Editorial (December 15, 2017) – The 2017 MLS off-season has kicked off with a bang, not even one week since MLS Cup 2017. The Expansion Draft, free agency, and contract negotiations are all well underway. It’s an exciting and frantic time of year where just about anything can happen. The FC Dallas edition of off-season 2017 has, as it usually does, started off slow and full of questions.
MLS Off-Season 2017 – FC Dallas Edition
FC Dallas are coming off one of the worst, if not the worst, collapses in MLS history. One year removed from winning both the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporter’s Shield, Dallas were poised and picked to make a strong run at a treble in 2017. Injuries, national team duty, and just about anything else prevented that from happening. As we are now in the full swing of off-season, rumor was that FC Dallas would be unloading the majority of their roster. Several FC Dallas personnel were reporting that the team would be dropping 10 players from the roster; basically starting with a clean slate of Homegrown players and potential new signings.
We quickly knew, via Twitter, of the protected and unprotected players entering the Expansion Draft for Los Angeles FC. We also quickly became aware, via Twitter again, that long-time defender Atiba Harris would be leaving the Dallas side for good. Christ Seitz, who has long served the Dallas side as goalkeeper and a fan favorite, was also listed as an unprotected player and free agent. Javier Morales, playing the Mauro Rosales role for Dallas in 2017, was also listed alongside Seitz and Harris. The Expansion Draft came and went in the blink of a mid-afternoon eye, and no FC Dallas players were chosen.
It quickly became clear that Dallas were wanting to move ahead with youth. FC Dallas President Dan Hunt reiterated this in multiple interviews, stating the club would be looking to get back to one of the strongest youth programs in the nation for talent. And rightfully so – with the likes of Paxton Pomykal, Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira, and so many more coming up through the ranks, ready for their chance at the spotlight.
Throughout the majority of the season, forward Maxi Urruti was linked with rumors of leaving. The Argentine striker has worked vigorously for Dallas since his arrival from Portland, but the frustration has been evident the past year and a half. Realizing the missing talent alongside him during matches, Maxi would often find himself going up against entire defenses at a chance for goal. Christian Colman was brought in to lighten the load for Maxi, but the Paraguayan has failed to deliver. As a result, the rumors picked up steam. Midway in the season, both Maxi and Michael Barrios were linked with a move to Rosario Central of Argentina. It almost seemed like it would happen, but thankfully it fell through.
Rumors would continue to swirl throughout the season, and have intensified since. It seems too good to be true that Dallas would hang on to one of their best players in the last few years. Now more recently, stories out of Europe reporting Red Star Belgrade may be interested in the striker. At this point, it’s more of when he will leave rather than if.
Mauro Diaz – The Unicorn
By far, FC Dallas’ key ingredient to success has been Mauro Diaz. When healthy, the young Argentine #10 has created magical moments for the Dallas side, hence one of his many nicknames “The Unicorn.” The entire league, and most parts of the world who’ve seen MLS, recognize the brilliance of the 26 year old. Injuries have played a vital role in his development over the past few years, and his strength and endurance have come into question. Some argue that maybe he is too fragile for the MLS game and Dallas would be better off elsewhere. But it cannot be ignored that Diaz has a long way to go in his career. He’s just now coming into his prime. Off-season reporters speak about how the couple of weeks after the regular season ended, Diaz was seen working mainly on strength and endurance. He has never lost the ability to be a star in this league. Even when injured his magic still shined on the field. And still being under the age of 30, a healthy Diaz is a strong ace to have.
Dallas will look to right their wrongs from 2017. A disastrous year in which so many things went wrong – and never corrected. The Hall of Fame construction at the stadium has served as a mini-buffer to what transpired last season for Dallas, and could possibly end up being what Dallas needed: a catalyst. Technical Director Fernando Clavijo is known to find diamonds in the rough. He has already made trips to South America, and most recently Germany. He will certainly be looking to find what Colman was supposed to be: the ultimate No. 9 striker. Colman has only been in MLS for one season, and could (hopefully) prove me very wrong. But if his first season was any indication, his contract could be one of the worst signings in Dallas history.
Dallas’ second objective has to be finding a true back-up/replacement for Diaz. The team cannot afford another injury to him without a viable replacement. Players were and have been there to fill in, but no one came close to filling the void Diaz left when he was sidelined. Not just a replacement, but a midfield partner for Diaz to really feel comfortable with must be found.
Dallas’ name has not been on the radar for MLS. So many other teams are making moves left and right, leaving Dallas fans worried. The 2018 MLS Cup is looking awful bleak right now for a team destined to hoist it.