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FC Dallas' bet on Denilson makes sense
by Ridge Mahoney, August 28th, 2007 7AM

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Remember the wails of anguish from FC Dallas fans and a few pundits back in March when "negotiations" broke off with Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids? The two sides never got very close, according to a source. FC Dallas had offered in the neighborhood of $800,000; Davids had a sum closer to $2.5 million in mind, give or take a few guilders. There were some who believed Davids could be the missing piece to the puzzle of FCD finally reaching an MLS Cup. That was wishful thinking, since at the time, perhaps only Coach Steve Morrow had an idea what that puzzle might eventually look like.

A drastic revamping of the team's midfield had already begun and would soon accelerate: Ronnie O'Brien and Simo Valakari, and eventually, Richard Mulrooney and Ramon Nunez, out; Juan Toja and Pablo Ricchetti, and just last week, Denilson, in.

Score one, or several, for Morrow and general manager Michael Hitchcock. The FCD attack, already potent, might be unstoppable with Denilson darting and gliding about. It's certainly a smarter risk than a 33-year-old destroyer renowned as much for a prickly temperament as skill and endurance.

There are certainly questions about Denilson: a 29-year-old Brazilian World Cup winner joining an MLS team seems a few years premature at least. But regardless of the sum spent, and the bar set very high by the Designated Players who have preceded him, the knock-on effect of signing David Beckham et al brings a lot of talented foreign players within range of MLS radar.

Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco have poured commitment and zeal and spirit into their teams.

They train hard, they play hard. Denilson, who speaks English fluently and is every bit as effervescent as one would expect from one so breathtakingly brilliant, can dazzle on and off the field, which is what the DP rule is all about.

There's a danger he believes MLS can be humbled with less than his best; he'll learn soon enough that he'll be marked and harassed and hounded and, yes, fouled by rugged opponents.

On the other hand, he can rely on the myriad midfield talents already present in Toja, Ricchetti, Arturo Alvarez, Dax McCarty and others.

Morrow has some decisions to make as how to deploy Denilson but way back in preseason he declared, "I'm not too much of a stickler for systems and getting labeled," he said. "I would prefer to talk about our style of play and I think that's going to involve, when we have the ball, attacking soccer and a lot of movement."

A free role would suit Denilson, either in support of one forward or two.

None of the forwards - Carlos Ruiz, Dominic Oduro, Abe Thompson - have hit the net consistently this season. Toja leads the team in goals with six. Denilson as a second forward, or attacking midfielder, or a winger, or all of the above, what's not to like?

Any serious gambler will tell you the way to win big is to bet big. Of course, that's also the fastest way to lose big. FCD could go bust on this play, which won't solve their defensive issues. But Hunt Sports Group, notoriously frugal with its MLS investments, has taken a plunge that makes sense.



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