2012 in Review: Q&A with FC Dallas TD Fernando Clavijo
Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 9-13-12 (39 points); 42 GF / 47 GA (-5 GD)
Fernando Clavijo was hired as FC Dallas technical director just days before the start of the 2012 MLS season, but with a roster basically already in place and little in the way of salary cap space, there wasn’t a whole lot the traditional wheeler-and-dealer could do to put his mark on the team.
The 2013 season will be a different story, however, as Clavijo has already made trips to South America and Europe with signings rumored to be imminent. MLSsoccer.com sat down with Clavijo to discuss a number of topics with an eye toward next season
MLSsoccer.com: This is your first offseason with the team. Do you feel like now is when you can really begin to start putting your mark on the club?
Clavijo: Yes, of course. I think my mark is going to be right now working with the coach and the coaching staff to identify players and try to fit them under the cap, there’s no question about it. At the same time, during the season I thought we made some moves without much resources that helped the team. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, but I want to go back to Julian de Guzman and what we did with him. I thought it was a very good movement in the middle of the season with no cap space or any room.
WATCH: Best of FCD's Fabián Castillo
MLSsoccer.com: How much wiggle room do you have with the cap compared to the summer?
Clavijo: We have definitely changed a little bit with some of the players we haven’t exercised their options and then we did with some of the other ones. We have a little more room, there’s no question about it. We’re being creative in the new ways that the league allows us to keep some players and deal with new players. We have the allocation for not making the playoffs, so we definitely have a little bit of room right now to improve this team.
MLSsoccer.com: You said about six weeks ago that you wanted to have everyone you planned on signing in by the start of preseason on Jan. 17. Is that something that is still on track? Have you entered into advanced talks with new signings?
Clavijo: Yes, they are very close to happening. We’re moving and we’re very close. One thing I did, I put preseason [as my goal for having signings in], but I set a goal for myself of Dec. 15 to try to nail things down and the league is helping us, the ownership is helping us to make sure we can come up with those names.
WATCH: Best of FCD's Matt Hedges
We are close, and as we go into preseason, we will have already, I hope, a good group of players that are going to make this team better. Then the last few tweaks here and there will be when the coaches start looking at the team and seeing how they’re working together. Right now, everything is in place to really fulfill the dream to have everyone in place by the start of preseason. I don’t see why not.
MLSsoccer.com: Are the players you’re trying to sign guys who can have a big impact or more depth signings?
Clavijo: No, I think the players are difference makers in every position that we identified as a need. Again, some of them take a little bit longer than others and some of them may still be under contract, so it may take a little bit longer to get them. For most of the rest of the world, contracts end in July, so it becomes a little bit of an issue trying to get them out before the end of the season for some of them and trying to exercise our relationship with some teams to make it happen. I think we are way ahead on many things, so hopefully by January 17 we have everybody here and I’m really excited to see that part happening.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve got two picks in the top 20 of the draft as well as one of the top-rated senior defenders in London Woodberry of Maryland available as a Homegrown signing. Are you planning to be big players in the draft this year?
Clavijo: I think it’s going to be big. I think this is the time to really be creative and the draft this year is going to be extremely important for us. You talked about a Homegrown player who is playing already coming out, we have to somehow figure out a way to get him. No question about it. He’s a Homegrown player who decided to go to college and is coming out. I do believe we may have an opportunity with him.
WATCH: Best of FCD's David Ferreira
Then, with the seven and 20th picks, we should be able to make an impact. And there are some positions on the field we need to cover. We have some spaces on the field that we’re not really balanced yet. We’re still strong as some positions and weak at others.
MLSsoccer.com: Is the toughest thing for you finding ways to add quality depth? When healthy, the starting XI for FC Dallas is really strong, but depth seems to be where the team has suffered.
Clavijo: Yes, it is very difficult. We look sometimes that we made some mistakes in the past, and I don’t look at it that way. We tried something and it didn’t work. That’s soccer. Look at Real Madrid, who invest in 40 players and 22 don’t work. Barcelona is the same thing: they bring them in, play them, it doesn’t work, they throw them out.
We don’t have that room to make those kinds of mistakes, but again we made some decisions that didn’t work well with some of the younger players coming out of the academy. They were not prepared. I don’t think they were not good enough, it’s just that they were not prepared to make the jump. The space that we had from the acdemy to the pros was too big for some to make an impact and we have corrected that.
MLSsoccer.com: How have you corrected it?
Clavijo: I think one of the things it is and the biggest concern in my regard is, you can say that you are the best player in the academy and I may have to agree with it. The best player in the academy can’t necessarily go pro. That’s a fact. Are you good in the academy because you’re bigger than everyone else, you’re quicker than everyone else and in many other things?
Now, when you go to the pros, people are bigger than you and faster than you, so if you don’t react and adapt quicker, then you’re not going to be that player anymore. You’re coming in at a low level and you need to get to a higher level. If you can’t get there…you become a player that becomes a liability and that’s a problem. You’re playing the same level as a guy that may be just coming out of college, but you’re making three or four times more than that player who comes out of college.
WATCH: Best of FCD's Brek Shea
MLSsoccer.com: How active are FC Dallas in trade talks with other teams?
Clavijo: We are open, but I think we’ve identified a group of our players that we’re not willing to do anything with and usually those players are the ones that everyone is asking for. Unless it’s something really open, the coaching staff and ownership are very clear that when you identify players and you’re making an improvement on players it’s only a matter of time.
When Fabián Castillo came here, he was a little unprofessional in his first year, much better in his second year and the third year is only going to get better. There’s only one way for him to go, so I think we need to give time for some of those players. Trading them would make absolutely no sense unless it’s something you can’t say no. Right now we don’t have any of those kinds of trades and right now we’re not looking to move any players on our team. We are happy to entertain offers, but we are not really looking to trade anybody right now.