Center Back Move On the Horizon in Big D

It’s a big announcement. But it’s not. It’s predictable. It’s foreseen. It’s been prepared for. Hopefully what it means is a proper way for George John to set his injury straight and find his way back onto a field. Or not. Surgeries get complicated, as do recoveries. This could be the start of an even more arduous journey ahead. We all hope for the opposite, and speedy recovery to boot.

Maybe, just for uniformity’s sake, Clavijo will bring on another center half with two first names. My vote is for John Terry.

Two players directly will feel, and already have felt, the impact from Mr. John’s protracted injury: Andrew Jacobson and Stephen Keel.

Jacobson has always been praised for his work rate, but rarely for his skill. In fact his first stint at FCD in 2011 featured a career high in assists, and probably his most efficient offensive output in minutes played. But as the retirement of Daniel Hernandez came so did a change in roles for AJ.  He wasn’t necessarily the trequartista, but he also wasn’t the number 6 to shield the back line. But he was given the latter of those roles amidst a flurry of solutions (that fell through) to find a permanent fix at holding mid. He provided a stopgap, at worst and an amazingly ruthless ball winner at best. The in between was many times an issue: once that ball was won by AJ it had as much chance of finding friendly feet as it did the enemy’s. Nonetheless, he served an important role for the team at a time when no great solutions existed – and did so well. Factor in the rise of Ulloa, Moffat, and the gaps in center back and AJ’s departure makes sense.

Parallel the fates of Jacobson and Ulloa for a second, as a side note. Ulloa couldn’t get a sniff of the field from 2011 onward, the same year he and AJ began on the first team. Ulloa wallowed in reserve team games for two years and was later dropped in 2013 by Schellas. Things have changed quite a bit, and in fact if it weren’t for Hendry Thomas it’s tough to argue against Ulloa being the best holding mid In Dallas since Daniel Hernandez (and the sweet, but short affair with Julian de Guzman). But the competition provided by Ulloa, Moffat, and Thomas put AJ on the outside finally. Hopefully he’ll be able to turn some turmoil into triumph alongside Frank Lampard for NYCFC.

Stephen Keel is about to have more competition. It’s as simple as that. George John’s injury gave him a shot at the starting spot alongside Matt Hedges. A new center back is bound to come in. It’s the only personnel move that makes sense. FCD’a dodgy defensive record (2 shutouts in 21 games) isn’t totally Keel’s fault. It’s the style Pareja imbues in the squad, which shouldn’t change. But like Jacobson, Keel’s been a solid stopgap but still leaves more to be desired.

Unless the new center back is something resembling a world beater in MLS, Pareja will still give Keel a fair shake and at least a couple of starts. Why not? Performances, despite the lack of shutouts, have been outstanding of late.

But the need exists. Zimmerman’s health seems to vary week by week, despite his promise. Nicholas Walker still has yet to see meaningful minutes and could probably benefit the most from a stint on loan. And let’s not touch Zach Loyd moonlighting as a center back. Keel needs competition, and that very may well come in the form of an upgrade in his spot.

(image courtesy of fcdallas.com)

Cory Jensen

About Cory Jensen

Removed from his ancestral Texas, he longs for Whataburger, Peticolas, and a quality breakfast burrito.

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