Last week, we kicked off our look at DP signings over the years by starting in our nation’s capitol. DC United has a history of signing players who end up missing significant time due to injury, with half of their DPs falling victim to one malady or another. As we move into week two, we’ll head south to Dallas.
Dallas has built a reputation over the past few years of having one of the smartest front offices in the league. The current array of DPs represent everything that MLS aims to become: young, talented, and full of potential. While it’d be easy to give them a pass on some early flops due to these successes, it’s important to note here that all DP signings have equal weight on the club’s final average grade. I think you’ll see why this is important to acknowledge after a couple of scrolls.
All transfer sum numbers from Transfermarkt.
All salaries thanks to MLS Players Union surveys.
(Editors Note: While Toronto FC paid Julian de Guzman’s salary through the 2012 campaign, he was still listed as a Designated Player for rostering purposes during his time in Dallas. He will therefore be graded with the rest of the lot.)
FC Dallas (founded 1996)
Favorite Fruitless Rumor: Michael Essien, January 2015
Age When Signed: 30
Average Base Salary per Season: $872,736
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.149
Pre-DP: An out-and-out winger, Denilson was on Brazil’s 1998 & 2002 World Cup sides, making five substitute appearances for the Cup-winning side in the latter tournament. As far as club contributions, Denilson’s move from Sao Paolo to Real Betis in 1998 was a then-world record, with a transfer fee of just over $31 million. He had 13 goals in 186 appearances with the Spanish side before a spell in France. From there, he moved to FC Dallas on his 30th birthday (August 24).
DP Year: Coming into the team during the home stretch of the regular season, Denilson failed to make an impact. He had only 606 minutes across eight appearances, scoring once and never adding an assist. He was left out of the eighteen for the 2007 US Open Cup final entirely, and at the end of the year did not have the option on his deal picked up. He refused to take a paycut and was out of MLS just four months after joining.
Post-DP: Denilson didn’t see much of the field from there, getting 30 games in with Brazilian side Palmeiras before signing with another Brazilian side, a Vietnamese side, and a Greek side and only making one appearance across these three seasons combined.
Nowhere to go but up, right? Teammates complained about a disconnect between his style and the team’s formation, with the coaching staff trying to cater to their first star. Overall the transaction was a miss, and his lack of playing after the deal shows that he had burned out early.
Age When Signed: 29
Average Base Salary per Season: $300,000
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.582
Pre-DP: The Colombian attacking midfielder had an impressive pedigree in South America, playing over 200 times with America de Cali in his home country before heading to Brazil with Atletico Paranaense. He was a part of the 2001, 2004, and 2007 editions of the Copa America, while his nation won the 2001 edition of the tournament. Prior to the 2009 season, Ferreira was loaned to FC Dallas.
DP Years: The first two years of his MLS tenure were spent as a loanee, and while the club missed the playoffs in 2009, he provided a spark to the lineup. His loan carried over to 2010, in which he won the league’s MVP award, scoring 8 goals while leading MLS with 13 assists and carrying the club to the MLS Cup Final, where they fell to Colorado Rapids (feels like forever ago, doesn’t it?). After this, the club brought Ferreira in on a permanent basis. In 113 appearances (108 of which were starts), Ferreira scored 24 goals and added 39 assists, while FC Dallas only made the playoffs once more in 2011, losing in the opening round. He suffered a season-ending injury early in 2011, and his form never recovered.
Post-DP: Ferreira has spent the past three years back home in Colombia, scoring seven goals in 47 games. He currently plays with Atletico de Cali once again.
As we saw with Luciano Emilio in DC United, winning the league MVP is a sure-fire way to a passing grade. Losing to the miracle Rapids in 2010 is also forgivable. Despite these two achievements, Ferreira wasn’t able to bring the team over the hump again, in part due to his injury-riddled 2011. The rewards of his transfer were front-loaded, but he was as good as Dallas would do for the first five years of the Beckham Rule.
