FC Dallas published their year end roster decisions on Thursday. This week, I’ll share some thoughts on those decisions and how the team is shaping up for 2024.

Options Exercised: Asier Illaramendi, Liam Fraser, Sam Junqua, Tsiki Ntsabeleng, Herbert Endeley

Three pretty obvious decisions here along with a couple of unexpected but pleasant surprises. The class that Illarra showed in his less than half a season with the club made him the most obvious decision of all the contract options. He will be a core part of the team in 2024. Liam Fraser and Sam Junqua both provide dependable and quality depth at key positions. They are not starters but anyone would be comfortable seeing them start games if needed.

The two surprises are in Tsiki Ntsabeleng and Herbert Endeley. Tsiki’s playing time basically disappeared following Leagues Cup and he was often not even making the bench. With him taking an international spot, it seemed his time at the club was done, but it seems the club feels differently and has elected to bring him back for a third season. Alan Velasco’s injury may have played an impact here. Tsiki is one of the only other players on the team capable of playing as a more attacking midfielder. It will be interesting to see how he factors into the team in 2024 after losing so much playing time in 2023. Herbert Endeley played a lot more for the first team than anyone would have expected in 2023 and showed some real sparks of quality, largely playing as a winger. He is next in a long line of winger to fullback transitions at the club and with Geovane Jesus set to miss a big chunk of 2023, looks set to be the backup to Ema Twumasi at right back.

Options Declined: Facundo Quignon, Jose Martinez, Collin Smith

I’ll start with the surprise here to piggy back off of the Endeley discussion. I was sure that the backup right back position would be filled by Collin Smith in 2024, with Endeley’s option being declined. The club elected to do the opposite, despite them recalling Smith a couple times from his loan in Birmingham and that loan being largely very successful. The move is additionally surprising because Smith’s homegrown status meant that he didn’t count against the salary cap for Dallas. It is very possible that Smith asked the club to decline his option in order for him to pursue more playing time, potentially back in Birmingham.

Jose Martinez is the least surprising decline here. It was obvious by the end of the season that his time in Dallas was coming to an end as his playing time almost completely disappeared. Martinez was brought in originally to replace the output of Reto Ziegler and simply wasn’t able to do so in his three seasons with the team. His option being declined opens up both an international spot and a big chunk of cap space.

It isn’t at all surprising to see Facundo Quignon’s option declined but it is a little surprising to not see him in the “In Discussion” category after he got his green card. It seems likely that the Burn may have sent an offer his way that he ultimately turned down. It would not at all be surprising to see him picked up in the upcoming re-entry draft, he’s a solid player but just not what Dallas needs at this point. I’ll miss his knack for clutch goals.

In Discussion: Jader Obrian, Jimmy Maurer, Amet Korca

Interesting group of players here that the club are continuing discussions with. Jader Obrian is not a shock to see here, he had a productive season and can play on the wing or as a 9. His current salary, just under $500k, is a little high, but if the club could get him down to around $300k or even less, that would be a good bit of business.

My assumption with Jimmy Maurer is the club is negotiating to bring him back as the third keeper and essentially operate as a player/coach kind of role. Jimmy didn’t make a lot of money last season but it would be good to bring him down to a little bit of a lower number and also keep his veteran locker room presence around. I think it is always good to have one veteran keeper on the roster and if it comes down to it, he is still a solid enough backup keeper to play if need be. I’d like to see Antonio Carrera move into that second string role though.

Amet Korca is a bit of a head scratcher. I’m not surprised to see the club being interested in bringing him back. He doesn’t look to have a ton of upside but he’s still young, especially for a center back, and as a 4th or 5th center back, it isn’t bad to have a domestic player that you already know. But he only made $85k in 2023, if they want to bring him back, why not just pick up the option? Maybe his option had a big salary escalation that they want to renegotiate, I suspect we may find out soon.

The big unanswered question: Jesus Jimenez

Jimenez is under a guaranteed contract for 2024 and there’s no mention of a contract buy out in the roster decision release. That is no reason to panic, these buy outs are a totally separate process but he is still the big looming question on Dallas’ current roster. Buying him out is absolutely necessary for FC Dallas to take a step forward in 2024. Keeping him on the team would be tying one arm behind your back and significantly limit their ability to make meaningful roster upgrades in the offseason. Get it done.

What are your thoughts on FCD’s year end contract decisions? Let me know in the comments below!

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