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 midfielders and forwards.
Paxton Pomykal: A-
After a season spent playing out on the wing in 2021, it was a return to full fitness and a return to his more natural central position in midfield for Paxton Pomykal in 2022. Simply put, it was a joy to see the homegrown back where he should be on the field. He looked so comfortable there and showed what made him so exciting for FCD (and USA) fans when he first broke into the team. Endless running on both sides of the ball, a willingness and ability to go at defenders and an intelligence in his movement and positioning that belies his young age. The only thing keeping him from an “A” here is a lack of end product in 2022. There was no lack of trying on his part, but the 22 year old failed to score a goal over the course of the season, though he did add 5 assists, matching his highest tally in a season set back in 2019. Pomykal’s season also ended on a sour note, suffering an injury in the first round of the playoffs that heavily limited his involvement in the second round matchup with Austin FC. But overall it was a hugely successful season for Pomykal and he’ll be looking to add some more goals and assists in 2023.
Sebastian Lletget: A-
The MLS veteran came to Dallas mid-season via a big trade with the New England Revolution. Lletget was a bit of a coup for Dallas, who didn’t even have to pay all of Lletget’s salary after the trade. Lletget was a huge pick up for Dallas and helped turn around the season and make the push for the 3rd spot in the west. Midway through the season, FCD had a run of results where they were often dropping points due to blowing leads and being unable to finish chances. Throughout this period, FCD went back and forth between Brandon Servania and Tsiki Ntsabeleng paired with Paxton Pomykal in midfield but was never able to get a consistency in midfield. That changed instantly with the trade for Lletget, who settled in extremely quickly with his new team and provided an attacking thrust that wasn’t there prior to his arrival. Lletget ended the season with 1 goal and 5 assists for his new team and was awarded with a new contract that will keep him here for multiple seasons to come. It will be exciting to see what the Lletget/Pomykal partnership in midfield will look like in 2023 and beyond.
Edwin Cerrillo: B+
Cerrillo built on a promising 2021 and set new career highs in games played, games started and minutes played in 2022. Throughout 2022, Cerrillo and Facundo Quignon battled for the starting defensive midfield role, with Cerrillo ultimately starting more games. The 22 year old certainly still has more room for growth, particularly in his game reading and positional sense, but he consistently improved in those areas over the course of the season, adding to his already impressive abilities to carry and pass the ball forward, a vital skill for a single pivot defensive midfielder. FCD picked up the final option year for Cerrillo in the offseason, but don’t be surprised to see a new contract for the homegrown in the offseason or during the 2023 season, he has the potential and ability to hold down the midfield for FCD for years to come.
Facundo Quignon: B
The veteran Argentinean defensive midfielder improved upon a relatively poor debut season with the club in 2021 and put together a solid campaign in 2022. Quignon actually started fewer games and played fewer minutes in 2022 compared to 2021, largely owing to the continued development of Edwin Cerrillo, along with an injury that kept Quignon sidelined for about a month, but Quignon’s performance level was higher in 2022. Quignon scored a couple of huge goals for FCD in 2022, the first coming against Houston in the first Texas Derby match in Frisco to win the game (and ultimately win El Capitan) and the second coming in the first round playoff game against Minnesota to tie the game and ultimately force extra time and penalties. Quignon was left unprotected in the expansion draft, but owing to his international status and relatively high salary, he was not selected by St Louis. Quignon certainly still has a role in the team in 2023, but don’t be surprised if FCD looks to move him in the offseason to try to offload his salary, though they may struggle to find suitors willing to pay a price FCD will want.
Tsiki Ntsabeleng: B
Probably the biggest surprise of the season, FCD traded up in order to draft Tsiki at the end of the 2022 SuperDraft first round, causing a number of folks to scratch their heads as to why FCD would make a move for a relatively unheralded tiny winger who would take an international spot. Ultimately, Tsiki was moved into the 8 position and quickly displayed why FCD made the move to ensure they could get him. He is simply a joy to watch play the game, particularly when he’s on the ball. He has an ease to his ball control that places him among the best dribblers, if not the best, on the team and he glides past opponents with ease. He had some issues with a stomach problem that caused him to sub out early of a few games during the summer and fell out of the rotation in favor of more veteran players as the season wound down, but Tsiki’s 2022 season was undoubtedly a huge success and FCD, unsurprisingly, picked up his option for 2023. He’ll need to add more end product to his game if he wants to earn more playing time, but it will be fun to watch him going forward.
