Raw speed can be a difference-maker

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The youth and athletic ability for FC Dallas is turning into a real difference maker in 2014.

Speed in soccer is like height in basketball -- if you don't have at least some of it, you better be REALLY good at something else.

For FC Dallas, speed and quickness are values they seem to have built-around over the past few seasons. They eyeball test on players like Fabian Castillo, Mauro Diaz, Andres Escobar, and even Blas Perez says that opposing defenses are going to feel consistent pressure, all game long. For head coach Oscar Pareja, this means that the (now hoopless) Hoops are dangerous any time, against any team.

On the wing

On the wing, speed can lead to great opportunities. Being able to whip the ball into the box on the run is a professional skill that few possess. But getting oneself into a position to do so is the first step. Blinding speed can help a player like Castillo get into positions to cross the ball into the middle.

Having a player like Perez in the middle makes a run on the wing by Escobar or Castillo that much more dangerous.

Last Saturday's first goal came as a result of a cross from the wing. After the ball was switched the the opposite (left) wing, the threat of Jair Benitez dribbling by the defender toward the corner allowed the FC Dallas outside defender just enough room to punch the ball into the middle. A few touches later, Dallas had equalized. Textbook attack.

In the middle

Perhaps more important than players who can whip-in crosses consistently, Dallas also has wingers and speed demons who are also keen on angling into the middle.

Diaz, an attacking midfielder, was able to use the threat of Je-Vaughn Watson on the wing to his advantage in the season opener. His cut-back and the ensuing PK netted by Perez were a direct result of the wing pressure Dallas had been putting on Montreal for the entire first-half, which netted a number of near-miss crosses and opportunities. Montreal became fixated on stopping the wide attack and Diaz took advantage, cutting into the middle to draw the penalty kick.

Excitement

Going back to the basketball height analogy, speed can bring excitement and put a team at an advantage, but there are still sport-specific skills you have to have. Usain Bolt isn't a great soccer player, and there's a reason why. Not every man who is seven-feet tall plays professional basketball.

When you find an athlete with the sport-specific skills who also has world-class speed, fans have visions in their heads of Messi-like dribbling through and past defenders en-route to goals.

But that isn't how it usually goes. With any kind of a coaching game-plan, a speedy midfielder like Castillo is keyed-on stopped -- at least for a while. But it wears-down the opponent. Over 90 minutes, holes start to open-up. Fatigue sets in. Like most sports, soccer, in the long-term, is fair.

Put enough pressure on an opponent for 90 minutes and eventually they will concede. Eventually, breaks will happen. Speed can help you get more opportunities, but finishing those opportunities still needs to happen.

Kind of like this:

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