FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja admits relying on youth "a risk," but happy with what he's seen
FRISCO, Texas – FC Dallas have been forced to turn to the youth on their roster a lot already this season.
A rash of injuries, suspensions and a significant schedule congestion challenge has forced the head coach Oscar Pareja to go much farther into the depths of his quad than he expected with just three months gone in the season, and that youth movement will likely continue on Saturday at Toyota Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes (8:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes, MLS Live).
“We are putting the pieces together, putting in the pieces that we have, trying to get some chemistry,” Pareja told reporters on Thursday. “Getting results, especially the last two months has been hard, but the youngsters keep proving that they can play this game. We are taking a risk as coaches, but they are playing well.”
Almost a full starting lineup of veteran players has missed significant time for the Texas club this season, including long term injuries to Mauro Diaz, Hendry Thomas, George John and Kellyn Acosta. Adding to the challenge, FC Dallas have also picked up a number of red cards, and the schedule has been a significant obstacle, with short turnarounds on back-to-back road games complicating matters.
Despite the challenges, FCD have kept the majority of their games competitive this season, no matter the personnel on the field, with a 4-1 loss at D.C. United as the only outlier.
“Almost every season a team has a run like this, maybe not as bad,” veteran midfielder Adam Moffat told reporters on Thursday. “It’s a great opportunity for people to step up and young guys to get their chance.”
A lot of that youth had defensive responsibilities for Dallas against Real Salt Lake last weekend, and could very well see the field against San Jose on Saturday. Homegrown players Moises Hernandez and Victor Ulloa had yet to start an MLS match prior to this season, and second-year player Walker Zimmerman still only has a handful of matches under his belt. All played key roles in earning a road draw and the club’s first shutout of the season against one of the best teams in the league.
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“You look at our backline,” said goalkeeper Chris Seitz. “Between Walker, Mo and I, and for us, our defense held strong, and Adam and Victor were great in front of us.”
The team is going to have to continue to lean on youth through the next month, as Diaz, Thomas, Acosta and John are not expected to return before the end of June, and even Michel and Andrew Jacobson were not available this past weekend. Either way, the remaining players on the FC Dallas roster will continue to soldier on.
“We’ve been battling in games,” Moffat said. “As long as you keep battling and not feel sorry for yourself, things will come.”