As an annual tradition, we perform player reviews of every player on the FC Dallas roster.

Photo: USA Today

Their letter grade will be based on a holistic review of their performances this season, their improvement over the course of the year, and their impact on the squad.

In this article, we’ll be focusing on the defenders in the backline.

Bressan // B

In his second season with the club, Bressan entered the year in a similar position as he ended 2019, as the third center back behind Matt Hedges and Reto Ziegler. In the early part of the season, this remained the case, as Bressan saw most of his appearances come off the bench in an effort to hold down a lead to close out games. Following the return of play and the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Luchi Gonzalez experimented with a three-man backline, providing Bressan a few opportunities to start, though he was largely still relegated to a substitute role. That was flipped on its head near the end of the season when Reto Ziegler took it upon himself to self-quarantine ahead of the game against Inter Miami in late October after his wife was in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID. From that game forward into the playoffs, Bressan started and played every minute, essentially flipping the script between him and Ziegler.

At this point, FC Dallas fans know exactly who Bressan is as a player. For large parts of the game, he is rock solid at the back, albeit a bit slow, but in every game, he has a few moments of reckless abandonment where he flies into a challenge and either wins the ball beautifully or picks up a yellow card. This was perhaps most obviously noticed in the playoff matchup against Seattle in which he was extremely lucky to have not been sent off, only being saved by the referee choosing to book Thiago Santos for an earlier foul in the run of play, letting Bressan off the hook. Even with that recklessness in mind, I find it hard to heavily criticize Bressan or bring his rating down further as he was a key part of a defense that was one of the best in the league.

That being said, if Bressan is back for 2021, it should be on a smaller contract and he should not be going into the season as a locked-in starter.

Nkosi Burgess // C+

Burgess is one of a few defenders whose rating is not based on what they actually did with FC Dallas, as he did not play a single minute for the first team in 2020. However, late in the North Texas SC season, he was moved down to finish out the USL1 season and he played excellently, becoming a regular starter for Eric Quill’s side, and helping to mount a push up the USL1 table that almost saw North Texas SC make a second consecutive league championship match.

Burgess certainly still has a ways to go before seeing significant minutes with the first team, but look for him to be a regular early on with NTSC in 2021 with some minutes in the first team possible if he performs well enough.

Justin Che // C+

Similar to Burgess, Che played exclusively for North Texas SC in 2020, starting the season as one of the academy players playing up with NTSC, before being signed to a homegrown contract with the first team in early October. Put simply, there’s a very good reason why Che jumped straight from the academy to a homegrown deal after only about a dozen professional games, the kid is extremely talented. After starting the season out of position at right-back (and still looking great there), he really came into his own later in the season when he shifted to his natural center back position.

2021 is likely to see Che spend another season with North Texas SC, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up a first-team appearance at some point in the US Open Cup or as a late-game sub at some point.

Matt Hedges // A

It is hard to find new ways to praise Matt Hedges and describe how vital he is for this club. What is probably most telling is that the worst FC Dallas performance of the season, the 3-0 loss on national television to Nashville SC, was one of the two games Hedges was completely out of the squad due to a head injury suffered against Houston. In that game, the FCD defense looked unsure of themselves and was constantly scrambling and being caught out by a Nashville attack that did not exactly generate huge goal scoring numbers in 2020.

Hedges is a club legend and has been for some time now, and the team needs to do whatever possible to ensure he plays out the remainder of his career with the club. He’ll be a nailed-on starter once again in 2021 as he’s shown no signs of slowing down after turning 30 years old back in April.

Ryan Hollingshead // A

While Matt Hedges is the quiet, sturdy rock in the back, Ryan Hollingshead is the emotional leader for the club and had another excellent season in 2020. He was asked to play even more of a variety of positions than in 2019, spending time in his usual left-back spot, at right-back, playing as a center back in a back 3, and playing on both the right and left wings, most notably in the two playoff games. Although he struggled at times, particularly playing at right-back where he is clearly uncomfortable, he was largely fantastic as usual, scoring 4 goals and assisting another one.

