FC Dallas, which already boasted one of the better midfields in the league and threw away more than $800,000 for the disaster that was Denilson last season, actually might be ready to shell out real money to shore up its shaky back line. FCD invited Mexican international defender Duilio Davino to attend last weekend's InterLiga games at Pizza Hut Park as its guest.
Duilio had lunch with Coach Steve Morrow Monday, after Davino's agent - whose name has been withheld from public mention at his request - met with general manager Michael Hitchcock in the morning.
Davino, 31, left Club America last month and is seeking new opportunities. According to a report out of Dallas, the team won't sign him as a Designated Player - as was Denilson - and take a $400,000 salary-cap hit. He'd be paid a lot more than that, of course, but that's what he'd cost against the cap, which is supposedly set at about $2.25 million for 2008.
The team is also seeking a technical director, or equivalent position, to assist in personnel matters. D.C. United (Dave Kasper), San Jose (John Doyle), Kansas City (Peter Vermes), and Red Bull New York (Jeff Agoos) are examples of men who work closely with the coaching staff in player scouting, development, and evaluation. Their titles vary, but this structure separates the marketing and business decisions from those directly involving team building and selection.
There is no such executive in Houston, to use another example, but one isn't needed, since president and general manager Oliver Luck handles the business side and permits head coach Dominic Kinnear and his staff, which includes former Scottish international and ex-MLS star John Spencer, free rein to do soccer stuff.
In New England, chief operating officer Brian Biello and general manager Craig Tornberg sell tickets and cut deals while ex-internationals Steve Nicol and Paul Mariner take care of tacklers and tactics.
In Dallas, general manager Michael Hitchcock oversees operations and has been criticized in some circles for the team's fizzles in the past three postseasons. But there has to be overlap and agreement between parties, since somebody has to sign off on the monies being paid out.
Denilson could have been a shrewd gamble - and he was a gamble, seeing as he'd been cast adrift in France and Saudi Arabia after commanding an ungodly $35 million transfer fee when bought by Spanish club Real Betis in 1998 - but sadly, the ensuing years and benchings had taken too great a toll. Aside from a few flashes here and there, he failed miserably.
That $800,000, give or take a few grand, seems to be the magic DP number in Big D.
A year ago, FCD offered it to Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, who wanted much more and eventually got it somewhere else.
Dallas did a great job reforming its midfield by acquiring Pablo Ricchetti and Juan Toja using cap space and allocation money, which made the Denilson failure even more of a foolhardy extravagance when he flopped.
Assuming Davino can adapt to the rigors of MLS - not by any means a guarantee with its hot summer weather, long flights, dubious refereeing, skimpy rosters, and sometimes brainless style - can FCD truly believe he can't outplay Greg Vanney (traded) and Clarence Goodson (exposed and lost in the expansion draft), who were supposedly the central defensive pillars the team so desperately needed? He didn't earn 84 caps by accident.
Morrow, himself a former international defender with Northern Ireland as well as a starter for Arsenal in his playing days, hasn't been able to find that missing piece to solidify his back line. He has been scouting talent in Europe yet has wisely followed up on the interest shown by Davino, whose agent initiated contact more than a month ago.
Davino may not be the right fit, but somebody in Big D needs to make the right decisions regarding the team's D. For Dallas, the real bottom line is the back line needs to get better.