HIGHLIGHTS: Castillo, Urruti lead FC Dallas past Union

FRISCO – The 2015 season may not just be a thing of the past for FC Dallas.

Like last season, when they earned a franchise-record 60 points and scored the fifth-most goals in the league, FC Dallas was able to shake and bake with Fabian Castillo running wild on the wing, Mauro Diaz pulling the strings with nifty passes, and Jesse Gonzalez and his backline controlling their third to pitch in a 2-0 opening-day win over Philadelphia.

“It’s a good sign that we created and put ourselves in good spots,” head coach Oscar Pareja said. “But the most remarkable part of our team today is the solidness we showed defensively. It was one of the aspects that we needed to get better, and we did a good job.”

In front of Gonzalez was a slightly new backline that featured Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges in the center and newcomer Maynor Figueroa and Atiba Harris on the outside.

But one of the biggest lifts defensively for FC Dallas came from recent signee Carlos Gruezo, who was a thorn in the Union’s side all day and controlled a handful of balls whenever he challenged his man.

“He may have gone a little bit unnoticed, [doing] a lot of the dirty work, but he won so many challenges and covered a lot of ground,” Zimmerman said. “He was a diamond in the rough for us today winning a lot of those battles. I was really excited for him to see how he’s going to grow throughout the season. It was a good first step.”

Gruezo replaced longtime starter and Homegrown Victor Ulloa next to Kellyn Acosta and was able to cover a large portion of the field, which helped limit Philadelphia’s chances.

“Carlos’ game is what you saw today,” Pareja said. “The characteristics of his aggressiveness were there. His job is to get the ball back for us and once we get in transition from there to attacking, I want him to be able to get out on the ball and help out in the creating. It’s early, but the first part of his job today looked very good.”

The chemistry in the front of the field looked in midseason form as well. After a preseason where scoring came in bunches, the connection between Max Urruti, Diaz and Castillo gave the Union fits all day, with last year’s Frisco stars consistently finding their new teammate and giving him a chance to fire at will. Urruti finished with four shots.

One blemish on the day is the injury Castillo suffered late in the contest, going down with what Pareja called an abductor injury that required him to be carried off the field in a stretcher. But Pareja doesn’t believe it will keep Castillo out too long and instead is more pleased with the fact FC Dallas has a legitimate threat in front of Castillo.

“With Maxi there, he has that presence that he can score goals,” Pareja said, emphasizing how getting more production out of the No. 9 position was a goal for the team this season. “For me today, and for the group, it was very important that Maxi could put his print on the squad.”

While it is uncertain how long FC Dallas will have to function without the playmaking of Castillo, the way the club stormed out of the gates with the same gusto that propelled them to a landmark season last year gives them confidence in pursuit of improving on a highly successful 2015.

“It gets that monkey off your back getting those first three points,” Zimmerman said. “Now we’re already looking forward to Houston and looking forward getting another three points.”