FC Dallas' most pleasant surprise? Set-piece threat from out-of-position newcomer Michel

FRISCO, Texas – One of the league's most effective offseason signings may not register high on the name-recognition scale, but FC Dallas are sure they have an MLS Newcomer of the Year candidate on their hands in Brazilian addition Michel.

The left-back-turned-midfielder has started 10 straight matches and played a part (via assists, set-piece service or winning a ball in midfield) in half of Dallas’ 18 goals this season.

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“He’s extremely important to the success we’ve been having,” FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman told reporters last weekend after Michel served the ball that Je-Vaughn Watson knocked in for the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over D.C. United.

“He’s a left back, but because we’ve had injuries, Michel and Andrew Jacobson were playing together. Now we lost Jacobson and Je-Vaughn is more of a flank midfielder.”

But a time of need for the team has provided arguably the most pleasant surprise for FCD. Michel told MLSsoccer.com that not only is his run in the center of the park the most games he’s ever played as a midfielder, it has also produced the most goals he’s ever been a part of at this point of a season.

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Still, the 31-year-old said that he’s not surprised by the success the team is finding on set pieces.

“I was expecting something like that,” he said through an interpreter. “On this team, we have a lot of tall targets in there, so I’ve just been lucky putting those [free kicks and corners] in there. … Mostly, it’s the way the players move inside of the area. We’ve been practicing a lot on those set pieces, [and that's] why I’ve been having such success.

And that success has trickled down. Michel's experience from his career travels – from his homeland to Europe and back again – have been a big help to FC Dallas. But his set-piece skill has been perhaps the contribution the team has enjoyed most. 

“We’ve scored eight goals on free kicks or corner kicks," noted Hyndman. "He’s serving quite a few of those balls. He hits a great free kick. He hits the right pace with it.”