FRISCO, Texas – What does not kill you makes you stronger. That cliché may apply in the case of FC Dallas, something that could give other MLS teams significant reason for pause.
At the start of the year, head coach Oscar Pareja set up the team in a 4-2-3-1 system with midfield maestro Mauro Diaz as the playmaker, and as of early April, Dallas were at the top of the league and scoring goals at a breakneck pace. But then a run of challenges, including a long-term injury to Diaz and a rash of red cards, led to an eight-game winless streak.
Pareja bit the bullet and shifted to a more grind-it-out 4-4-2 lineup, and the team fought through the rough patch, ultimately seeing some results in June. Dallas used that direct 4-4-2 formation to win five and tie two over all competitions through June and the first part of July.
FC Dallas are undefeated in their last four as they enter Saturday's match against New England (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“We have great chemistry and you see that on the field,” said veteran forward Blas Perez. “That’s what it’s about, having good chemistry and good team bonding. Great things are coming for this club if we keep working hard.”
That hard work led to the emergence of a number of new contributors, including rookie Tesho Akindele, offseason acquisitions Andres Escobar, Adam Moffat, fabulous play from an inspired Fabian Castillo, and topped off with a hat trick from Perez in their last competitive match.
And after finding a way to win games in workmanlike fashion, Dallas now have Diaz back in the fold – one of MLS' most creative and visionary players. That has the team excited about the rest of the season.
“It just gives us more flexibility,” Pareja said. “It just gives us options depending on the status of every player and of the game that we’re going to face. We already know how to play a 4-2-3-1 with Mauro underneath. We already know how to play with three in the back with two flank players that can help us back and forth and we still continue with two forwards.
“So now you have a player that can come and be part of that formation or any other because Mauro can perfectly fit into a 4-4-2 as well in a different role maybe that we can still get the best out of him. But it makes us think – how can we use him better?”
Kevin Lindstrom covers FC Dallas for MLSsoccer.com.