Diaz wasn’t listed on the injury report that was released by FCD the day before the match, and club brass even mentioned less than a month ago that their playmaking Argentine was in the best fitness of his young career.
But it appears that the club has gone back to traveling the precautionary route with their unpredictable 24-year-old, who has been dealing with a leg injury for a large part of the season.
“We don’t want to take any risks because we are trying to rebuild it a little,” head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com. “With Mauro, we have very meticulous work. Sometimes we want to play him, but it’s better to just keep him out and save him so we can get the best of him. That’s the process.”
Diaz grabbed the attention of local fans after he posted a photo to Instagram showing him traveling to Mexico than 24 hours after the club’s loss in arguably their biggest game of the season.
Pareja downplayed the trip, stating that it was Diaz’s off-day along with the rest of the team. And Diaz put it to bed almost immediately by returning to the FCD facilities Monday morning to continue rehabbing his quad injury.
But with his status in doubt yet again due to questions about his leg strength, FC Dallas is seeing improvement from Rolando Escobar – a player they purchased from Venezuelan Deportivo Anzoategui SC to spell Diaz in case of an injury relapse.
Since being acquired by Dallas on May 26, the 33-year-old Panamanian has made eight appearances in MLS play – one start and seven off the bench. And although he has yet to score a goal or an assist, his contributions are evident to his head coach.
“[He brings] labor. He brings glue. He’s a hard worker, and he sees things on the field that are important in that position,” Pareja said. “The kinds of passes that he makes from that spot, it’s important for the team. The connection that he has with the midfielders due to his technique is important. All of those things make him a good asset for us right now.”
During his first MLS start against the Galaxy, Escobar made a handful of plays that should give Dallas some peace of mind if Diaz continues to miss time. The Panamanian nearly tied the game after FCD fell behind 2-1, but a shot from well outside the penalty box soared just high of the crossbar. He also made a crafty back-heel pass that set up Blas Perez for another opportunity.
“I thought he needed this game to step up and bring his personality to the equation,” Pareja said, noting that many players that lack regular playing time have something to prove when they get a start. “And I think he did.”
While Diaz is lauded as the team’s “magician,” part of that moniker seems to include the occasional disappearing act. This episode of the injury saga does not appear to be a huge setback, according to Pareja. But if it does linger, the club is confident in their recently acquired substitute.
“He gave us lights in the last game,” Pareja said. “I was happy to see him helping the team and being involved. I’m excited to have another player that can turn on those lights for us.”