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Formation discussion: What to do with a healthy Mauro Diaz?

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With Mauro Diaz nearly back to full health, what formation works best for FCD in the final stretch run of the season.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For a solid 20 minutes or so last Saturday night, I sat in the Toyota Stadium press box wondering to myself how on earth FC Dallas would be able to fully integrate Mauro Diaz back into the lineup without rocking the boat too much.

I know most people would argue that getting Diaz back into the lineup full time is the best thing to do going forwards, and I totally agree. But the real question is the how in all of that. I think however FCD may be in a bit of luck as the final six games come up that moving some parts around won't be as bad as it once was thought.

The ol' 4-2-3-1

Naturally getting back to this formation will be needed to get Diaz back on the field with this current group of players. If Hendry Thomas were a tad healthier and we had a couple natural wing players that actually tracked back on defense a little more than Andres Escobar and Fabian Castillo do, then I'd argue for a 4-4-2 with a diamond in the middle.

But instead we're going back to what worked in March and April. And that is okay. The reason why I believe it is okay is because right now we're seeing Tesho Akindele hit a bit of a rookie wall. That means he could easily split time with Andres Escobar on one side of the field, while Castillo holds up things on the other end.

Let's face it, Escobar hasn't truly done anything that grand since July so him splitting time with Akindele during his rookie wall hit may not be the worst thing, it might even bring Akindele out of that funk with some healthy roster competition anyways.

The only thing I don't like about this formation is leaving Blas Perez alone up front. I think it is safe to say that since June we've seen the better version of Perez out there by having a strike partner in Akindele or even at times Castillo. He feeds off quick players well. But this isn't the end of the world either as I know he and Diaz can work well together out there too. Perez did have four goals this season when Diaz was on the field with him, so chemistry won't be an issue.

The super-sub role

The other side of the coin is to continue down the same path that the team has been on for the last several months. Stick with what has seemingly worked since June and bring Diaz off the bench. While Diaz looked like he is getting closer to his normal self here again, how many more games will it take to actually get him to that March and April Diaz that fans were enjoying? Two games? Four games? All six?

Overall thoughts

I'm all for getting Diaz the minutes he needs to get back to 100% but at the same time, I do wonder if giving him 60 minutes in the next couple of games is the way to go. I told a couple people over the weekend that the best way to get him back to 100% was to get him the minutes that he needs. I think 60 minutes this weekend in LA, followed up by 45-60 the following Wednesday against Seattle is the way to go. The problem with bringing him off the bench is getting him adjusted to game speed in that moment (heck this can be a problem for any player off the bench if we're honest).

What do you think is the best way to go for the final six games? Bring him back on a slow path or get him thrown in as quickly as Oscar Pareja can?