As we begin the downhill push in the last 15 games of the season, it’s good to take a look back from the first half of the season and see who has played the biggest parts in FC Dallas’ wild season. With several new additions in the offseason including coach and players, young and veteran, the season’s outlook was positive, and I think it wouldn’t be too much to say the team is a pretty good spot all things considered.
Today we’re going to look at who has been this season’s MVP, Top Defender, and Best Newcomer after 22 total games.
MVP – Mauro Diaz
This season, Mauro Diaz was everything we wanted him to be, and then some. With his intricate passing, ability to withstand contact while keeping possession, and the way he creates goal scoring chances, there is no doubt that he has had the biggest impact on this team.
To prove this, look at the DC United game, and then the three games after. Mauro scored the team a goal within the first 15 minutes, but as soon as he went out with his injury, red card aside, the team began to unravel, losing four straight. Suddenly the team had no way of creating offense and goal scoring chances, because their maestro was gone.
Even when Diaz wasn’t scoring goals, he was the reason that the team led the league in goals scored, even while taking the fewest amount of shots up to the DCU game.
Now that Mauro is back, the team feels different, they looked more confident from the moment that he came onto the pitch during the Philadelphia game, and then of course notched a goal during the LHUSOC quarterfinal.
Overall, the team is a better team when Mauro is on the field, and the way the team played in his absence just further proves how valuable he is to the team.
Top Defender- Matt Hedges
At the outset of the season, we were unsure about the effectiveness of the FC Dallas back line, especially with veteran leader George John spending what now is more than half of the season with an unknown return date. Well, our worries were calmed when 24 year-old Matt Hedges emerged as a leader on not only the back line but the entire team showing his effectiveness not only as a reliable center back, but also on set pieces (i.e. the Kansas City game).
Matt countless times was a second or third choice as my Man of the Match, to the point where I could count on him being the guy I chose unless someone else really came in and wowed us. It's great to have a guy like him where we can count on him to give us 90 minutes, stay healthy and also be a very reliable captain, when at the outset of the season, we didn't know who'd wear the band.
I think that Stephen Keel has done a great job teaming up with Hedges at center back, especially considering he had spent the majority of his career as a back up. I think a lot of Keel's success has come from having a guy like Hedges, who although is young, is very talented and does a great job of letting his playing speak for itself and make the players around him better.
Best Newcomer - Tesho Akindele
With the word newcomer, it's tough to decide whether you go with simply a new face to the club, or a young 1st or 2nd year player, and I think for my choice, there are great candidates for both categories, mainly Hendry Thomas and Tesho Akindele.
Hendry Thomas has done a great job of being a veteran guy who is used to playing under Oscar Pareja, and was willing to come in and add some grit and force to our defense. What has really surprised me about Thomas' play is that he can be very forceful on the ball, without ever getting into any kind of disciplinary trouble. The only real downside to Thomas' play this year is that he hasn't always been on the field and the team hasn't gotten to fully experience his effectiveness.
With Tesho Akindele, I think the team and fans are realizing that they have a future talent on the team that just so happens to be producing early. Tesho and Blas Perez create a very successful attacking pair, both being larger guys who can acrobatically finish any shot.
Tesho is a very promising asset on this team, and he's already scored twice without the influence of Mauro Diaz, so I am very excited to see how he continues to grow and develop his very young game.
The future I believe is bright for this team and I think if these three guys can continue to do what they've done to receive these accolades, this team can stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.