Age When Signed: 31
Average Base Salary per Season: $1,863,996
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.291
Pre-DP: The first Canadian to play in La Liga, de Guzman is something of a seminal figure in Canadian soccer lore. De Guzman came up in French side Marseille’s academy, landing with German FC Saarbrücken at the age of 19. From there, he signed on with Deportivo La Coruna in 2005, making 97 appearances through the end of the 2008-2009 season. He then signed with Toronto FC (more on that in a later installment), and was traded mid-season 2012 for Andrew Wiedeman.
DP Year: With Ferreira already in the fold, FC Dallas brought de Guzman in to protect their backline as the team competed for a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs. de Guzman ended up scoring once (against Vancouver in September) and was a stabilizing force for the club in the lineup. He added two assists in his 12 appearances (10 starts), and the club ultimately missed the playoffs, finishing sixth in the Western Conference. The club opted to not resign him, and he went through both rounds of the Re-Entry Draft unclaimed.
Post-DP: On January Deadline Day, de Guzman signed with 2 Bundesliga club SSV Jahn Regensburg, leaving at the end of the season when the club was relegated. He played in Greece for a spell before joining NASL side Ottawa Fury in 2015, where he currently serves as club captain.
He wasn’t an inflammatory presence and his role isn’t one that often results in goals. However, with the kind of price-tag he held in Toronto, he had every reason to carry lofty expectations. The team was hoping to make the playoffs and he failed to help push the team over the hump.
Age When Signed: 31
Average Base Salary per Season: $237,276
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.1210
Pre-DP: Before landing with Dallas, Hassli was no stranger to MLS. Born in France, Hassli signed with French club Metz in 2000, getting 38 appearances over three seasons with a loan to Southampton wedged in the middle of his tenure. After finding it impossible to crack the lineup for either club, he headed to Swiss side Neuchatel Xamax and later Servette. In both instances, he saw lackluster minutes for mid-tier teams before getting his break with St. Gallen. He netted 18 goals in 47 games, boosting his reputation and being signed for a year with French Ligue 1 club Valenciennes. He again bounced to the reserves, heading back to Switzerland and spending four years with Zurich and rebuilding his reputation once again.
DP Years: Despite a checkered past, Hassli was then-expansion side Vancouver Whitecaps’ first DP in 2011, moving to Toronto as well before coming to Dallas. He was traded to FC Dallas for a second round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft (used on midfielder Daniel Lovitz). With such a reasonable price-tag, there was hope that he would be able to settle into a starting role alongside Kenny Cooper and lead the attack.
Not so much.
Hassli made 15 appearances for the club, starting four games and lending one assist before a back injury kept him on the disabled list for the rest of the year. At the end of 2013, American college coaching legend Schellas Hyndman resigned and Oscar Pareja came back, bringing his youth-centric methodology with him. The team and the player mutually parted ways.
Post-DP: Hassli spent two years with the late San Antonio Scorpions, making 38 appearances and scoring six goals. As the franchise ceased NASL operations, he wasn’t picked up by any club, and at 35 Hassli may be facing retirement.
After these four signings, it’s a wonder that FC Dallas has recovered their reputation. Hassli wasn’t able to make much of an impact on the pitch and had a checkered history of success before getting to Big D. However, his price point wasn’t impossible to get past and he wasn’t as complete of a waste of cap space as, say, Denilson. Still, not pretty by any stretch, and far from being as impactful as fellow 2013 signing…
Age When Signed: 22
Average Base Salary per Season: $366,750
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.787
Pre-DP: The young Argentine came up with storied franchise River Plate, making the first team by age 17 and earning 69 appearances with the team, as well as 41 in a loan stint to Chilean club Union Espanola. After the Argentinian season wound down in 2013, Diaz joined FC Dallas on July 17.
