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Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Jeff Cunningham Question

By Buzz Carrick

As we move on to the next question of the winter we come to what for me is the biggest one: striker.  Ever since Kenny Cooper left a few seasons ago it seems like FCD has needed a striker.  Last year Hyndman waited till the second window to find Milton Rodriguez, who wasn't terrible, but didn't light the world on fire either.

Now a year later FCD finds itself in the same place, needing a striker.  This time due to the departure of Jeff Cunningham and Atiba Harris.

Question #2: Forward (a.k.a. The Jeff Cunningham Question)

With the decision to waive Jeff Cunningham, and probably more accurately his large salary cap number (~$220,000), FCD again finds itself in need of another striker.  When the second highest paid player is coming off the bench that's not a great sign for said player.  It was probably a forgone conclusion Cunningham was going to be out unless he took a massive pay cut.  Massive pay cuts are not something that happens very often without a disgruntled and pissed off player, certainly not with someone like Cunningham.

Compounding the problem was the loss of one of FCD's key striker depth players Atiba Harris.  Harris had tried a few times to lock down the starting striker position without success.  Instead he spent most of the season holding off Marvin Chavez at right mid.  Something he managed until the final stretch run.  Once Harris had lost out at both spots it wasn't a surprise he was exposed in the expansion draft.

With the loss of two boddies up top, even if both were mostly off the bench, FCD is in sore need of depth just to stand pat.  Some depth could come from the young prospects in the squad.  The lack of progression last season of Peri Marosevic and Jason Yeisley hurts a bit here.  One factor we know very little about it new academy signing Jonathan Top.  Late round draft picks Charlie Campbell and Paul Ogunyemi could also help in the depth area, as might Juco trialst Sheldon Palmer. Depth may be answered by pure numbers. Edit: I forgot about Andrew Wiedeman, another player who could add depth.

An answer that could be bigger than expected is Ruben Luna. Luna is one of the brightest prospects to come out of the FCD Academy system and will be getting substantial PT this year.   Perhaps even pushing to start.  But you can't assume Luna will become strong enough this season to answer all the questions.  He will help solve the depth issue, but not the real underlying question. At least not yet I don't think.

So depth may be ok, but if FCD is going to take a step forward (and that's the goal isn't it?) then FCD needs to add a top flight goal scoring striker.  Last season far to much scoring was forced to come from midfield.  When FCD needed a goal, like in MLS Cup, their best shot came from advancing mids.  That's not how you want to build a squad.  Add a top line scorer and I think you can look at FCD with the best teams in MLS.

FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman and technical director Barry Gorman have both said FCD is looking for a striker of that quality.  Hyndman, as usual, is showing patience, citing the willingness to wait till the second window if need be to make sure they get the right player with the right qualities.  So FCD may go into the season with Rodriguez and Luna as the top two choices.  

That might be all right, this league is about winning at the end anyway. I prefer to have the core team all year, but I'm not the coach. Hyndman seems well contend to operate this way, leaving a big piece of the puzzle to mid season. There is something to be said for being able to make adjustments with your mid season signing. I just hate seeing an incomplete team, and right now FCD is missing a big piece of the puzzle.

One really interesting development of the last week is the pressence of ex-Chivas USA striker and Cuban defector Maykel Galindo in camp.  He's been hampered by injuries the last two yeas, notably hamstring problems, but when he is healthy Galindo is a lethal and ruthless goalscorer with a nose for goal and a mean streak.  Blessed with some serious pace up top, he's the kind of high striker that could push the line and open massive space for the FCD penetrating mids like David Ferreira and Break Shea.  The injuries are a big red flag, but the upside is massive here if Galindo can get it back on track.

So questions upon questions at forward.  Will FCD sign a top flight name up top?  In this window or the next?  Is Ruben Luna perhaps the answer?  Can Galindo resurrect this hamstring and career? A hidden gem in the large depth pool?

How those questions are answered could make or break the FCD season.