It didn’t take long.
Less than an hour after Óscar Pareja was announced as the new Club Tijuana manager, ESPN.com’s Eric Gomez came out with the first transfer rumors of Pareja’s tenure.
It's official. Next step? #Xolos and Pareja are working on bringing "at least" three players from FCD over to #LigaMXeng, as well as a former FCD player and current #USMNT man. https://t.co/paWkWFwqq7— Eric Gomez (@EricGomez86) November 27, 2018
Gomez is the person who originally broke the news about Pareja leaving FC Dallas and moving to Tijuana, and he’s been a pretty reliable source when it comes to rumors. Looking at Eric’s tweet, there are two parts to dissect: a.) three current players heading over from FC Dallas, and b.) a former Dallas player that is currently on the United States National Team roster.
Looking at the latter first, there aren’t many former Dallas players that played for the USMNT, and fewer who are still currently getting looks. Of those, a couple of names stand out. Kellyn Acosta played with Dallas from 2013 until 2018 before going to the Colorado Rapids this past season. His last call up was for the US friendly against Italy on November 20, however the 23 year old Acosta is a midfielder, which is a position of great depth for Tijuana. Acosta has played some at right back however, and with Omar Mendoza turning 30 last month Xolos may be looking to go younger in the position.
Another strong possibility is 25 year old Los Angeles FC center back Walker Zimmerman, who played with Dallas from 2013 until being traded to LAFC after the 2017 season. Zimmerman also featured in the USMNT match against Italy, and Tijuana needs help on the back line. Julián Velázquez looked solid overall, and Juan Carlos “Topo” Valenzuela will be 35 by the end of the Clausura. Hiram Muñoz has shown promise but has lacked consistency, so Zimmerman could fit.
As for the three current players, in the words of Inspector Jacques Clouseau “I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.” One name prominently mentioned has been Maynor Figueroa, however at 35 years old it’s not clear if he’d have a playing role or a role on the Xolos coaching staff. Figueroa was released by FC Dallas yesterday, and Gomez names him and Zimmerman in his article on the rumors. (Update: Tijuana based journalist Said Rodríguez says that Figueroa will join as an assistant coach, noting the dynamic of having a Honduran coach in a city that has taken in thousands of Honduran refugees in the past couple of weeks.)
FC Dallas also has plenty of young talent that Pareja might want to bring with him and continue to develop. Paxton Pomykal is an 18 year old winger from the Dallas area that Ben Lyon of Big D Soccer referred to as a potential “homegrown face of the franchise.” Jesus Ferreira is another option, however the 17 year old son of Colombian attacking midfielder David Ferreira wouldn’t be guaranteed minutes in the crowded Xolos midfield any more than Acosta would.
One name that keeps catching my eye is Maximiliano Urruti. The 27 year old Argentine striker has been a mainstay in MLS since signing with Toronto FC back in 2013. After a stint with the Portland Timbers, Urruti went to Dallas in 2016. His goal totals aren’t flashy, with 29 in 90 games for FCD and 44 in 118 total MLS games, but he has a rapport with both Pareja and current Xolos forward Fabián Castillo.
But this is all speculation at this point. Who knows what will happen when agents get involved and money is on the table. It seems however that Óscar Pareja isn’t going to sit this upcoming transfer window out and will look to get Xolos back on a path to the Liguilla.