DP Years: After failing to land on any DP signing aside from two years of Ferreira, it’s understandable when fans were slow to warm up to Diaz. The Dallas faithful assumed that he was just a depth addition who would leave at the end of the year, finding little reason to be excited about him. However, after a few appearances in the final months of 2013, Diaz came out gunning in 2014, winning the March Player of the Month award. Frequent injuries have knocked him out for at least ten games in each of his seasons (including two through this year’s first twelve weeks), but when he’s on the pitch he’s been nothing short of spectacular. He had 8 goals and 10 assists in 2015, helping lead FC Dallas to the top of the Western Conference.
No matter how you slice it, this has potential to be one of the better DP signings in league history. “The Little Unicorn” (real nickname, I swear) is the posterchild for bringing in young talent and fostering them as a DP signing, a model which teams like Orlando City and Vancouver Whitecaps have mimicked in recent years to varying levels of success. If only he could stay healthy…
Age When Signed: 22
Average Base Salary per Season: $625,000
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.340
Pre-DP: The young Colombian was another foray into the young South American attacker pool and Pareja’s first DP signing in his return to Dallas. Coming up the ranks with home-nation side Deportivo Cali, Escobar was purchased for just under $1.5 million by Ukranian giants Dynamo Kyiv on a five year contract. While he only saw the field once for Kyiv (in a Ukranian Cup substitute appearance), Escobar was loaned to French side Evian for two years, getting only seven appearances in his time.
DP Years: Again, Escobar went on loan, but found much better playing time in America. The striker had an option to buy, and his personal relationship with Fabian Castillo made chemistry a non-issue. Expectations were high for the young Colombian, but sadly he wasn’t able to produce to that level. Despite making 23 appearances and 18 starts, Escobar only netted two goals, assisting on four more. He played in all three of Dallas’ playoff games, but the purchase option on his deal was not picked up and he returned to Kyiv.
Post-DP: He stayed in Ukraine for one more year. Once his contract wound down at the end of 2014-2015, he went back to Colombia, now with Millonarios FC.
He kept defenses honest and wasn’t a useless player; still, it’s hard not to have wished for better results from Escobar. However, the club only reached fourth place in the Western Conference and lost in the conference semifinals to Seattle Sounders. He also carried a cap hit that was nearly twice as high of Diaz’, and wasn’t particularly good value in that regard.
Age When Signed: 23
Average Base Salary per Season: $338,000
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.522
Pre-DP: Stop me if this sounds familiar. The young Uruguayan forward came up with home-nation club Defensor Sporting, making his debut at 18 and scoring six times in 22 games. In August 2011, he was transferred to Dutch side FC Groningen for $1.65 million. His stock on the rise (having made six appearances with Uruguay’s U-20s, including the 2011 U-20 World Cup), a rumored January transfer to Liverpool fell through, with Texeira making 29 midfield appearances in 2012/13 while scoring 5 times.
DP Years: Seeing himself as a forward and being offered a healthy wage closer to home, Texeira agreed to head to FC Dallas. (Yes, by this logic FC Dallas is a more desirable club to play for than Liverpool.) Joining forces with Castillo, Diaz, and Escobar, Dallas’ young attack was one of the biggest storylines going into the 2014 season. In 19 appearances, Texeira scored four goals, something of a disappointment given his pedigree but easily explained away by the presence of Blas Perez. In 2015, his output increased slightly, ending up with six goals and compiling four assists over two seasons. He wasn’t picked up for 2016, and the team moved on from him.
Post-DP: As he was out of contract, he left for Turkey’s Sivasspor on a free transfer. He immediately made an impact, scoring in his debut against storied club Galatasaray and again three matches later against Rizespor. He hasn’t scored since, starting nine of his 13 appearances. Still, he landed on his feet in a respectable league and should still have a quality career ahead of him.
