FRISCO, Texas – With FC Dallas mired in a slump that has seen them fail to make a notch in the win column since May 25, you might think coach Schellas Hyndman would be tempted to insert newly signed playmaker Mauro Díaz directly into the starting lineup.
The young Argentine would undoubtedly inject energy into FCD’s recently feeble attack – five straight matches including the Stoke friendly without a goal – but Hyndman says it is more important to make sure he’s ready for the rigors of MLS play.
“The last thing we want to do is get Mauro injured,” Hyndman told reporters after practice on Tuesday. “He’s going to immediately be a marked man because he’s a good player on the ball. I don’t think we want to put ourselves in a situation where we may start him and have him go out there with an intense group of players.
“He may be a player we bring on as the game starts to slow down a little bit and hopefully he can bring us a little bit of a spark.”
Since Díaz’s arrival, Hyndman has been utilizing a lot of small-sided games in training where the goals are pulled closer together (anywhere between 40 and 80 yards apart) to reduce open space on the pitch. This keeps players from having time to stand around and recover, which helps improve their fitness.
Díaz participated in three intense five-minute small-sided games on Wednesday and the plan is to increase that workload next week. It is also a great tool for accelerating a player’s acclimation to a team’s style of play, he says.
“I’m feeling better everyday and after every practice I understand a little bit better how my team likes to play,” Díaz explained through an interpreter. "Having these kind of practices with reduced space helps me get into a rhythm and get more touches on the ball and learn to play with my teammates."
Dallas’ playing style was a factor when Díaz was contemplating the offers he had from clubs in Turkey, Chile and Russia, in addition to FCD. He said he likes a team that wants to control play with the ball, but that it also was important to come to a league like MLS that would give him more opportunity to advance his career.
“It’s … because of the growth that the league has posted. [MLS] is a league that more people are interested in, people are looking at it. So there’s an influence in the decision because you know you are coming to a league that has exposure,” said Díaz.
If Díaz turns out to be as good as advertised, FCD fans may want to send a thank you card and an ice cream cookie cake to the Funes Mori twins. Ramiro and Rogelio both play for Díaz’s former club, River Plate, in Argentina now, but were formerly in the FC Dallas youth system after Rogelio won Sueño MLS in 2007.
“We’re very good friends, we talked a lot,” Díaz said of the brothers. “When this opportunity arose, they were quick to tell me that I should take it or evaluate it seriously because of all the benefits that come with coming to play with this team … and also the opportunity to potentially have a leap to a different level as a football player.”