FC Dallas spent much of the past year searching for a robust midfield presence. It turns out new FCD boss Oscar Pareja knew a guy perfectly suited to the job.
Former Colorado stalwart Hendry Thomas will link up with his former coach in Frisco after FCD sent an undisclosed amount of allocation money to the Rapids in exchange for the former Honduran international on Wednesday.
Salary budget considerations in Commerce City laid the groundwork for this mutually beneficial trade. Colorado signed Thomas to a long-term pact after the 2012 campaign in a bid to install him as a permanent part of its budding core, but his option for 2014 prompted both sides to reassess the relationship at the close of last season. The decision to decline the option left Thomas – ineligible for the re-entry process due to a lack of service time – adrift if he wanted to stay in the league. Both sides set out their negotiating stalls in the wake of the decision. The gulf between the parties eventually paved the way for the Rapids to assess external alternatives.
The decision to ship out Thomas in exchange for allocation money provides Colorado with useful financial flexibility during a time of transition. The search for Pareja’s replacement continues, though a familiar face has emerged as the favorite to take permanent control. Former captain and current special assistant to the technical director Pablo Mastroeni is currently taking charge of first-team affairs. If Mastroeni is eventually appointed coach on a full-time basis, he will want to place his own stamp on the side and revise the approach accordingly.
Colorado – with Pablo Mastroeni overseeing first-team affairs for the moment – now possesses more flexibility to strengthen its squad in the post-Oscar Pareja period.
Thomas offers a useful piece in any retooling effort given his diligent work to frustrate the opposition, but his considerable salary budget number (he made $200,000 in guaranteed compensation last season, according to the MLS Players Union, but that figure does not necessarily reflect his budget hit in 2013 or his new charge heading into 2014) hinders the Rapids’ ability to make other moves. The looming change from Pareja to another coach hands the Rapids a chance to plump for a more prudent and technical choice in the short-term (Spanish midfielder Jose Mari linked up with the team this week with an eye on reaching a contractual agreement, Rapids technical director Paul Bravo told the club website on Tuesday) while retaining the latitude for other moves down the road.
Pareja cannot afford to waste any time as he attempts to install his system in Frisco, though. His time in Colorado involved a protracted adjustment process during his first year in charge. The pieces in place with FCD are better suited to his style of play than the group he inherited in Commerce City, but it will still take a bit for the squad to adjust to his demands in possession.
Thomas’ presence in the middle of the park offers a familiar and reliable touchstone to help guide the way. The former Wigan Athletic man closes down well, crunches opposing midfielders when warranted and distributes efficiently and quickly. He isn’t a deliberative sort by any means, but he can offer the solidity lacking since Daniel Hernandez retired after the 2012 season.
FCD needs some stability as Pareja rifles through the squad and sorts out how he wants to proceed over the next few months. Thomas comes at a cost perhaps in excess of his value within the context of the salary budget and creates a rather considerable glut in the middle of the park, but those fleeting issues pale in importance to having a trusted figure installed in midfield on opening day.
This move constitutes a step forward on both counts despite the losses incurred. There is plenty of work still ahead for both sides to meet their objectives, but the resources swapped in this deal place them in a better position to push onward in the short- and medium-term.