FRISCO, Tex. – Although it's only two games into FC Dallas’ season, Mauro Diaz is already looking closer to the player who led them to the double in 2016. The Argentine playmaker got his first assist of the year last week in a win against Seattle with a sublime pass to send Michael Barrios clear down the right wing, where he then crossed for Roland Lamah’s opener.
So how much of FC Dallas’ success rests on the shoulders of the so-called "unicorn?" FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja was coy on the subject.
“Mauro is an important player,” said Pareja. “He's been part of this project for four years and I think we've found success with him on the field. But not just him, there are many other players, and I think the success of the team depends on how the team does collectively.”
Although coming from a small sample size, Diaz’s stats are comparable to the 2016 season with his number of dribbles and key passes beginning to bounce back after a predictably tough first year following Achilles tendon surgery last season. In the season opener against Real Salt Lake, the Dallas No. 10 found players in the RSL box five times, yet Dallas were unable to score themselves as a Marcelo Silva own goal gave Dallas a share of the points.
Aside from Diaz, how is the rest of the FCD attack faring?
Maxi Urruti scored in the 3-0 win over Seattle, and it was his cross that resulted in Silva’s own goal on opening day, but he's also had some chances he would probably like back. Nevertheless, he remains the starter up top after having a career year in 2017.
Where does this leave Cristian Colman? The young Designated Player has had a tough time adjusting to MLS play, outside of a two-goal game in Montreal last July, and so far this year has been a late-game substitute. Pareja views him in a different role than Urruti.
“Cristian gets more forward, playing between the center backs,” explained Pareja. “He has a different role with different characteristics.”
Urruti drops deep as a false No. 9, to assist in the team’s defensive duties, whereas Colman is more of a traditional high-line striker, which has been a problem in Pareja’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation, not least because that particular formation leaves room for just one true striker. The team has played in a 3-5-2 at times, which favors the Paraguayan both in terms of roles and available positions. But in the 4-2-3-1, Colman has to play deeper than he seems comfortable with, and often ends up drifting behind the No. 10.
Add to all of this the newest attacking addition in Santiago Mosquera. He has seen time in both games, but what will it take for the team’s latest DP to get a run of starts? The Colombian was brought in as a left winger, with Lamah’s slower style at times unbalancing a team that was looking for a like-for-like swap after the departure of Fabian Castillo. After starting the RSL game, Mosquera was dropped last week in favor of the former Belgian international, who took full advantage with a role in all three goals.
For now, it appears Pareja is comfortable with the options at his disposal in attack.
“We're not locking anyone in the bench or the lineup, we're putting out players who can give us the best performance, and against Seattle we did that,” said Pareja. “We'll prepare for the next one and see. Colman is a good possibility for us, and Santiago is adjusting to the group. They give us a different look.”