While he showed flashes of impressive form across his two seasons, Texeira never filled the role of striker in Pareja’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation. Between his erratic play, Tesho Akindele’s injuries and equally maddening form, and Blas Perez’s creaky knees, a lack of consistent goalscoring options doomed Dallas in last season’s playoffs, losing to the eventual champions (Portland Timbers). He was a decent value, but just never made enough of an impact to warrant a higher grade.
Age When Signed: 22*
Average Base Salary per Season: $150,000
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.553
Pre-DP: Continuing the tradition… The young Colombian came up with home-nation side Deportivo Cali, making his debut at 18 and scoring six goals in 18 games during the 2010/11 season. However, then-FC Dallas Academy Director Oscar Pareja scouted and signed Castillo to a three-year deal, costing the team $800,000 in transfer fees. Two weeks after the signing was confirmed, Castillo made his MLS debut. He became a regular starter when healthy, making 107 appearances and 91 starts for FC Dallas between 2011-2014 while scoring 20 times and adding 16 assists.
DP Years: Before the 2015 season, Dallas locked their star winger down to a DP deal, keeping him stationed in the south on a five-year deal. He was selected to his first MLS All-Star team, playing the entire second half against Tottenham Hotspur. Mid-season, he was named as MLS’ Best Player Under 24 on mlssoccer.com’s annual 24-man list. He even earned his first full-team international call-up in September and has earned 3 caps over the past eight months, missing out on their preliminary 40-man roster for this summer’s Copa America. Still, he’s a player with his stock on the rise.
The club was wise to sign him when they did. Transfer rumors started flying this past fall, with Swansea City and Mexican powerhouse Club America being major suitors this past offseason. However, Castillo has shown that MLS can be a place for young players to build an international reputation. In turn, he’s become a face for the franchise and (to an extent) the league’s vision of its future.
Age When Signed: 20
Average Base Salary per Season: $450,000
Goals+Assists per 90: 0.000
Pre-DP: Let me copy/paste/edit this:
The young Ecuadorian came up with home-nation side Independiente del Valle, making his debut at 16. He ended up joining Barcelona SC (no, not that Barca), who are one of Ecuador’s premier clubs. After getting 77 appearances in two years, the defensive midfielder was sold for $1.14 million to VfB Stuttgart and made 18 appearances in two years. Gruezo made his international debut in May 2014 in a tune-up game before the 2014 World Cup. He was a surprise addition to Ecuador’s World Cup roster, starting the opener against France and subbing in for the second match against Honduras.
DP Years: When a promising 20-year-old World Cup starter becomes a known commodity, it’s common for transfer rumors to start flying. However, his move to FC Dallas for $1.7 million (likely below market value) was an absolute shocker. Gruezo fills a marquee role in the current tactical flavor of the week (the 4-2-3-1), and looked to be able to start on a mid-table club in one of the top three leagues in world soccer. Meanwhile, FC Dallas already had two young, stabilizing defensive mids (Kellyn Acosta and Victor Ulloa) and didn’t seem to have a need at the #6 role. However, Gruezo is one of the brightest stars on the team and should be a key component of the club for years to come.
Far too early to say, but early returns have been promising from Gruezo. His World Cup call-up at 19 was a major boost to his profile, and being able to bring in a player like that is already a victory for the franchise and the league as a whole. His price tag is less than 25% of what Julian de Guzman made while filling a similar place on the field. That said, it’s too soon to say it’s been an outright coup.
FC Dallas Recap:
Average Signing Age: 25.6
Average Base Salary: $578,195
Average Grade: C+
After four iffy, aging signings, FC Dallas has come to their senses. Their past five DPs have all been young, promising footballers and (as should be expected) the club has received a mixed bag of results. That said, cheaper talent with high ceilings have a far lower risk factor than the de Guzmans or Gallardos of the world, and these signings have both lowered their average age and increased their average grade. Their current core of Diaz-Castillo-Gruezo fortifies their spine while also providing elite attacking prowess on the wing. I wouldn’t expect their ideal DP type to change any time soon.
Next week: Columbus Crew