FRISCO, Texas — Dominique Badji made a scoring debut for FC Dallas in a 2-1 defeat at the Seattle Sounders, but could the former Colorado Rapids man signal the end of the team's long search for a striker?
Dallas have been without a high-line No. 9 since Blas Perez left in 2015. The team had already been trying to replace the Panamanian as David Texeira was brought in, but his return of 13 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions didn't justify the Uruguayan's Designated Player status. Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli were considered surplus to requirements. Hotly tipped Brazilian Getterson arrived on loan in 2015, there was a brief Carlos Ruiz return in the team's double-winning 2016 season, and more recently, Cristian Colman has played as striker, all without any lasting impact.
As Maxi Urruti has developed into more of a "False 9," the arrival of Badji seems to create a dynamic that the team hasn't had in some time: The presence of someone with the verticality that Oscar Pareja desires, who can get into the opposition area. That's a role the 25-year-old believes he didn't occupy often enough in his former club; he regularly played out wide for Colorado.
"I think that's definitely a place I haven't found myself in much in the last couple of years but that's where I'm very comfortable," said Badji. "I'm a striker that can stretch the lines and make runs behind, and so I'm fortunate enough to be able to do that and finish those chances."
In 50 MLS starts as a striker, Badji has scored 18 goals and added nine assists. With a deep pool of wingers, Badji's position seems somewhat cemented in his preferred striker role, which leaves him with a good feeling.
"Having studied tape and practiced the last couple of weeks, the vision I like and it gives me a chance of scoring a lot of goals," he said. "Especially with the players I'm playing next to. They're players that bring a lot to the team, and create a lot of chances. [Michael] Barrios, [Roland] Lamah, and any of the wingers. It's a very dynamic team and that suits me."
Does the Senegalese striker feel he can follow the likes of Jason Kreis, Jeff Cunningham, Ruiz and Perez as the next consistent 10-a-season striker for Dallas?
"Yeah, 10 goals plus!" said Badji. "They brought me in because they definitely have faith and confidence in my ability to score double digits every season going forward. I look forward to doing that this season and in seasons to come."
As Dallas look to get back to winning ways, Badji can consider himself in prime position ahead of his home debut Saturday against Minnesota United (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info). He already has three goals and an assist to his name at Toyota Stadium while with the Rapids, and he looks to continue that run against a team whose 48 goals conceded make them the Western Conference's leakiest defense.