With the 2022 MLS season at a close, we’ll look at the entire 2022 roster and hand out grades. This week, we’ll cover the goalkeepers and defenders.
Maarten Paes: A
Initially brought in on loan from FC Utrecht, the Dutch goalkeeper had an excellent debut season with FCD, backstopping the defense that conceded the fewest goals in the Western Conference. Paes’ loan was made permanent during the summer and he ultimately started 32 out of 34 regular season games, along with both playoff games, coming up with a huge penalty save in the shootout against Minnesota United in round one. Paes’ shot stopping was excellent throughout the season, along with his command of his box on crosses and set pieces. His only real weaknesses were an occasional spilled shot (most notably in the absolutely nuts away game against Houston) and some poor distribution on his long balls, but overall it was an excellent season for the 24 year old and Paes looks set to be a staple of the FCD defense for years to come.
Jimmy Maurer: C+
After two seasons as the full time starter in 2020 and 2021, the veteran was relegated to the bench for 2022. He seemed poised to battle with Paes during preseason but an unfortunate injury early in preseason camp saw that battle end quite quickly. Maurer only ended up making two starts in 2022, deputizing for Paes who missed a couple games in May with a minor injury. Unfortunately for Maurer, he didn’t exactly excel in those starts, with an especially egregious error in the away game to Vancouver costing the team points. That being said, Maurer is an excellent locker room presence and remains one of the better backup goalkeepers in the league.
Antonio Carrera: B
The young homegrown can’t really be judged accurately here as he didn’t play any minutes for the first team in 2022, spending the entirety of the season with North Texas SC in MLS Next Pro. It was a successful season for Carrera, starting 16 games and allowing just 18 goals in his games played. 2023 will likely see Carrera spend more time with North Texas SC as he looks to make his debut for the first team at some point during the season.
Marco Farfan: A
The trade that brought Farfan to Dallas was not particularly well received by fans initially, with fan favorite and stalwart Ryan Hollingshead going the other way to LAFC (congrats on MLS Cup, Ryan!). But Farfan won over the FCD fanbase very quickly with his excellent performances at left back throughout the season. Farfan had by far his best MLS season in his debut season with the club, setting career highs in games played, games started (32 for both) and minutes played and recording his first MLS goals and assists, ending the season with 1 goal and 4 assists. At just 24 years old, Farfan looks to be a piece that FCD will be able to build around for many years to come. Keep an eye out for Farfan’s contract status over the offseason, he had an option that was picked up by the club for 2023 but FCD will certainly want to lock him down for the future as soon as they can.
Matt Hedges: A-
After a disappointing and injury-riddled 2021 season, the veteran center back and all time appearance leader for FCD had a fantastic bounce back season in 2022, starting 26 games and having much better luck with injuries. Hedges has certainly lost a step of pace as he gets into his mid-30s, but his game reading, aerial ability and skill in possession is still top quality within MLS. The big question with Hedges now is whether he returns to the club in 2023. Hedges had his 2023 option, which was reportedly close to or just above $1 million, declined by the club, but contract negotiations are ongoing. There are reports of some international interest for Hedges and there will certainly be other MLS teams interested in the 2016 MLS Defender of the Year, but FCD are in the driver’s seat here and really should bring back the club legend.
Jose Martinez: B+
Like Hedges, Martinez had a disappointing 2021 season in his first with the club. The Spaniard simply could not stay healthy throughout the 2021 campaign but he was able to right that ship in 2022, starting 31 games and becoming a mainstay in the backline and earning the trust of Nico Estevez and his staff. Martinez takes a fair bit of criticism from the FCD fanbase, with many fans frustrated at his lack of pace and some of his struggles when defending in one-on-one situations, particularly with tricky or pacy wingers and strikers. But overall, it is hard to find huge faults with a player who played so regularly for one of the best defensive units in the league. Martinez is excellent in possession and reads the game well and it is not a surprise to see him return, likely in a significant role, in 2023.
