FRISCO, Texas—With the Fabian Castillo transfer saga now firmly in FC Dallas’ rearview mirror following his move to Turkish club Trabzonspor, the question of how he is replaced on the pitch remains.
While Castillo’s numbers weren’t overwhelming in 2016 (five goals, five assists in 22 games), he still brought a dynamic to the field with blazing speed that by itself gave opposing backlines fits and will certainly be tough to replicate.
“Fabian was special and unique,” head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “But there’s many other players who will step up and do what is good for the group.”
While Pareja acknowledged Castillo’s speed is unmatchable on his roster, the coach remains confident in the depth of his team to fill the void.
Specifically, he believes the verstile Ryan Hollingshead capable of holding down the fort.
“He’s a guy that’s been helping us in different spots, but we’ve used him in the past as a left and right winger,” Pareja said. “Ryan has done it before – in fact in my first year, he played mostly there. He has the talent to do it for sure.”
In the ensuing match against Colorado, Hollingshead put up three shots – more than any game since the beginning of June – and seemed to embrace the more active attacking role.
“I don’t know if you can say there’s more or less responsibility. There’s just a lot that needs to be done – a different type of weight,” Hollingshead told MLSsoccer.com. “The responsibility is to score goals and get us on the stat sheet. Things change as far as what your priority is, but they’re equally as important and equally as necessary.”
Neither Pareja nor Hollingshead entertained the thought of stacking up next to Castillo – something that is next to impossible considering the sheer difference in athleticism between the two.
But that isn’t stopping Hollingshead from feeling confident about some big shoes to fill.
“There’s a lot of different types of wingers out there that offer different things and parts of the game,” Hollingshead said. “I just try to bring what I have and my skillset to the table and be my own player and not try to formulate my game too much after other guys.
“There’s some parts of that I can’t do. I’m not as fast as Fabi. He’s special. He’s faster than any guy I’ve ever played with. You just have to focus on what you do well and try to bring that to the table.”
With a jam-packed schedule the rest of the way, including at least one more Open Cup match, the CONCACAF Champions League, and a probable MLS Cup Playoffs run, it’s not a guarantee Hollingshead will be in Castillo’s old spot game-in and game-out. Pareja said the entire team is fit and isn’t showing any signs of fatigue, but there always remains the possibility of rest being thrown into the equation, and others such as Tesho Akindele or Mauro Rosales stepping in from time-to-time.
But if past behavior is the biggest indicator of future behavior, the job is Hollingshead’s to lose – and he believes it.
“That’s the whole point in being a professional athlete is fighting for a spot and going in thinking it’s your spot,” Hollingshead said. “Yeah, it’s mine, and I want to keep it as long as I can.”