Brandon Servania: C+
Despite setting career highs for games played, games started and minutes played, and matching career highs for goals and assists, it was a bit of a disappointing season for the homegrown midfielder. Servania simply could not put together a consistent run of form over the course of the season, often flitting between excellent and subpar performances from game to game. He started the season as a regular starter next to Paxton Pomykal in midfield, but after a disastrous game against Sporting KC where he was red carded via two yellows in 7 minutes. That seemed to shake the staff’s confidence in him and he never did establish himself as a regular starter again, only coming in for spot starts. Servania did have some major highlights, his screamer of a goal against Colorado most notable, but he will certainly need to put in more consistent performances if he wants to maintain his spot as a regular in the team in 2023.
Thomas Roberts: C
After 5 frustrating seasons with the club since signing as a homegrown, the Thomas Roberts saga is over, with the club declining his option for 2023. Roberts spent the first half of the 2022 season on loan in Austria, where he also struggled for playing time. After returning to FCD, Roberts made one single sub appearance in the Open Cup game against Sporting KC and played a few times for North Texas SC in MLS Next Pro. Despite having plenty of attacking ability and talent, Roberts was never able to convince a series of FCD managers to give him more playing time, with a short run of time in early 2019 under Luchi Gonzalez his only regular run of playing time. Roberts certainly has the talent, he just needs to find the right situation. Unfortunately, that was not with FCD.
Nicky Hernandez: C
Another player with his 2023 option declined, the 2021 SuperDraft pick never played a first team minute for FCD. After playing for NTSC in 2020, he was drafted and signed in 2021 before injuries derailed his 2021 season after some time with NTSC. In 2022, he went on loan to San Antonio FC in USL Championship and had a successful stint, helping SAFC to the best regular season record in the league and ultimately the league title. However, those performances apparently weren’t enough to convince the FCD staff to give him another year and his contract option was declined. USL Championship seems like a likely landing point for Nicky to continue his career from here.
Jesus Ferreira: A
Following the sale of Ricardo Pepi, there were a lot of questions regarding whether or not Jesus Ferreira, who had spent most of 2019 and all of 2020 and 2021 playing more as an attacking midfielder, would be able to assert himself as the starting 9. In hindsight, those questions sound silly as Ferreira had one of the best seasons from a forward this club has ever seen, tying the club record for goals in a season with 18 and adding 6 assists. Although not necessarily always playing as a traditional 9, and still spending plenty of time dropping into midfield, Ferreira’s goal scoring was excellent, only, unfortunately, dropping off near the end of the season, which is really the only thing keeping his grade from being an “A+”. Ferreira’s excellent season saw him selected for the USMNT 2022 World Cup squad and, if he puts on a good show in Qatar, FCD may struggle to keep him for 2023. If he does stay, look for him to continue building on his game in terms of being more of a number 9 as opposed to a false 9.
Paul Arriola: A
Coming over from DC United in the offseason in an MLS record trade for $2 million in General Allocation Money, Paul Arriola was a huge part of Nico Estevez’s plan and was, reportedly, one of the first players he requested FCD acquire when he took the job. It was easy to see why from the outset as Arriola was an integral part of FCD’s play style in 2022 with his pressing ability and ability to find space. He set a career high for goals in a season with 10 and added 7 assists to go along with the goal scoring. He also played in more matches, started more matches and played more minutes than in any other season, re-establishing himself as a top MLS winger after a tough injury in 2020. Paul did have a bit of a rough patch during the middle of the season but both started and finished the season excellently. The one bitter moment in his season came after the season had ended when he was not selected by Gregg Berhalter as part of the USMNT World Cup squad. But Paul has already been embraced by FCD fans and will be a big part of seasons to come.
