FRISCO, Tex. -- As the 2018 MLS season nears, FC Dallas are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2017 season, where they failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs after winning the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup in 2016.
A big key to such a rebound could be the health of midfielder Mauro Diaz, who had 13 assists in 2016 before tearing his Achilles in the penultimate match against Seattle. Diaz came back and played in 19 matches for Dallas last year after recovering, but struggled to produce the same impact as he had prior to the injury, scoring two goals and contributing eight assists,.
For Diaz, it’s his first full preseason post-injury and has looked like more of his usual self in the early weeks.
“Mauro is looking good,” coach Oscar Pareja said at Dallas' jersey unveiling event on Friday. “The first thing that I notice is that his mentality is good and physically he’s training like any other player.”
Diaz’s injury forced Dallas to shift to a 4-4-2 for the beginning of the 2017 season, including CONCACAF Champions League play. When Diaz came back and the team looked to change back to their standard 4-3-3, they struggled, switching back to the 4-4-2 at times. This season, the team will begin in their preferred formation with their preferred players from the start.
While Diaz was cleared to play last May, the toll of the Achilles injury, which had him out for seven months, looked to have an effect on him mentally and physically for the duration of the season.
“Last year you can think about many things [regarding Diaz],” Pareja said. “But we can’t forget that he is a player that had a long injury. When we got him back in the summer after that, it’s normal that it takes some time, some games to get back into the rhythm. It’s something you have to get through, not just with him, but with the team with a player like him. I think it was expected for him to not be 100 percent after the first day.”
Diaz’s injury history has had people questioning his future with FC Dallas, but Pareja believes this year will be different for the Argentine.
“That’s what I must think,” Pareja said. “It is the process of growing and maturing and being physically stronger and up to the competition. My thoughts are that every year he is going to be better and better.”