Stejskal: FC Dallas "actively" searching for Mauro Diaz replacement

Mauro Diaz on the ball

FC Dallas are actively attempting to sign a new No. 10 this summer to replace the departed Mauro Diaz, FCD technical director Fernando Clavijo told on Thursday morning.

Dallas transferred Diaz, who joined Dallas in 2013 and recorded 23 goals and 44 assists in 109 regular season appearances with the club, to Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai FC of the UAE Arabian Gulf League on Tuesday. Though he only appeared in 12 games this season, the 27-year-old playmaker was an integral part of FCD’s solid start, recording two goals and eight assists – tied for second in the league – before his transfer.

“We are looking already,” Clavijo said. “We have names and players that the coaching staff and ourselves and the ownership are evaluating, but yes, we are looking right now, 100 percent.”

Clavijo declined to say how big of a transfer fee Dallas received for Diaz, but the club will have plenty of space to spend on his replacement.

According to the MLS Players Association, Diaz’s total 2018 compensation with Dallas was $949,890, highest on the team. He wasn’t classified as a Designated Player, meaning FCD used a significant amount of Targeted Allocation Money to buy him down under the maximum budget charge of $504,375. With Diaz now off the books, Dallas have freed up his budget charge and the TAM they used to buy him down.

Then there’s his transfer fee. Because Diaz was classified as a DP prior to the 2016 season, Dallas will receive his entire transfer fee until it has recouped all out-of-pocket payments made to Diaz and in his initial acquisition. After that recoup, Dallas will receive 75 percent of the remainder of the fee. Up to $750,000 of that cut can be used as General Allocation Money, while any money left over can be used to acquire a new DP.

Even if Dallas received a minimal transfer fee for Diaz, freeing up his budget charge and the TAM they used on him will allow the club to go out and spend significantly on his replacement. Clavijo wouldn’t commit to a specific path, but he said that signing a DP and using TAM to buy down one of FCD’s existing three DPs is an option.

“The most important thing is that it’s a good player, first of all. Before we go DP or TAM player, let’s make sure it’s a good player because people get caught up in the numbers,” he said. “I’m more concerned about being the right replacement for Mauro, being the right player who is a No. 10.”

“[The fee] was something that we felt we could accommodate,” he added later. “Is it something that we are going to be able to find that replacement only because of the money? No. But it was enough that hopefully we find something.”

Though the summer transfer window opens next Tuesday and only runs until Aug. 8, Clavijo won’t be in a huge rush. Dallas have been solid with Diaz out of the lineup this season, posting a 5-2-1 record when he hasn’t started and a 3-1-1 mark when he hasn’t played at all. They won their first match after his transfer on Wednesday, getting a pair of late goals from Tesho Akindele to beat league-leading Atlanta3-2 and move into first place in both the Western Conference and the MLS points per game table.

Head coach Oscar Pareja has used several different formations when Diaz hasn’t started, including a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and a 3-5-2. Midfielders Victor Ulloa, Carlos Gruezo, Kellyn Acosta, Jacori Hayes and Paxton Pomykal have all gotten run in the midfield when Diaz has missed time, while winger Roland Lamah and forward Maxi Urruti have also both played in the hole when Diaz has been out.

“Mauro hasn’t played in many of those games and we were fortunate that we won some of those games, including the one last night,” said Clavijo. “So are we desperate? No. The coaches always want to have the replacement right away, of course, and they should, but we have options here, too.

“There’s young players that we’re bringing along that are or are not ready depending on what Oscar wants to do with Paxton and [Jesus] Ferreira. We have some players like Lamah that can move to the middle. I think that Oscar has done a great job before of not having Mauro and finding out who can do that job. It’s very difficult to replace him, very difficult to replace Mauro, but we need to do it. He’s no longer here, so now we have to find in the team that and from the outside, so we have to keep looking.”

Clavijo reiterated comments he made on Wednesday night that Diaz and his agents approached him about Al-Ahli’s offer and that Dallas, who he said have received intermittent interest in Diaz from Mexican teams over the years, were not initially looking to sell. He said that the club, who had drawn-out transfer sagas with Fabian Castillo in 2016 and with Urruti and Michael Barrios last year, didn’t want to stand in Diaz’s way after he received what he described as an offer that “nobody else could match” from Al-Ahli.  

“It was an opportunity for him, it was an opportunity for Mauro more than anything else,” said Clavijo. “I think all the players right now can see that if there’s something that make a lot of sense for the player and you serve for the team for quite some time like Mauro did, I think our team will put that on the table every time we have a situation like that.”