Arizona United, FC Dallas’ USL Affiliate, will begin its 2015 campaign on Saturday in California against the Orange County Blues, and this continues our series this week. See HERE for the first in the series, our overview of Arizona United.
FC Dallas will eventually send players to the desert, so before the season started we wanted to look at the potential players who might get sent out west.
Fernando Clavijo spoke with the Soccer Information Network last week (article HERE) and made a few things clear. First, the MLS club will not evaluate who to send to Arizona United until after their own match against the Seattle Sounders on March 28. Second, he outlined a few general principles that will likely guide Dallas’ brain trust as they look to see who to send down to their affiliate.
Clavijo also made it very clear that they intend to send players who will play. In some ways that is obvious, but it is a good starting point. And it makes sense – if a player is not going to play, they probably would get more out of training with FC Dallas rather than Arizona. The players that fit that description will probably fall into two groups – those who are regular members of the FC Dallas matchday 18 that need game fitness and those who have talent but need minutes to develop into something that would be an asset to the First Division club.
Part of this also depends on the needs of Arizona United and how well both organizations can coordinate to benefit the players’ development the most. Time will tell how this partnership works out.
Editor’s note – see below for some updated evaluation as of April 9, 2015.
Stephen Keel. The journeyman defender is coming off a significant injury to his right foot in last year’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal against Philadelphia. This is probably the best example of a player in need of games to get back to match fitness. Likely.
JeVaughn Watson. Another player who is trying to get back into the 18, but not because of injury, rather because he did not sign a contract until after FC Dallas’ opening day victory over San Jose. Possible but not probable.
Coy Craft. A very talented homegrown player who signed last year, Craft is coming off of shoulder surgery so could use time with Arizona both for the experience, but also for the recovery from injury. This will be an interesting test to see how much FC Dallas trusts its affiliate not only from a developmental standpoint, but also from a medical standpoint. Possible.
Alejandro Zendejas. The talented midfielder just got back from helping the US U-17 qualify for the October World Cup. His participation may depend on other players and what the level of play can be had in the USL. He might be too young to get as much out of the opportunity as others. Possible.
Danny Garcia. If there is a player Pareja wants to see grow into a player regularly in the 18, it has to be the former Tar Heel. While FC Dallas has a slew of options to attack with, the club does not have someone who can come on for midfield maestro Mauro Diaz and really play the same role. The sooner Garcia can get there, the better. Guaranteed? Maybe not but we put this as the most likely player to go.
Otis Earle. The 2015 MLS SuperDraft first round draft pick has yet to make an appearance in the 18 for the MLS side, but he is old enough he really needs more than just training. We put Earle right behind Garcia as far as likelihood of going down to the farm.
Jesse Gonzalez. The goalkeeper has earned a spot in the 18 already this year, but he is having to push two proven MLS veterans for playing time. Goalkeeper is one of the positions that benefits the most by playing time so as far as the player is concerned, he might most want to head to the desert. Very possible.
Kellyn Acosta. If only for his injury history over the last year, Acosta may really benefit from regular playing time. The question here is whether FC Dallas can afford to send him out on loan as they are thin in support of central midfield. Possible but not probable.
Kyle Bekker. Very similar to Garcia, Bekker is a talent that needs playing time. If nothing else, Dallas needs to know what they have in the Canadian. On the other hand, he has made the 18 consistently and gotten cups of coffee on more than one occasion. Unlikely, but included out of a sense of thoroughness.
April 9, 2015 Update
Since this article was written, a number of things have happened. JeVaughn Watson has played some for the club and shown he is ready to be in the 18, if not the XI. Kyle Bekker has looked good in practice after having a good camp with Canada in the recent international window. Stephen Keel picked up an issue in training and may be out for a few weeks. Dan Kennedy is just now returning to training and probably needs a week or two before he is ready to be in the 18, meaning that Jesse Gonzalez is absolutely necessary to the club and is not available for loan. Kellyn Acosta has looked like he belongs in the 18 and, despite his red card against Seattle, is more likely to contribute to the first team on game days than need time with Arizona United.
That culls the list quite a bit, leaving Earle, Zendejas, Garcia and Craft available. With Oscar Pareja saying today that they expect to send two players to their affiliate soon, combined with what appear to be needs in Arizona at outside fullback and in central midfield, and it seems likely that Earle and either Garcia or Zendejas will be going out West to work with Michael Dellorusso. Garcia is the more MLS-ready player, and games could benefit him and the team the most. Zendejas is a young talent that would also benefit from games.