As the 2021 MLS season draws to a close, clubs trickle over the line of being mathematically eliminated from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Though games remain, focus shifts to the offseason and what's next.
Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club. Read that, too.
He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.
After two Audi MLS Cup Playoff trips under head coach Luchi Gonzalez, 2021 didn't produce the continued ascent FC Dallas and their supporters had hoped for.
The wheels fell off over the summer and it ultimately cost Gonzalez his job, with the club parting ways in September. Dallas will finish far below the playoff line this go-around, taking up the bottom tier of the Western Conference with their fellow Texas rivals Austin FC and Houston Dynamo FC.
It wasn't all bad, of course. Ricardo Pepi exploded from top prospect to US men's national team starter to potential record transfer. Jesus Ferreira had a strong bounceback season and, as has been the case for years, more young players stepped up as the academy continues to churn out talent.
The high-priced imports haven't always held up their end of the equation, though, and Dallas head into a transformational winter.
The No. 1 question around FC Dallas, the one most asked and most frequently googled, has to do with Ricardo Pepi's future.
Pepi is on the radar of all big European teams. He's wanted by (insert emoji of European flag here). Repeat for like eight countries. Alarm emoji, eyes emoji, alarm emoji, eyes emoji.
Bayern Munich. Ajax. Dortmund. Wolfsburg. Etc. etc. etc., the list goes on. It'll be quite the saga this winter.
Dallas would love to keep him for another season, though it seems overwhelmingly likely a compelling offer is going to arrive this winter. FCD are in a strong spot: He signed a contract extension through 2026 just this past July.
In speaking with a number of scouts and GMs across the league, the general consensus is to assume that a base fee of at least $15 million (which would eclipse the base fee of Alphonso Davies’ deal to Bayern) plus incentives and a sell-on percentage could do the trick. But a player is worth whatever the acquiring club is willing to pay. We’ll see.
It's been a special season for a special player. The 18-year-old has 13 goals and three assists in 27 appearances (22 starts) for Dallas and another three goals with the USMNT in World Cup qualifying. He also placed No. 1 on this year's 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list, usually a harbinger of outgoing transfers to come.
Marco Ferruzzi has been with FC Dallas in some capacity since 2004 when he was named assistant coach. Most recently he was working in the front office until being named interim manager after Gonzalez left.
In speaking to media following Gonzalez's dismissal, both technical director Andre Zanotta and club president Dan Hunt expressed their backing of Ferruzzi.
“We’re giving all our support to Marco," Zanotta said.
“There are a lot of wins and great results associated with Marco at this club that he probably didn’t get enough credit for," Hunt added. "A lot of coaches have relied on Marco, he and Luchi had a great relationship. … Marco is FC Dallas through and through.”
Ferruzzi is among the candidates to become FCD's next head coach, but the search will expand as the 2021 season wraps up. As happens when any MLS job opens up, the club got flooded with interested parties, candidates ranging from realistic to (mostly) extremely hopeful.
There'll be plenty of names under consideration. Just like every other vacancy across the league, it's a huge decision – one at a club that's globally recognized for exporting top young talent.
As currently constituted, Dallas have two Designated Player spots filled (Franco Jara, Bryan Acosta) and one U22 Initiative slot taken (Szabolcs Schon). They already have room to make key changes if they want, but they could also tear it down around the homegrowns.
Jara has, erm, not quite lived up to his DP billing. There's no word on how long his contract is, but he joined in 2020 so there shouldn't be a ton of time left on it. Acosta, depending on the specifics of his transfer fee, should be able to be converted to a TAM player to free up a DP spot (and the club stands to pocket a boatload of GAM if Pepi and Justin Che are sold). Freddy Vargas is on loan and has 0g/0a in 532 minutes. Further contracts (and players occupying international slots) could theoretically be moved as well.
If Dallas lay out that plan, it's very realistic to achieve it.