Being an FC Dallas fan has never really been easy. Since they were one of the original eight MLS teams, they've always been among the worst attended. Even after becoming one of the first clubs to have a soccer-specific stadium, they have continued to be one of the league's punchlines.
On the field, it hasn't been much better. Since winning the U.S. Open Cup in 1997, the franchise has not won a single significant trophy.
In recent years, Brek Shea has been one bright spot. Well, at least he's been one spot around which FC Dallas fans could place their hopes. Although his performance level has fluctuated, Shea's potential and ability to provide the highlight moment has never been in doubt. His size and speed were virtually unmatched in MLS and, when he was at his best, his skill was as good as anyone in the league.
So, you can understand why the on-again, off-again saga surrounding his transfer to Stoke City has seemed especially cruel. Just hours before the latest news broke, in fact, Shea was back training with Dallas and advertisements prominently featuring his likeness had gone live. Coming on the heels of news that MLS had put the kibosh on any transfer, it was looking as if FC Dallas fans could finally start looking forward to 2013, dreaming of their golden-haired dreamboat reclaiming the form he flashed for much of 2011.
Harsh as it may be, though, it should come as no surprise that MLS and Dallas would be willing to let Shea walk if rumors of a $6 million fee are accurate. Simply put: That's a lot of money.
Best I can tell, it's essentially tied for the second largest transfer fee MLS has ever received. The only one bigger would have been Jozy Altidore's move to Villareal, which fetched a reported fee of $10 million. The only other one in contention would be Eddie Johnson's move to Fulham, when MLS reportedly cleared $6 million. It's also more than they received for Clint Dempsey, who "only" brought in $4 million from Fullham.
Big D Soccer did a good job explaining the economics on this deal as they pertain to FC Dallas, who will receive the maximum $650,000 in allocation, clear Shea's $354,000 salary off the books and be given about $3.3 million to reinvest into soccer operations.
Put another way, FC Dallas cleared enough salary cap room to sign two Designated Players and still have enough to sign another player making almost as much as Shea was. They also have enough cash money to pay for three transfers of similar amounts as they paid for Fabian Castillo. Used properly, this one transfer can totally remake FC Dallas.
How they use this money will obviously be key. In the last few years, Dallas has done well with identifying talent. They've made some clever international signings and drafted reasonably well.
But replacing Shea is more than just finding another good player. They'll need to find someone they can make the face of their franchise. Maybe that's George John, who now appears to be sticking around after failing to make a move to Europe permanent. Maybe it's David Ferreira, a former MVP who is now fully recovered from injury. Maybe it's Castillo, who still shows as much potential as anyone. But with that kind of money, Dallas needs to show a real commitment to success by spending it.
This is a great opportunity for Dallas. They best not blow it.