bring a steely physical presence to FC Dallas’ midfield and add extra protection for its defense.

“Thiago has significant experience playing in Brazil,” FC Dallas Technical Director Andre Zanotta said. “He won two league title in the last four years with one of the major clubs in Brazil, so he brings all that experience to us.”

FC Dallas was left without a true defensive midfielder following the departure of Carlos Gruezo to FC Augsburg during last season’s summer transfer window. Record signing Bryan Acosta stepped in and performed admirably as a #6 for remainder of the season, but the added defensive duties stifled his playmaking ability. The addition of Santos allows Acosta to return to his natural box-to-box midfield role and contribute on both sides of the ball.

“We feel that we needed to add that position after the departure of Carlos Gruezo,” Zanotta added. “We were missing that piece (defensive midfielder) and I think Thiago – with the experience he has and his quality – he’ll be a fantastic fit for this club. He’s very physical and one of the top players in Brazil in terms of ball recovery, so we’re very excited to integrate him with the team, the club and the city.”

Santos’ arrival also gives Luchi Gonzalez more freedom to rotate. Midfielders in his high-energy system are asked to cover a lot of ground—both when pressing the opponent’s backline and when retreating on defense. Over a 34+ game season, midfield rotation will be a crucial element of Gonzalez’s management next year. Now with Santos, Acosta, Brandon Servania, Edwin Cerrillo, Jacori Hayes, Paxton Pomykal and Jesus Ferreira competing for midfield spots, Gonzalez has a variety of combinations to experiment with in 2020.