Ema Twumasi: B
Twumasi had a breakout campaign in 2021 and looked poised to build on it in 2022, albeit with a new challenge and competition at right back with Nanu coming in on loan from FC Porto. Twumasi was given the first crack at the position to start the season but struggled to build on his performances in 2021 and quickly gave way to Nanu. After Nanu failed to impress, Twumasi came back into the starting lineup and performed at a much higher level, basically locking down the right back position for the remainder of the season. Twumasi has improved significantly on the defensive side since moving into the right back position in 2021, but over the course of 2022 seemed to lose a bit of the attacking spark that he had in the previous campaign. That being said, it was still an impressive season for Twumasi. He’ll surely be challenged with another incoming right back in 2023 and will look to take his game to another level to retain his starting position.
Nkosi Tafari: B
Another player who had a breakout campaign in 2021, Nkosi Tafari is probably a little bit disappointed with how 2022 turned out. He saw a reduction in the number of games started and minutes played, but did see time in more games overall compared to 2021. Tafari was solidly the third center back on the FCD depth chart throughout the season, moving into the starting lineup almost exclusively to replace Jose Martinez or Matt Hedges due to injury, but he saw a significant amount of time coming in as a substitute, either to replace one of the two starting center backs or to join the back line in a 3 center back formation to defend a late lead. Tafari did largely play well when he was given the opportunity, showcasing his athleticism, game reading and aerial ability, though he did have a couple of costly mental lapses, most significantly away to Houston. But overall, it was a positive, if slightly disappointing, season for Tafari, who will look to expand his role and earn more starts in 2023.
Coming in on loan from Portugese giant FC Porto, Nanu was expected to take the starting right back position for 2022. That never really materialized with Nanu’s only run of starts coming early in the season after Ema Twumasi failed to take hold of the position early in the season. Nanu provided some spark offensively but often turned the ball over in poor positions and lacked quality end product, ending the season with 2 assists across his 27 appearances (11 starts). Ultimately, Nanu’s role would be largely as a late game sub, coming in to help provide an offensive spark at left or right back or deputize at either position if Marco Farfan or Twumasi were tired near the end of games. Nanu’s buy option in his loan was, unsurprisingly, not picked up by the club at the end of the season.
Eddie Munjoma: C
After making his MLS debut in 2021, the homegrown fullback wasn’t able to build on that in 2022, only making 3 appearances with a single start. Unfortunately for Munjoma, he just couldn’t establish himself or demand regular playing time ahead of Farfan, Twumasi and Nanu, and there were never any significant injuries to those players that saw him forced into the lineup to deputize and give him an opportunity to stake his claim. FCD declined his contract option at the end of the season. Some time in USL Championship may help get his career back on track.
Joshue Quinonez: C
Brought in on loan from Barcelona SC in his native Ecuador, Quinonez was never able to really get much of a run in the team, only making 7 appearances with a single start across the season. At just 21 years of age, Quinonez is certainly an intriguing prospect as a center back who is also capable of playing right back. Most of his time with FCD was spent coming in as a late game sub at right back to help close out games. Apparently, the coaching staff did not see enough from Quinonez to warrant taking up the buy option in his loan and he will return to Ecuador to continue his career.
Isaiah Parker: C
A highly thought of first round SuperDraft pick and Generation Adidas player, Parker did not end up playing a single minute for the first team in 2022, spending the entire season with North Texas SC, where he started all but one game for the FCD reserve team, scoring 2 goals and adding 4 assists. Parker, only 20 years old, is a bit of a project for FCD to transition from left wing, where he excelled in his one year of college soccer, to left back. Parker will look to build on a successful first professional season and get time with the first team in 2023.
Lucas Bartlett: C
Another one of FCD’s three first round SuperDraft picks, Bartlett was a rather confusing selection. FCD drafted him 6th overall, but most mock drafts had him going much lower and there were other center backs available. Bartlett cuts a very appealing physical profile at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, with plenty of pace and aerial presence to boot. The main issue is that he was already 24 years old when he was drafted, not giving him and FCD a lot of time to further develop him. It seemed to be an experiment by the club, to see if Bartlett could quickly adapt to the professional level. Unfortunately for Bartlett, that never seemed to happen as he spent most of the season playing with North Texas SC, with his only first team appearances coming in the US Open Cup, where he never looked comfortable. His option was declined at the end of the season and a drop to USL Championship seems like his best bet to continue his career.
What are your thoughts on the FCD goalkeepers and defenders in 2022? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: LM Otero - AP