FRISCO, Tex. – With just one win and three goals scored in the past month, FC Dallas fans have revived a term from the Schellas Hyndman days – the FC Dallas summer slump. Two players in particular have found themselves struggling with form over recent weeks.
Walker Zimmerman was considered a strong candidate for the US national team's Gold Cup roster this summer, but an ill-timed knee injury put paid to the 24-year-old's chances of making the team. With little over a week until Bruce Arena names the USMNT roster for the forthcoming round of World Cup qualifiers, Zimmerman is facing a battle to once again become a fixture in the Dallas starting XI.
"It’s definitely been something on the forefront of my mind, and something that I want to accomplish," said Zimmerman. "I know there’s opportunity out there, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and earning a spot on the team."
For Mauro Diaz, the past ten months have been an ongoing effort to return from a torn Achilles tendon. However, he hasn't quite looked like the player talked up as an MLS MVP candidate since his return on May 28.
"I feel good. I know I need to get in a rhythm and to keep training," the 26-year-old said of his recovery. "It will just take time. No one ever knows, but looking at the stats [for players returning from this injury], it should be the end of this month or next that I’ll be back to my best."
Altogether, Oscar Pareja's side has struggled with consistency this summer. Without Matt Hedges, Maynor Figueroa and Kellyn Acosta during the Gold Cup, the spine of the team suffered. Add to that a two-game suspension for Carlos Gruezo and a one-game ban for Hernan Grana, and Pareja has been left searching for answers in his selection and formation.
"I think it’s difficult to point to something specifically," Pareja said. "When you analyze the games, and I do it all the time, there’s a group of factors that may just stop us getting the points we want.
"In Philadelphia, and against Vancouver, we didn’t defend well and were very unorganized. We worked on our organization against Colorado, and played well defensively but we weren’t precise with our finishing. I think all of those things make us feel that in those performances we have to work harder to get the points."
After Diaz's season-ending injury last year, the team found success in a 4-4-2, sealing out their run to the 2016 Supporters' Shield and stating their intentions at the start of 2017. However, that formation does not showcase the Argentine's skills in the best manner. In spite of that, he is confident he can contribute regardless of the set-up.
"We switch between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1, and that’s down to the coach," said Diaz. "When I’m playing at my level, I’m sure I can play my way into the team in either formation."
But when it comes to talk of a summer slump, that talk is not being heard in the locker room at Toyota Stadium.
"I don’t think it’s a real thing," said Zimmerman. "You can look to a summer slump, but all I see is us getting 60 points the past two years and chasing championships. I don’t like to look at a two- or three-week window in an entire season."