FRISCO, Texas – It has been 18 games since Mauro Diaz started a match for FC Dallas, and it showed at times for both player and team, but Dallas still earned a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids and it was a big obstacle cleared.
“Today was a big hurdle for him,” Pareja said. “I was bringing him from the bench and he is doing it progressively well. Today he needed to start and give me at least 60 minutes from the start, finding the game from the beginning, trying to find the rhythm, and I felt the mission was accomplished with him.”
“Mauro is a key player for us in the middle,” said team captain Matt Hedges. “He helps us keep the ball and our attack close. To get him back fit and be able to start games is going to be a big thing for us going forward.”
Diaz, the midfield maestro for FC Dallas through their first eight matches, had led the team to the top of the league before suffering a knee injury in the first half of the team’s 4-1 loss at DC United on April 26.
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That knee injury required surgery and a two month layoff before he started to appear for FC Dallas again, starting with 12 minutes against the Philadelphia Union on July 4. He had made four other appearances as a sub in the team’s last four competitive matches, including the entire second half of the July 27 and August 3 games.
Pareja felt Saturday night was the right time for Diaz to take the next step and get his first start out of the way. The Argentinian's creativity was apparent almost immediately, but his fitness and match awareness still needed work.
“We all want to see the Mauro that played the first five or six games of the season and I know he wants it too,” Pareja said. “I don’t have any doubt that he will bring his best very soon. And I was pleased to have him from the beginning and get the three points. He was a big part of this victory tonight.”
It is unlikely that Diaz will get the start against the Philadelphia Union in Tuesday's US Open Cup semi-final because of the short turnaround, but another start in the team’s next MLS match at San Jose on August 16 is probable.