FC Dallas’ “New Era”, announced with the hiring of Nico Estévez, seemed like little more than a marketing gimmick. However, ahead of the 2022 season, the club has made multiple unprecedented moves that have quite literally put their money where their mouths are, but is this new era what fans should expect in the long term?

At this point, anyone with even a little bit of familiarity with FC Dallas’ social media accounts is aware of how committed to a bit they are, so it was no surprise that when new coach Nico Estévez was officially announced he had a catchy little tagline of “New Era Nico”. There was plenty of basis for this being a “new era” besides the fact that FCD was hiring a new coach. Estévez marked the first time the club had strayed outside of the “FC Dallas family” so to speak with their hiring since the Hunts took over the team back in 2003. You can trace a lineage of coaches connected with the team from that point. Mike Jeffries, the incumbent when the Hunts took over, had been an assistant for original Dallas Burn coach Dave Dir. Colin Clarke, who was the Hunts’ first coaching hire, was replaced by his assistant Steve Morrow. Morrow was replaced with someone who was outside the club but was very familiar with the Hunts in Schellas Hyndman. Following Hyndman’s departure, the Hunts turned to a club legend in Oscar Pareja. Finally, when faced with hiring a new manager after Pareja’s resignation following 2018, they turned inward once again, hiring Luchi Gonzalez for his first ever senior job straight out of the team’s academy.

So, when Gonzalez was fired during the 2021 season, the initial assumption from a lot of people who follow the team was that an internal candidate was likely. Sure enough, Marco Ferruzzi, who has been with the club almost as long as the Hunts have, was given the first crack at it in the interim role. When it became clear that, although he was clearly being given every opportunity to potentially take the job permanently, it wasn’t going to work, the conversation shifted to other internal candidates, most notably North Texas SC coach Eric Quill. Quill seemed like the natural and obvious choice for an ownership group that liked to keep things consistent, Quill had years of familiarity with the organization, the players and the system in place and as the weeks wore on and other potential candidates were hired by other teams, it seemed more and more likely that someone like Quill was likely to get the job.

So, when it was announced that FCD would be stepping outside of what was comfortable, getting someone from outside the organization, it made a lot of people stand up and identify that maybe the approach in this offseason would look a bit different, but it certainly seemed too soon to definitively say that FCD was entering any kind of “new era” with the hiring.

That began to change once the offseason truly began in earnest and player movement around the club began. The first domino to fall was the sale of Ricardo Pepi. After a lot of back and forth and questions on how much FCD would really be able to get for him, FC Augsburg jumped in and shocked everyone, perhaps even the FCD FO, with a massive $20 million offer that the club quickly took. Suddenly, FC Dallas had blown past their own transfer record and had a huge amount of cash to spend, along with huge expectations on how they should spend that money.

It didn’t take long for them to start, first announcing the signing of Nanu on loan from FC Porto. This is the kind of signing that in previous years would have been a marquee signing for the club that dominated the club’s news headlines for just about the entirety of the offseason. FC Dallas simply didn’t sign players from European Champions League clubs, even players that were out of favor like Nanu. The next sign of some ambition was FCD’s behavior in the MLS SuperDraft, trading up to the 3rd spot to pick Isaiah Parker and trading up into the end of the first round as well to grab a player they wanted in Tsiki Ntsabeleng. SuperDraft activity is hardly something that is a sign of massive ambition from MLS teams, but the aggressive moves FCD were making lined up with their other offseason activity. Following the SuperDraft, it was officially announced that homegrown Jesus Ferreira was getting a Designated Player contract, the first in MLS history for a homegrown player from their own club (Gyasi Zardes was the first MLS homegrown to get a DP contract, but he got that with Columbus, not the LA Galaxy, whose academy he was a part of). The Ferreira deal, which brought Jesus’ charge against the salary cap down as he qualifies as a Young DP, was the kind of savvy deal that fans have not been accustomed to FCD making. It also marked a real statement of intent and purpose for the club and serves as a message to homegrowns along with Pepi’s sale: if you’re good enough, you’ll go to Europe, and if you don’t go to Europe, we’ll make you rich.

The next big bombshell moment was the club trading $2 million in allocation money to DC United to acquire Paul Arriola. In recent seasons, FCD had seemed to move completely away from making deals for players within the league, so much so that in 2021, the team did not feature a single player who had ever played for another MLS team. The trade for Arriola, a national team mainstay under Berhalter, marked a stark change in that attitude and broke the MLS record for allocation money traded in a intra-league transfer. It is the kind of win now move that the Hunts have simply almost never made since owning the team.

But, of course, I’m dancing around the elephant in the room in Alan Velasco. At the time of writing, Velasco has not been officially announced by the club, but he has been the big story of the past month for FC Dallas. Velasco, an attacking midfielder/winger from Independiente, is one of the biggest and most hyped prospects in Argentina, having appeared for all of their youth national teams. Velasco has been tapped for big, big things in his career with most in Argentina expecting him to make a move to Europe in the near future. FCD, to the shock of really the footballing world, has seemingly swooped in, taking advantage of Independiente’s precarious financial situation and some errors in judgment from their front office (they apparently rejected offers upwards of $15 million for Velasco not long ago), to swoop in and get Velasco for just $7 million, plus $1.7 million in potential performance based bonuses. This is obviously unprecedented business for FC Dallas with that fee absolutely smashing any previous transfer records for the club. It would be both a win now move and a move that fits the development ethos of the club, if things go right with Velasco, FCD could stand to flip him for double or even triple what they paid for him. It is the kind of move that MLS fans expect out of clubs like Atlanta United, not a thrifty club like FC Dallas.

All of these actions add up to a clear shift in focus and attitude from the club and the most clear “win now” mentality that the club has seemingly ever shown, or at least has shown in quite some time. The question now is whether or not this “New Era” is here to stay for the long haul or if it a temporary result of the windfall from the big influx of funds from Pepi and other recent player sales. Once that money is spent, will the club continue injecting this kind of money into the team and pursuing titles? If this big money push isn’t successful within the first couple seasons, will we see a return to the thrifty ways of the past? Or is this the new reality for FCD and will fans continue to see this kind of aggressive behavior in the transfer market in seasons to come? These questions are obviously impossible to answer right now, but for the current moment, this New Era is a refreshing thing to see in Frisco, let’s hope it is here to stay.

What are your thoughts on this new era for FC Dallas? Is it here for the long term? Sound off in the comments below!

Featured Image: FCDallas.com
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