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Scratching the Chalkboard: How will Dallas cope without Diaz?

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Who can and should step up in Mauro Diaz’s absence

MLS: Chicago Fire at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We still do not know how injured our Magical Little Unicorn is (at the time of writing) but the initial look does not look good. If Mauro Diaz is indeed unable to play again this year, here are my thoughts on possible replacements, assuming FC Dallas decides to go for a like-for-like switch and keep the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Mauro Rosales

In terms of skill for skill, Mauro Rosales’ game most resembles Mauro Diaz and more than anybody else on the current FC Dallas roster. When he was first acquired in a trade for Blas Perez, many saw this move as a “Mauro Diaz backup” type of plan. Well, if Diaz is indeed going to miss some time, then it’s time to see how the “backup” will fair.

The biggest knock, well, perhaps question mark would be better, is what kind of legs does Rosales have left in the tank. The last time Rosales went a full 90 was back in 8/29/2015. He’s only made four starts for Dallas this year and never got past the 70th minute mark. Though to be fair, a lot of minutes (or lack thereof) have appeared to be tactical.

Rosales vs NYCFC. 60 min. 2 assists. 4 key passes.
Rosales vs POR. 69 min. 2 key passes.

Admittedly, I’m cherry picking Rosales’ chalkboards here since there is only a very small sample size, but his 2 assist performance is worth looking at as well as his performance against Portland as he got drift and play more centrally than he has had chances to this year.

Rosales is like a fine scotch (I’m thinking a 25 year Lagavulin) who gets better with age. He’s no as dynamic as Diaz, but his passing and vision are on par with the younger Mauro. And as we’ve seen for the entirely of his career, Rosales - much like any product of the Ajax system - is excellent on the ball and thrives with the ball a his feet.

Kellyn Acosta

At the time of this writing, we are still unaware of the extent of Kellyn Acosta’s injury, but should he be available, Acosta would be an interesting choice to play the CAM role. If you remember, Acosta actually made a cameo appearance there way back on April 2 against the Columbus Crew. His performance was fine. It wasn’t damaging but it also wasn’t inspiring either as you can see below.

Acosta’s passing chart vs CLB

And Acosta has verbally admitted himself that it’s a position he’s unfamiliar with.

But one thing we know for certain is Acosta is no dummy on the soccer field and Oscar Pareja knows full well what he’s doing. If he were to roll the dice again and insert Acosta into the CAM position, then we know full well that the coaching staff will have him ready to go. And just like the Columbus match, if the opponent wants to build their attack out of the back (like NYCFC), having Acosta in an advanced destroyer role would be pretty fun to watch.

Carlos Lizarazo

Lizarazo is a mystery to me. It boggles my mind that he hasn’t found a way to crack the starting XI, much less the 18 on a regular and consistent basis this year. His skill set and CV show that he should be up to the task and should be a contributor for this club. Somehow he’s gotten lost in the shuffle and has been largely anonymous when he has been given his chance. His last appearance was a 7 minute cameo to close out the Vancouver Whitecaps in a 2-0 victory back on July 31st.

Lizarazo vs SJ. 55 min
Lizaraz vs SEA. 45 min

As you can see, neither of these outings were particularly good with an overwhelming majority of his passes going backwards. The Seattle match was the one where he was slotted in the #10 role, but it’s a bit hard to judge that one since Dallas went down to 10 men in the 4th minute.

Lizarazo has the skill set. I doubt we’ll see him in action again, but if he is at all interested in saving his FC Dallas career, this would be his chance.

Ryan Hollingshead

At this point you probably have a solid argument against me that I’m just throwing names at random into the mix, but do keep in mind that Hollingshead is the most versatile and has the highest soccer IQ on this team. Remember, Hollingshead has already played Left Wing, Right Wing, Left Back, Right Back, Goalkeeper and actually did a few minute stint at CAM during his FCD career.

Hollingshead has a good first touch and can take defenders on the dribble. His passing range isn’t at Diaz’s level, but he is better at making smarter runs in and around the box.

Remember this beauty of a goal? Keep an eye on the top of the screen for how Hollingshead timed his run behind the Portland defense. Also to take that goal on his first touch is incredible piece of skill.

Hollingshead probably won’t get the minutes at CAM but only because he’s so good elsewhere, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a chance to show the league what he’s capable of.

Victor Ulloa

Before you completely write this idea off, think with me regarding one of Diaz’s best, yet subtle skills on the ball. When the time is right, Diaz likes to put his foot on the ball (literally) and just slow the game down. Suddenly everyone has a second or two to catch their collective breaths and also those precious seconds gives everyone a little extra time to get into their positions or to think about their next runs.

Ulloa doesn’t have the same offensive repertoire as Diaz, but Ulloa’s passing skills are no joke and he has an excellent shot on him. Ulloa obviously provides better defensive cover too, which could be extremely beneficial in the playoffs.

Paxton Pomykal

Pomykal would be a long stretch as he’s never seen a minute of MLS action yet and to throw him into the mix during the playoffs may be asking too much for the young promising attacker. But then again, this is Oscar Pareja and FC Dallas we’re talking about here. Would it surprise anyone if Pomykal got the call and was handed the reigns to Dallas’ attack?