Alan Velasco: A-
Another record breaking signing on the opposite wing from Arriola, the diminutive and highly sought after Argentinean winger broke the FCD transfer record as FCD paid $7 million (plus performance bonuses) to bring him to MLS from Independiente. Velasco was electric in his first appearance for the club, scoring one of the goals of the season against Nashville SC, a run from midfield that saw him go past 6 Nashville players prior to smashing home the goal. He had some teething issues with MLS early on, struggling to adapt to the physicality and reluctance of MLS referees to call fouls for minor contact, but adapted his game over the course of the season and, by the end of the season, was a massive part of the FCD attack with his ability to cut inside and create. He ended with 6 goals and 7 assists and scored an audacious panenka penalty to beat Minnesota United and scored FCD’s only goal in the loss to Austin in the following round, showing that he is able to step up in big moments. The future is incredibly bright for Velasco and it will be a joy to watch him develop in 2023 and beyond.
Bernard Kamungo: B
After being signed to North Texas SC ahead of the 2021 season after excelling in an open tryout, Bernard Kamungo completed his incredibly journey from a refugee camp to MLS when he signed for the first team near the end of the MLS season. He made his debut against Colorado near the end of the season and will look to have a bigger role in the wing and forward rotation in 2023. In 2022, he excelled for North Texas SC, making the MLS Next Pro Best XI at the end of the season after putting up 16 goals and 5 assists in 25 appearances. Kamungo has bags of potential and it’ll be very fun to watch him take the next step in his career in 2023.
Jader Obrian: C+
With the additions of Arriola and Velasco, Obrian was always going to have a reduction in playing time in 2022 and it was no surprise to see him play over 800 fewer minutes in 2022 than 2021. In 2021, Obrian played in every game for FCD and started 25 times. In 2022, he still made an impressive 31 appearances, but only started 15 times. He did match his assist total year over year, with 4, but only scored twice compared to his nine goals in 2021. Obrian, for the most part, became a late game substitute, brought on to help FCD attack or relieve tired legs up front. He remains a very frustrating and confounding player, often making poor passes or taking poor touches in crucial situations and he often times does not look to have the quality for MLS. But his work rate can not be faulted, he always comes in and puts in a shift, regardless of how long he is on the field. FCD may look to move Obrian in the offseason if they can find suitors within MLS but he’s not a horrible rotation option if he is still with the club in 2023.
Franco Jara: C
After two seasons of being a big money designated player that did not come close to providing the quality or stats expected of a designated player, 2022 was another poor season on the field for Franco Jara. Jara played in one more game than he did in 2021 (30 vs 29), but started five fewer (12 vs 7) and only provided 3 goals and 1 assist after back to back 7 goal seasons. Jara was largely used as a late game substitute and, in all fairness, he did have multiple games where he provided a good presence and had good hold up play and he certainly helped FCD score some late goals and hold on to some late leads, but for what FCD are paying him, it simply isn’t enough production. Jara’s contract runs out in summer of 2023 but FCD may look to buy out the rest of his contract in the offseason to open his designated player spot and go ahead and move on from him.
Kalil ElMedkhar: C
Originally from Philadelphia’s academy, FCD traded for ElMedkhar’s homegrown rights ahead of the 2021 season and then signed him after he spent three seasons at the University of Kentucky. ElMedkhar struggled to break into the first team in 2021, making just 6 appearances with no starts and spending the majority of the season playing for North Texas SC. He didn’t manage much better in 2022, actually making one fewer appearance and playing 18 less minutes. He did make his first MLS start in the penultimate regular season match against Colorado but was unable to record a goal or assist in his two seasons. He did try to make a switch to midfield in a bid for playing time but never saw that playing time come during the season. Unsurprisingly, his option was declined at the end of the season and USL Championship seems a likely destination.
Beni Redzic: C
Signed to a homegrown deal ahead of 2021, Redzic had to wait until 2022 to make his FCD debut due to an injury that kept him out through most of 2021. Ultimately, he struggled to find any consistent time and, interestingly, did not spend any time with North Texas SC either. Redzic make 6 appearances, almost all in very late game situations, with the one exception a 45 minute appearance in the 4-0 blowout loss to Nashville SC. Redzic simply didn’t look quite ready for MLS, though it was a bit of a surprise to see FCD decline his contract option at season’s end. Redzic holds a Bosnian passport so he may look overseas for his next opportunity.
What are your thoughts on the FCD midfielders and forwards in 2022? Let me know in the comments below!
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