After FC Dallas lifted its first trophy in 19 years in the 2016 season, president and owner Dan Hunt said a window had been opened. The team, which prides itself on developing homegrown players in its academy and making savvy signings from South America and elsewhere, started winning trophies.
It added a second piece of silverware with its Supporters' Shield win but fell short of its ultimate goal of a treble, falling to the eventual MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference semifinals. But Hunt intends to make sure the window for FCD to win trophies stays open as long as possible, something he's trying to facilitate by spending to bring in reinforcements.
"You don’t ever want the window to close, but yes we have expectations," Hunt told Goal USA. "I always tell our fans, you should expect from us that we’re going to win silverware every year. If you don’t believe that, then we’re not doing our job to compete. I have expectations to win more this year.
"We were the 11th-highest spender last year when you include transfer fees, which is something that’s never really talked about in the league and I think we will, with a 20-25 percent increase in our spending this year, will move up from there. Now, I don’t know where we’ll finish up because it takes a little bit of time, but we have a very good opportunity here and my brother and I have committed to winning and that’s the players that we’re bringing in here."
This winter, FCD has made a number of moves to become a better team on a number of fronts. With playmaker Mauro Diaz sidelined for at least the first half of the season as he recovers from an Achilles tear, FCD signed midfielder Javier Morales in free agency. Much attention has been paid to the outside back spots, with right back Jose Salvatierra joining from Costa Rican side Alajuelense and Ecuador youth international left back Anibal Chala also signing. And former Belgium international Roland Lamah could fill the void left by Fabian Castillo, whose move to Trabzonspor on a permanent deal was finalized last week.
While Hunt said that Castillo was set on making the move to Turkey, something that frustrated the club's directors in the summer, he ended up content with how the team worked out the deal.
"In the end, it’s a fine deal and we’ve already reinvested all of the proceeds plus more that we received," he said. "Obviously the league shares in some of the revenue, but we’ve already outspent what we’ve received in that, so we’re getting prepared for the 2017 season. It looks like our payroll increase through designated payroll expenditures is gong to be 20-25 percent higher than it was in 2016, but we’re in this window now where we’ve had success in 2016 and we want more championships in 2017."
Where is that money going? Some will be used on the new acquisitions that have been announced, but more money may be locked up by a designated player signing that Hunt hopes to announce this week. There are no indications as to who that player is, but FCD has recently been linked with Paraguayan striker Cristian Colman of Nacional.
Hunt expects fans will hear about the potential marquee signing soon, and also noted that FCD will have spent nearly every dollar permitted by MLS regulations — something that may fly in the face of the team's reputation as one of the league's more conservative clubs.
"Hopefully we’re going to fill that last DP place this week, so we will be full and we will have spent every dollar of TAM (targeted allocation money) and potentially with one other iteration we will also have spent most of our allocation money," Hunt said. "We’ll still have some remaining, but we’re actually working on one last thing with allocation money. I would say we’re maxed at the cap or we’ll be close. We always retain some allocation money and we have an open roster spot for a summer move.
"But for us, with Mauro Diaz coming back in the summer, we kind of look at that as our summer signings. We’re bringing back a MLS Best XI player in the summer and his recovery, the last I checked he was about 45 days ahead of schedule."
FCD still doesn't expect Diaz to return from the injury suffered in the penultimate match of the regular season until late June or early July. By then, though, it hopes a viable Plan B has developed without the Argentine architect of goals. It needs to do so quickly, with FC Dallas returning to competitive action in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in late Feburary. It's the first trophy Hunt has fixed his eyes on for the team to raise, and he's spoken with coach Oscar Pareja about what it would mean to the team to become the first MLS side to win the continental championship.
"It’s not going to be an easy walk, but it’s of extremely high importance to this club to be competitive and I told Oscar my stated goals, one of them was to win this tournament this year. I know he’s focused on it, he’s very pleased with our offseason signings and the challenge is coming into our preseason playing that tournament," Hunt said.
"That always has been a difficult for Major League Soccer. I wll say this: This will be the best year of play, I think, in the league. I think we’re going to see a significant step up in Major League Soccer. I’ve been following the acquisitions across the league. I think fans of Major League Soccer and fans of FC Dallas are going to see a tremendous year of soccer."