Much like Hedges, Hollingshead is a club icon at this point and the club needs to do whatever possible to keep him in Dallas as long as possible. He’ll be a locked-in starter at left-back again in 2021 but we are sure to see him all over the pitch.

Callum Montgomery // C+

You may be noticing a trend with the grades given to the guys who didn’t play any first-team minutes. They all had successful seasons on loan to this point and Montgomery is no different, spending most of the season on loan with San Antonio FC in the USL Championship. Montgomery seems poised to have a breakout season in 2021 as he has stepped up the ladder in consecutive seasons and has looked very good in both seasons.

This offseason will be a huge one for him to try to break into the first team and establish himself either as a starter or as a regular part of the rotation in the backline.

Eddie Munjoma // C+

Another guy who didn’t play with the first team, it appeared for a large part of the season that 2020 was going to be an unfortunately wasted season for the homegrown signed from SMU, but late in the season, along with Nkosi Burgess, Munjoma was sent down to finish out the North Texas SC season and he was absolutely electric playing with the second team.

Splitting time between his natural right-back position and playing higher up on the wing, Munjoma showed his abilities going forward, scoring twice and recording another assist while earning a team of the week honor in late October.

With the departure of Bryan Reynolds seemingly imminent, Munjoma has a massive opportunity in front of him for 2021 to earn a spot not only in the rotation but potentially in the starting lineup.

John Nelson // B+

After making a handful of appearances and starts in 2019 while playing mostly with North Texas SC, John Nelson became a key contributor in 2020, starting 8 games along with both playoff games at left-back. Nelson became a go-to for Luchi Gonzalez when he wanted to play more defensively late in the season, starting him at left-back while moving Ryan Hollingshead up the pitch to the left or right-wing.

Nelson showed his abilities defensively throughout the season, regularly making crucial blocks or interceptions when Dallas was under pressure. He’ll need to take another step forward in his offensive output if he wants to truly make a push to be a regular starter, however.

He still seems a little hesitant at times to get forward, but with his defensive abilities, he’ll always be an option for Luchi Gonzalez as long as he is here.

Bryan Reynolds // A

What a breakout season Bryan Reynolds had. After hardly making an appearance in 2019, largely playing with North Texas SC, Reynolds exploded onto the scene following the sale of Reggie Cannon to Portugal and FC Dallas hardly missed a beat at right back. Although he had some shaky moments at the back, he is clearly still learning the position after being transitioned to the backline after years of playing as a winger or forward at the youth levels, he was electric going forward.

Reynolds is easily the best crosser of the ball on the team and he deserved far more assists from those crosses than he actually had. At 6’3″ with the kind of pace and skill he has, it is no surprise to see reports of $6-7 million bids coming from the likes of Juventus.

It was wonderful to watch Reynolds in 2020, but it sadly seems like Dallas fans have seen the last of him in an FCD jersey. Watching the rest of Reynolds’ career unfold will be a lot of fun.

Reto Ziegler // B-

After two successful seasons anchoring the backline with Matt Hedges in 2018 and 2019, the veteran Swiss international started the 2020 season in much the same way. He had become a regular choice for captain in 2019 and that continued into 2020, with his veteran leadership and ability to speak multiple languages key in a diverse locker room. Although his age finally seemed to be catching up a bit, Ziegler was having himself another very solid season in 2020, until the day before the late October matches with Inter Miami.

Ziegler made a post on Instagram announcing that he would be self-isolating after his wife came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and he would, in turn, miss the game against Miami. Although he returned to the squad for the following match against Houston, he did not start another match in 2020, relegated to just a handful of late-game sub appearances. It seems likely that Ziegler’s action upset the front office and staff within the club and may have led to his diminished role down the stretch.

It is more than likely a sad ending for Ziegler after three seasons at FC Dallas, as it seems unlikely that FCD will sign him for another season as he approaches age 35. Personally, I wouldn’t mind having him back as a third center back at all, but it would be a surprise to see him back.

Did I get these ratings terribly wrong or do my ratings line up with yours?
Who do you see making up the starting backline on opening day in 2021?

Featured Image: USA Today
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